Internet data usage

Ever asked yourself, 'how much data am I using?' And do you know how much data you'll use streaming movies, TV or music? What about normal web browsing? Find out in our handy guide...

Data usage: The basics explained

Everything you do on the internet uses a certain amount of data, which, unless you've got unlimited broadband, will be taken from your monthly data allowance.

While some things, like normal web browsing and email, only consume small amounts of data, there are others, such as watching YouTube videos and streaming catch-up TV, that can guzzle a month's worth of data in just a few hours.

If you download or stream loads of films, TV programmes and video clips online - or live with several other people who all use the internet a lot, you may find that broadband with a data allowance ain't enough.

Unlimited broadband packages have no monthly data allowance and let you pretty much use all the data you want (within reasonable limits - see traffic management) and are generally the best option for multi-user households.

How much internet data are you using?

This handy table shows how much data some standard online activities use. Bear in mind that the figures are only rough estimates - your actual usage is likely be around these amounts, but could be more or less depending on a number of factors.

Activity Data consumption
One hour web browsing 10 - 25MB
Download a document 2MB
One hour of Facebook 20MB
Download a music track 4MB
Stream 30 minutes of YouTube 175MB
Download a non-HD film 700MB-1GB
Download an HD film 4GB
Stream one hour of HD video 2GB
Stream one hour of HD video 2GB
Stream one hour of music or radio 150MB

(Information taken from a number of providers, including BT, Virgin Media, and Vodafone)

Should you get unlimited broadband?

If you're looking for a broadband package, or trying to find cheap internet so you can save a few pounds off your monthly bill, consider how much data you expect to use a month and choose a package that complements your lifestyle. As well as considering what speed you need, look at the download limits too.

For example, if you watch a lot of films, download a lot of movies, play games online, and listen to music throughout the day, then you may wish to consider an unlimited package, which doesn't place a set limit on how much you download.

Conversely, if you don't use much data at all, then a broadband package with capped usage may be a better choice, as these are often cheaper than unlimited contracts.

Whichever you feel is most appropriate for you, remember to compare providers to ensure you get the best package for your particular needs, and for the best price.

Which providers offer unlimited broadband?

Most major providers, including BT (www.bt.com), Sky (www.sky.com), Virgin Media, (www.virginmedia.com), TalkTalk (www.talktalk.co.uk), and Plusnet (www.plus.net) offer broadband packages with unlimited downloads. But remember - some are still subject to fair usage policies and/or traffic management.

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*Average speeds are based on the download speeds of at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm to 10pm). Speed can be affected by a range of technical and environmental factors. The speed you receive where you live may be lower than that listed above. You can check the estimated speed to your property prior to purchasing.

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