What does using a VPN do to mobile data usage?
September 12, 2021 9:42 PM   Subscribe

For a few different reasons, I've been thinking of setting up a VPN on my home network and connecting to it from my mobile phone for my internet on the go. However, I have a metered internet connection, and I'm not sure how much more data would be used due to the overhead of encryption. What could I expect the impact to be? Are some protocols (L2TP, WireGuard) leaner than others?
posted by rouftop to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (by "metered internet connection," I mean my mobile data plan charges by the gigabyte)
posted by rouftop at 9:44 PM on September 12, 2021

This isn't exactly scientific, but I try to leave my wireguard vpn on at all times for data. Mine is also billed by use. According to my phone, out of the last 192MB used, 24MB is the wireguard app itself. That would be 12.5%, aka 1/8th.

I can't prove if that means 24MB of overhead or that I'm actually bad at leaving my vpn on (and only had it on for 24MB's worth of other traffic).

Wireguard is multiple times faster than openvpn, so I presume that means leaner.
posted by Snijglau at 11:08 PM on September 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This site says +20% data overhead with OpenVPN and +5% with WireGuard.
posted by Klipspringer at 2:04 AM on September 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

One thing to consider is that if your mobile provider comps some types of data, a VPN may obscure that and thus have it count against you.

For example, T-Mobile, on some plans, has a deal where they don't count streaming video from many services against your data usage (at the expense of worse-quality video). But if you use a VPN, they don't know that you're using one of the approved services, and thus that data does count against your usage.
posted by brentajones at 8:53 AM on September 13, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I do not have data to back this up, but for a short month I ran a VPN with PiHole and my mobile web viewing data dropped dramatically, thanks to tons of video ads and tracking traffic.

It looks like PiVPN is the slickest way to set this up.
posted by sol at 10:30 AM on September 13, 2021

Response by poster: Installed WireGuard on my gateway and am very happy, thanks all!
posted by rouftop at 10:28 PM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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