Broadband – How Much Data Do I Need?

Have you ever wondered how much data you are actually using? Or how much data you actually need? It’s a probably a subject that’s crossed your mind if you’ve purchased a broadband package or ever exceeded your data allowance.


It is all good and well talking about your data allowance and data usage, but how do you really know how much you are using?

In short, everything that you do on the internet uses an amount of data. A good way to look at it is to think of data as currency. If, for example, you have a 10GB data allowance, then you have 10GB of data to ‘spend’.

It’s worth noting that your data allowance is usually given to you in GB (Gigabytes), and can be anything from a 1GB package right up to an unlimited package.


A Megabit (Mb) is a unit of measurement for the speed of data transfer – or to most of us – your broadband speed, i.e. 15Mbps.

Not to be confused with Megabit, a Megabyte (MB) is another unit of measurement that refers to the amount of data being transferred. This is commonly known as your Data Allowance and as mentioned, is usually provided in Gigabytes (approx. 1000MB = 1GB).

To put both speed and amount into context, 8Mbps is equal to around 1MB. So if you’re downloading a song that’s size is 5MB, it will take 5 seconds to download at a speed of 8Mbps.


Well, it all depends on what you usually get up to online. We’ve put together a table that will give you an idea of how much data is used for some of the most common web activities:

How much data do I need?These are approximate figures and do vary depending on various different factors.

An issue that most households have to contend with is multiple users. If you’re a typical family, then as the bill payer you’re probably unaware of how much data you are using as a collective. We often hear customers say that they had no idea that their kids had downloaded a library of high-definition films, or had been online gaming for hours most evenings.


There’s no way that we can advise you for definite as everyone’s usage varies greatly, however, the below should give you a rough guideline of general usage amounts:

Low Usage: 2-10GB per month

Low Usage would typically encompass basic web browsing and emails. Basic web browsing could be made up of online shopping, banking, social networking and news reading.

If we work off the grid above, a family of two adults and two teenagers who browse the internet for an hour per person per night would use approximately 2.2GB per month in data, and this of course isn’t taking into account weekends, holiday periods, watching TV/Films online, listening to music etc.

Medium Usage: 10-30GB per month

In this instance, Medium Usage would generally include your typical web browsing, but also TV, Music and Film Streaming.

Streaming is dependent on the quality of definition that you choose to stream TV programmes or films in, so for example, if your household streams two 1 hour programmes from BBC iPlayer per week, that could equate to sound 9.5GB of data per month.

High Usage: 30GB – Unlimited per month

High Usage would include the likes of all of the above, plus online gaming and/or film downloading.

The online gaming data use in the grid is an approximation, as games vary greatly in the amount of data that they use, so whilst some games could use 20MB per hour, some games can use anything up to 1GB per hour. So, if a gamer in your household spends on average 3 hours per evening online gaming, that’s around 7.2GB per month (using our estimate).

The downloading of films also sucks up a lot of your data, and let’s be honest, if you’re going to the effort of downloading a film, most of us would choose to download one in High Definition. So, one film in HD per week could use up to 20GB of data per month.


Hopefully this brief guide will give you some idea of the amount of data that your household uses and perhaps needs. Remember that ISPs will generally charge for any extra data usage that is above the amount you pay for in your package – you could save a bundle if you actually upgrade your package to better suit your needs.

On the other hand, there are also ways that you can reduce your data usage – the first step being understanding where most of your data is being used. If you’re downloading 3 HD films per week, you could reduce the data used by downloading in Standard Definition instead, using over 4 times less data.

It’s also important to note that although providers offer Unlimited packages, an ISPs Fair Use Policy will still apply to an Unlimited package, ensuring that excessive use that leads to other customers being affected does not happen.

Just to say that everything has now been connected and fine tuned. Just done a speed test with Jon and I'm getting great speeds beyond my wildest dreams.

- Barbara, Worcestershire