How much broadband data do I need?

When it comes to choosing an internet package, one thing many consumers find difficult is working out how much broadband data they actually need. Estimate too little and you could be left with a large bill. It’s a bit like ordering a mobile phone tariff; it’s always safer to estimate high so you don’t get caught with excess charges.

With an Airband package you can always move up a package if you find your allowance doesn’t match your usage, but you cannot move down a package until the end of your contract.

Understand the Jargon

Before we go any further, it’ll be a great idea to explain bits and bytes to you – this can sometimes be confusing; Bits is the measurement of the data transfer speed. Bytes refer to the size of the file. It’s easy to assume that a download speed of 1 Megabit per second (1 Mbps) will allow you to download a 1 Megabyte file in one second. This is not the case, a Megabit (Mb) is 1/8 as big as a Megabyte (MB), meaning that to download a 1MB file in 1 second you would need a connection of 8Mbps. The difference between a Gigabyte (GB) and a Gigabit (Gb) is the same, with a Gigabyte being 8 times larger than a Gigabit.

How much data do I need?

As a general guide the table below should help you see what you can do with different data allowances:

data chart

If you are wishing to be a little more precise we’ve listed the common average data usages below. Though it is quite difficult to be precise as it depends on the size of the film or song you are downloading so the following are just estimates:

  • Download a document 2MB
  • Download a music track 4MB
  • 1 hour web browsing 10-25MB
  • 1 hour of Facebook 20MB
  • 1 hour streaming of non HD video 250MB
  • 1 hour of YouTube 250MB
  • 1 hour streaming of HD video 2GB
  • 1 hour gaming 2GB
  • Download an HD film 4GB

As you can see streaming films uses less data than downloading, but watching or downloading in High Definition will eat into your allowance much more.

The heaviest usage is often in gaming particularly high definition games, such as shooting.

When it comes to using internet data, it’s important you realise that everything you do online is using data – online streaming will always use much more than simple emailing, browsing and the odd You Tube video. With that said, if you take care to work out the package that’ll best suit you, you’ll never be in a position in which you’re paying over-the-top prices or not utilising the data that you have available to you.

The installation engineers were efficient, competent and polite and we had the internet up and running immediately.

- Julie and Mark Thomas, Herefordshire