Jan 10, 2023

What is Cellular Data?

What is Cellular Data?

So, you’re paying your cell phone bill and frankly, can’t believe the balance. How did you go 5GB over your monthly allowance? Yikes. That overage fee! In the back of your mind, you realize that cellular data is connected to using the Internet via your cell phone, but you are really unsure how. Let’s help you understand what your cellular network data is and what activities use it up and help you avoid overage fees in the future.

Young dad and daughter, both in orange tee shirts, taking a selfie in the sunshine.

Cellular data defined

A cell phone connects to the Internet in one of two ways: either by using a WiFi network or by using the cellular data network offered by your wireless provider. Following are the specifics of cellular networks:


  • WiFi uses radio frequencies to wirelessly transmit the Internet to your devices.

  • Range: Limited.

  • Fee: Free. Because your home WiFi uses radio frequencies and not the towers your cellular provider uses, you can use it as much as you want and never face overage charges.

Cellular data

  • Cellular data uses the same network provided by the cell towers that allow you to make cell phone calls.

  • Range: As long as you are within your provider’s coverage area, your range is almost unlimited.

  • Fee: With cellular data, you pay for a monthly cellular data allowance so, if you exceed that allowance you’re charged an overage fee. If you think you might exceed your allowance, it’s wise to monitor your usage over the course of the month.

What activities use cellular data?

Sweet young daughter and dad sitting on the sofa and Facetiming with family.

The short answer: Any activity you do on your cell phone that requires access to the Internet uses cellular data if you are not connected to a WiFi network.

That’s it in a nutshell. No cellular connection? WiFi? You’re using your allowance of cellular data.

The more detailed answer: Some activities, like streaming video or making a FaceTime video call, use more cellular data than others. Activities that do not use up as much cellular carrier data include: checking and sending text-based emails, browsing articles on the web, and using turn-by-turn navigation. Activities that do not use any data at all include: making phone calls and sending text messages.

How to manage your cellular data via your cellular provider

Young son and his sister snapping a selfie as dad photo bombs them in the background.

If you receive a paper bill from your provider, the data usage information is most likely on the second or third page of your invoice. If your provider doesn’t include it, you can call or go online to request a more detailed bill. You can also do the following:

  • Log into your account from your computer and check the Usage tab.

  • Download your provider’s app and check the Usage tab.

Call your provider from your wireless phone:

  • AT&T: Dial *3282#

  • T-Mobile: Dial #web#

  • Verizon: Dial #DATA

How to manage your cellular data via settings

Smiling mom and sweet daughter in a striped shirt snapping a selfie.


If you’re always on top of how much cell data that you’re using, there’s less opportunity to be surprised by overages. Once or twice a month, check in and see how you’re doing. To see how much cellular data you’ve used on your iPhone, do the following:

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular then scroll to Cellular Data.


With Android, you can avoid surprises by limiting your data to a certain amount. Here’s how:

Open Settings. Go to Network & Internet, then Data Usage, and Data Warning & Limit. Here you can set the amount of data you want to use for the month.

Smart ways to save on data:

Turn on data saver or low data mode

When you’re not connected to the Internet via a Wi-Fi network, you’re using your data. To save on using it, you mobile users can pause certain functions like background data refresh and data syncs by turning on the Data Saver if you use an Android phone, or Low Data Mode if you use an iPhone. It is easy to do and you’ll be glad you learned how to do it!

On iPhone, select your plan and do the following:

LTE/4G Cellular

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular

Tap Cellular Data Options, then turn on Low Data Mode. 

5G Cellular

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular.

Tap Cellular Data Options, select Data Mode, then turn on Low Data Mode.

Dual SIM

Go to Settings. Tap Cellular or Mobile Data.

Tap one of your numbers.

Turn on Low Data Mode.

On Android:

Open Settings.

Go to SIM card and Mobile Data plan tab.

Tap Data Usage option.

Go to Data Saving option.

Turn on Data Saving.

Stop your apps from “refreshing” themselves

If you’re not on Wi-Fi and you don’t turn on your mobile data usage as saver or low data mode, your apps will keep working in the background collecting information and refreshing themselves while using your data. To prevent this, do the following:

On iPhone:

Go to Settings. Tap general. Tap Background App Refresh. Here, you can choose to have this feature off, available only when you’re on Wi-Fi, or available when you’re on Wi-Fi and cellular data. (Not recommended when you’re trying to use less cellular data usage though!) You can also toggle this on or off for each individual app on your phone.

On Android:

Open Settings. Tap Data Usage. Here you’ll be able to see which apps are using the most data. Decide which app or apps you’d like to restrict, and tap on it.

When you’re home, be on your Wi-Fi

Pretty mom in a yellow dress holding a baby and cooking on the stove.

If you’re reading this on your phone in your home, it’s most likely that you are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi network. But if you’re not sure, or you’re sure you are not connected to it, here's how to turn it now.

  • Go into Settings. You’ll see options like Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Cellular, etc. Click on Wi-Fi. Then select the name of your network. When you’re done, tap Settings again and return to its main menu. If Cellular or Bluetooth are on, turn them off. Now that you are on your home’s Wi-Fi network, you don’t need them and having them on will drain the battery in your phone.

Connecting to your home’s Wi-Fi network can significantly reduce the amount of cellular data you use. And once you’ve connected mobile device to it as described above, whenever you’re home your device will recognize your Wi-Fi network and connect to it.

 Cellular Data: Best Practices

The best way to stop gong over your data limit is to be sure your phone is always connected to WiFi. On WiFi, there’s no need to worry about overage charges and, because smart phones remember networks they’ve been connected to previously, you don’t need to remember passwords because your phone will automatically see mobile networks and connect to those networks when you are in range. For example, you connected to your best friend’s WiFi when visiting last year. When you return for another visit, your phone will automatically recognize and connect to your friend’s WiFi network.

Take your data management even further: switch cell phone carriers and get FREE wireless

At Life Wireless we believe in helping you keep more of your hard earned money in your pocket. And how better to that then with free wireless service from Life Wireless.

It’s not difficult to qualify for free cellular service from Life Wireless, if you meet certain requirements, and it takes just a few minutes to complete the application.

A little background

Life Wireless offers government subsidized free cellular service through the Affordable Connectivity Program to qualifying individuals and families. And, if you’re unemployed or participate in a government benefit program such as SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, or WIC, you already qualify for this federally funded free cellular service.

About the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

As we mentioned above, the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is a government benefit program operated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that provides discounts on monthly broadband Internet access service. ACP benefits may be obtained from any participating provider of your choice including Life Wireless. Only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Because many families struggle to afford cell phones and Internet access, both of which are vital to staying connected with their children’s schools, doctors, and employers, among others, the Federal Government offers ACP and another program called Lifeline. Using both doubles your connectivity!

About Lifeline

Lifeline is a federal program created to help qualified households pay for connectivity services such as wireless and internet plans. As with the Affordable Connectivity Program, only one member of a household can participate in the program and the service cannot be transferred to another family member or individual.

Examples of one household:

  • A married couple that lives together
  • A parent/guardian and child who live together
  • An adult who lives with friends or family who financially support him/her

Each of these are one household and must share one benefit.

Examples of more than one household:

  • Four roommates who live together but do not share money are four households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of four benefits.
  • 30 seniors who live in an assisted-living home are 30 households. They can have one benefit each, for a total of 30 total benefits.

Each state has different eligibility requirements such as receiving government assistance or having a household income that is at or below the federal poverty level for the state in which you reside.

In general though, you are qualified to receive Lifeline if you participate in any of the programs listed here:

  • Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Medicaid (not Medicare)
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Section 8 Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA)
  • Veteran's Pension or Survivor's Pension Benefit

Additionally, if you are a resident of a Federally-recognized Tribal land, you may qualify under the following programs:

  • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
  • Tribally Administered TANF
  • Head Start (if you meet the income-qualifying standards)

Even if you’re paying just $20 a month for cell service, wouldn’t it be great to have that $240 to spend on groceries? If you apply for Lifeline and are approved, you’ll receive:

  • FREE Unlimited Talk & Text
  • FREE 15GB Data (+ more data for California residents)
  • FREE Smartphone (or bring your own)

Pair Lifeline with the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and DOUBLE your connectivity

If you’re approved for Lifeline and you sign up for the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), you get two sources of free talk, text, and unlimited data that you can split between two phones. That means free cell service for you and free cell service for someone you love. If your child has been asking for a cell phone, this is a terrific opportunity to provide him or her with talk, text, unlimited data and the ability to stay in touch with you!

Of course you don’t have to split the service between two phones, you can keep it all on one. But it’s a wonderful option if your spouse, child or relative needs a phone but has been unable to get one due to the expense.

Whichever option you choose – to keep the data on one phone or split it between two – Life Wireless will make sure you receive the free talk, text, and unlimited data to help you stay connected.

Option 1: Combine Your Data

Activate Lifeline and ACP on the same device and receive unlimited talk, text, and data, plus 5GB of mobile hotspot.

Option 2: Split Your Data
Split your data between two phones or supported devices and you’ll have one device with ACP’s free talk, text, and 6GB of data and a second device with Lifeline’s talk, text, and 4.5GB of data (6GB of data in California).

Additional, important, details

Life Wireless service is a prepaid service offered to those eligible for ACP discount benefits and those eligible for Lifeline benefits.  To maintain your service and benefits, you need to:

  • activate your service by calling someone,
  • initiating data usage (by going on Facebook, for example), or
  • by responding to instructions from Life Wireless to activate the service.

To keep your account active, you need to use the service at least once during any 30-day period by:

  • calling someone,
  • answering a call from someone other than Life Wireless,
  • sending a text message,
  • using cellular data (again, by going on Facebook or Amazon, for example),
  • purchasing additional service from Life Wireless,
  • or by responding to a direct contact from Life Wireless confirming that you want to continue receiving service from Life Wireless.

Should your service goes unused for 30 days, you will no longer be eligible for Lifeline benefits and your service may be suspended (allowing only 911 calls and calls to the Life Wireless's customer care center), and subject to a 15-day cure period during which you must use the service (as described above) in order to fully re-activate your service, keep your telephone number and remain enrolled in the ACP.

For questions about Life Wireless, visit our Contact Us page here. To enroll now, use the Life Wireless Online Enrollment form.

Fast facts about Life Wireless

Yes, you can add more minutes and data!

You can purchase additional minutes or data one of the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "Add Minutes/Data"
  • If you have a smart phone, go to your MyLifeWireless app and click "Add Minutes".
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.
  • You can also go to any Moneygram location and use Receive Code: 7924

Yes, you can track your minutes!

Your minutes replenish each month on your anniversary date before end of the day. For example if you signed up and received your minutes on the 12th of the month, your minutes will replenish every month on the 12th of the month.

You can check your account balance the following ways:

  • Go to www.LifeWireless.com and click "My Account"
  • Go to your MyLifeWireless app on your phone, and click "Check Balance"
  • Call Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620, or by dialing 611 on your Life Wireless phone.

Yes, you can keep your current phone number!

If your application is approved, you have the option to keep your current phone number.

Once you receive your Life Wireless phone in the mail, call Life Wireless Customer Service at 1-888-543-3620 and a representative will assist you in keeping your current number. Make sure that you don't call from your Lifeline phone and have your account number and password from your previous carrier handy.

What our customers are saying:     

"Life Wireless has been great. I have used it so many times for appointments and finding the proper care providers for my needs as well as for my family's needs. Thank you so much Life Wireless!"

Rebecca L., KY

Without this phone I would be lost. It has helped me stay in contact with my daughter’s specialist. I schedule her appointments and they can call back if there are any complications with her results. Thank you, Life Wireless.” Amanda Z., PA
“I've been looking for apartments, doctor’s offices, and school phone numbers, and my data provided has been a tremendous help in gaining access to this information. I'm very grateful for this service.” Maria R. AZ

Don’t wait. Get FREE wireless service now!






Posted 1 year ago