Power BI License and Subscription Types. What to choose?

Business Intelligence Revolution urges companies to migrate Excel reporting to a Power BI environment. That entails choosing the suitable Power BI licensing plan. In this article, we will try to make this choice easier for you by characterising different Power BI licenses and subscriptions.

1. Power BI Licenses

1.1. What is a Power BI license?

Power BI license determines the range of functionalities that are available to users in Power BI Service:

  • the method of work
  • a space to store data and reports
  • a possibility to collaborate on reports

1.2. Power BI license types

1.2.1. Power BI Desktop / Free

Power BI Free / Desktop is a free license, which allows users to connect to data sources, analyse data, and create reports. This license targets individual clients who want to build reports for personal purposes and do not need to share the content with others through a cloud service.

Power BI Free / Desktop supports the all development functionalities e.g.:

  • integration of hundreds of data sources,
  • building reports in Power BI Desktop (on a local machine)
  • storing data and reports in the dedicated workspace on the cloud within Power BI (in My Workspace – up to 1GB per user)
  • export report/data to Excel, Power Point, or .pdf file
  • employment of Python
  • building visualizations with R language

1.2.2. Power BI Pro (license)

Power BI Pro license expands the range of capabilities of a free license by e.g.:

  • sharing data and reports with other users that have a Pro license,
  • storing datasets – up to 10GB per user,
  • exporting reports onto a website or a SharePoint site

Power BI Pro is a per-user license. Its capabilities are thoroughly used in small and medium companies where users need to create, share, and view reports of other users. In big companies and organizations, Pro License is often used together with Power BI Premium subscription.

Power BI Pro license costs $ 9.99 per user/month.

1.2.3. Power BI Premium per User (license)

This licensing option was enabled by Microsoft in April 2021. It combines advantages of Power BI Pro license and Power BI Premium subscription (details about Power BI Premium in the next section). It means that you can have some Premium capabilities, like large data models (up to 100 GB), frequently scheduled refreshes (up to 48/day) and premium functionalities like Paginated Reports or Artificial Intelligence (AI) scripts. All that facilitated with licensing per user.
Find out more details at Microsoft page.

Power BI Pro license costs $ 20 per user/month.

1.2.4. Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium, although commonly referred to as a license, in fact, is a subscription (do not confuse with Power BI Premium per User). It is not assigned to individual users but the entire organization. Power BI Premium brings additional options to the given users which we describe in more detail in a paragraph below (Power BI Subscriptions).

2. Power BI Subscriptions

Power BI subscription represents a space where we can store the content such as datasets or reports. There are two types of subscriptions for an enterprise: standard and premium.

power bi license subscription types antdata

2.1. Standard Power BI subscription

A standard Power BI subscription is assigned to Power BI Pro License. This type of subscription uses the workspaces in „shared capacity”. Users with Power BI Pro licenses Pro can collaborate and share reports with other Power BI Pro user. It is not possible to share a report published to a “shared capacity” with a person without Power BI Pro license assigned.

  • Maximum dataset size – 1 GB
  • Maximum storage limit – 10 GB per user
  • Maximum number of scheduled refreshes – 8 per day

A standard subscription cost is included in the Power BI Pro license price – $ 9.99 per user/month.

2.2. Power BI Premium subscription

Power BI Premium subscription is not assigned to users but the entire organization. This type of subscription comes with a dedicated Premium capacity, 100TB of storage, and 8 virtual cores for optimal processing power.

  • Maximum dataset size – 10 GB
  • Maximum storage limit – 100 TB
  • Maximum number of scheduled refreshes – 48 per day

Free license users that were given access to workspaces in a dedicated Premium capacity can view and analyse reports that were published and shared by Power BI Pro license users.

The cost of a Power BI Premium subscription is $ 4 995 per organization/month.

3. Summary

Power BI Desktop / Free license:

  • A user can analyse data and create reports.
  • A user can publish reports to My Workspace in Power BI and can store there up to 1GB of data.
  • A user can not share the content or see the content of other users.
  • License cost: free

Power BI Pro:

  • This license expands Power BI Desktop functionalities.
  • There is a standard subscription by default assigned to this license.
  • A user can collaborate with other Pro license users on reports published to shared capacity (up to 10GB per user).
  • A user can schedule a dataset refresh up to 8 times a day.
  • License cost: $ 9.99 per user/month

Power BI Premium per user:

  • This license combines advantages of Power BI Pro (licensing per user) and Premium subscription (larger data models, AI, paginated reports).
  • There is an extended subscription by default assigned to this license.
  • A user can collaborate with other users on reports published to shared capacity (up to 100GB per user).
  • A user can schedule a dataset refresh up to 48 times a day.
  • License cost: $ 20 per user/month

Power BI Premium:

  • Assigned to the entire organization.
  • Within the subscription, an organization receives a dedicated Premium capacity with up to 100 TB of storage and 8 v-cores for optimal processing power.
  • Up to 48 scheduled refreshes of a dataset a day
  • Power BI Desktop (free license) users get the possibility to view and analyse the reports published by Pro license users.
  • License cost: $ 4 995 per organization/month

4. Recommendation – Power BI Pro vs Premium

So, considering all the above-mentioned options, which one is suitable for you? In this paragraph, we will describe who will benefit the most from each option.

Power BI Desktop License

This license aims at users who are at the beginning of their Power BI journey, but it is also practical for individual clients who want to analyse data for personal purposes or small businesses that do not wish to share the reports with employees (via cloud services).

Power BI Pro License

Power BI Pro license was created to enable collaboration between users. This solution is best suited for small and medium companies where the Power BI Premium subscription would not be cost-effective due to the inadequate number of users. Large organizations can choose this option to run a pilot project to prove the viability of Power BI for their purposes.

Power BI Premium per User License

Power BI Premium per User was created to enable small and medium-sized organizations to access high data processing and storing capabilities at reasonable price. This solution is best suited for companies with limited number of employees (or limited number of analysts and decision makers) that process and consume a lot of data in short period of time and demand an immediate access to the information.

Power BI Premium Subscription

Power BI Premium subscription is dedicated to large companies and organisations where the cloud storage capacity or processing power that comes with Power BI Pro licenses are not sufficient. This subscription allows Power BI Desktop (free license) users to cooperate (if given access) with Power BI Pro license users, and thanks to larger processing power, to work more efficiently.


Power BI Pro:

  • For an organisation with 30 planned users, the best option would be to purchase Pro licenses.
  • Overall cost: $ 299.70 per month ($ 9.99 per Pro license × 30 users)

Power BI Premium per user:

  • For an organisation with 50 planned users that consume big amount of data for reporting, the best option would be to purchase Premium per User licenses.
  • Overall cost: $ 1000€ per month ($ 20 per Pro license × 50 users)

Power BI Premium:

  • For an organisation with 1000 planned users, where 50 of them would build reports, the best option would be a hybrid – Power BI Premium subscription + Power BI Pro licenses.
  • Overall cost (Power BI Premium subscription + 50 Power BI Pro licenses): $ 5 494.50 per month – 50 Power BI Pro licenses: $ 499.50 per month ($ 9.99 per Pro license × 50 users) and Power BI Premium subscription: $ 4 995 per month.

If we decided to build this implementation only on Power BI Pro licenses, the cost for the company would sum up to $ 9 990 per month ($ 9.99 per Pro license x 1000 users).

As you can see in this example, by choosing the hybrid solution, the company would save $ 4 495.50 per month. But that is not the only advantage – together with Power BI Premium subscription comes dedicated capacity with extended storage and additional processing power on the cloud.

If you wish to find out more about Power BI implementations, we invite you to read our article on Power BI implementation strategies.

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