Streaming services like Netflix are best paired with a high-speed fibre connection for maximum value, but it is sometimes necessary to stream content on your phone using mobile data.
Whether you want to catch up on the latest episode of your favourites series while travelling or pass time binging shows while your fibre or ADSL is down, you will need to stream using mobile data.
This does not have to be particularly expensive, however, especially if you use a cheap mobile data offering from a provider like Rain or your cellphone contract includes free Netflix data.
We have outlined the cheapest way to stream Netflix on your smartphone below.
The chief concern for Netflix subscribers when streaming over a mobile connection is the cost of data.
Netflix previously told MyBroadband that 1GB of mobile data should provide around four hours of streaming time, which means each hour of streaming uses around 250MB.
Depending on what mobile network you are on and which data bundle you buy, this could become quite expensive.
Using a 1GB prepaid data bundle valid for 30 days as a benchmark, we compared the hourly cost of streaming Netflix across each mobile network in South Africa.
|Network||1GB Bundle||Price per MB||Netflix cost|
|Rain||R50||R0.05||R12.50 per hour|
|Telkom||R100||R0.10||R25.00 per hour|
|Cell C||R100||R0.10||R25.00 per hour|
|Vodacom||R115||R0.115||R28.75 per hour|
|MTN||R149||R0.15||R37.50 per hour|
The table above shows that if you are buying a 1GB data bundle to stream Netflix, Rain is the cheapest network.
A flat rate for mobile data is not the only factor affecting the cost of streaming, however – some mobile networks offer free data for streaming on Netflix, YouTube and other platforms with mobile data offerings.
These specialised data offerings, such as Telkom’s LIT Video streaming bundles, are usually cheaper than standard data bundles and are limited to usage on selected platforms.
Rain also offers users an uncapped mobile broadband product for R250 per month, consumable between 23:00 and 18:00 the next day.
It is important to note that the amount of mobile data used for streaming Netflix is dependent on connection speed and video quality.
By default, Netflix automatically alters quality and data consumption based on a number of factors, including whether the user is connected to Wi-Fi or not.
When the Netflix app is set to the default “Automatic” data usage setting, it attempts to consume less data on a mobile connection.
Users can also lower the resolution of their stream by accessing the Playback Settings page in the Netflix account menu.
This ensures that a minimum amount of data is being used for mobile streaming, although it does come at the cost of video quality.
If you are planning to watch shows on Netflix while untethered from Wi-Fi, your best option would be to download shows beforehand within the Netflix app over your home Internet connection.
If you are unable to do this, however, you can reduce your video quality, purchase a time-limited video streaming bundle, or use your Rain SIM to minimise your mobile data spend.