GPS tracker Internet traffic consumption: how much and why?

19.6.2023 | Rostislav Adutskevich Hardware

I think it's no secret that GPS trackers use the internet to transmit their location information to a server or another device. Often, the consumption of internet data is a significant argument for both the average user and for companies providing GPS tracking services worldwide. After all, the cost of 1 MB in different countries can start from a fraction of a cent and reach 1 dollar.

So what does the consumption of internet traffic depend on? How to calculate it? And how can it be optimized?

Data consumption can vary greatly depending on many factors, including:

  1. Data send frequency : How often the tracker sends updates about its location will impact data consumption. If a tracker sends an update every 5 minutes, it will use more data than a tracker that sends updates every hour.
  2. Amount of data transmitted : In addition to location information, most GPS trackers can transmit other information, such as direction, engine status, and a vast amount of other telematic information. This increases data usage.
  3. Network protocol : Depending on the network protocol used (TCP, UDP, HTTP, MQTT, etc.), data consumption can vary.
  4. Encoding efficiency : Some trackers use more efficient methods of data encoding, which can reduce data consumption.


Well, let's break it down:

If we simplify greatly, 1 packet of useful raw data weighs approximately 175 bytes (from our users' experience and the experience of the Flespi team:)
Now let's imagine that for a relatively smooth track, it's necessary for the tracker to send data every 10 seconds.

Now it's easy to calculate the average consumption:
When sending every 10 seconds, there are 360 sends per hour and 8640 sends per day.
8640 sends * 175 bytes/1024 = 1478 Kilobytes = 1.478 Megabytes - this is how much the tracker consumes per day, if it continuously sends data.

However, we shouldn't forget about heartbeat packets, which maintain the connection.
They are not as large and do not need to be sent as often. But it is still worth taking them into account.
So, to prevent the connection from being lost, it is sufficient to send 1 packet every 10 minutes.
On average, a login packet weighs 1-10 bytes.
So, let's calculate: the tracker will send a packet every 5 minutes (just in case:).
288 sends per day * 5 bytes/1024 = 1.40 Kilobytes = 0.140 Megabytes per day

In total, in theory, the tracker will consume 1.6 MB per day if it sends data every 10 seconds.
As we see, the size of the packet with useful data has the greatest impact on consumption.

You can find out the size of the packet that your tracker sends in the Toolbox of your object by going to the special Traffic menu and selecting the message with useful data.

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But wait, everything is not as simple as it seems!

There are a few more pitfalls that must be taken into account:

  • The positive thing is that your vehicle most likely does not operate 24/7 and with the correct device setup, it will not send an infinite amount of data when stationary.
    For this, most trackers have motion detection and many other functions that reduce the frequency of data sending when the object is inactive. These settings will help you save more than half of the traffic.

  • Another interesting point. Traffic tariffication by the mobile operator, specifically, tarification step - is the rounding point of used internet traffic. If in one session your tracker used 5 KB of data, and your mobile operator's tarification step is 10 KB, then the operator will count exactly 10 KB of used data. That's why it is always recommended for trackers to use specialized IoT/M2M SIM cards, the tariffication step of which will in most cases be 1 KB.

On average, if we talk about the mean values, for a location transmitted every 5 minutes over a month, about 10-30 MB of internet traffic can be spent per month even when using a regular (not IoT/M2M) SIM card. But this is a very rough estimate and actual values may vary greatly from the factors described above.

So, what recommendations can we give to reduce traffic consumption:

  1. Configure the device operating modes. This is necessary to avoid unnecessary traffic consumption. For starters, for example, you can check our Devices section and look at the instructions for your tracker.
  2. Use specialized SIM cards specifically designed for M2M devices.
  3. If possible, use more advanced GPS trackers, which can save traffic thanks to more efficient encoding.
  4. Before purchasing a device, consult with the manufacturer or seller to get the most accurate and up-to-date information on data consumption.

Keep in mind that the information in this article is general, and depending on the specific model and settings of the GPS tracker, as well as usage conditions, data consumption may vary.

It's important to understand that the topic of internet traffic in the IoT sphere will always be popular and widely discussed. There can be many additions to this topic about the peculiarities of equipment, SIM cards, and the like.

Therefore, if you have any questions, you can always reach out to us at We will strive to advise you and give recommendations for the setting up and use of trackers.