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Broadband data limit - How much is enough?

Knowing about data limits and understanding how much data various activities are likely to use can be really useful and will help you to avoid any potential penalties for going over your limit.

Every time you use your home broadband, you’ll be using an amount of data. The amount you use will depend on the activity - so for example, streaming a movie will use significantly more data than doing a quick Google search.

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So, how much broadband data do I actually need?

The amount of data you’ll need will depend on what you use the internet for and the amount of people in your household who have access to the broadband. Some of the most common online activities, and the data they use, are as follows:

Activity Data used  
Browsing the internet 10-25MB/hr  
Reading/sending an email Approx 0.1MB  
Browsing Facebook Approx 20MB/hr  
Downloading a HD movie 4GB  
Watching Netflix 1GB/hr for SD, 3GB/hr for HD  
Watching NOW TV Approx 1GB/hr  
Listening to music on Spotify Approx 0.1GB/hr  
Watching YouTube Approx 0.25GB/hr  

What is limited versus unlimited data?

When you sign up for a broadband deal, it will either be advertised as ‘unlimited’, or will have a data limit attached to it. Many ADSL and fibre broadband plans now offer unlimited data, however satellite broadband and mobile broadband packages tend to have relatively low data limits, so you could be looking at something between 10 and 60GB on these plans.

Be aware of fair usage policies

One thing to bear in mind, even if you go for an unlimited plan, is that some providers impose ‘fair usage’ policies on these plans.

For example, while eir, Magnet, Pure Telecom, Sky, Virgin Media and Vodafone all offer what’s known as ‘truly unlimited’ broadband, Digiweb imposes a fair usage limit of 350GB on its unlimited packages.

In general, fair usage limits tend to be high, and most users won’t go over these in a month, but it’s worth keeping them in mind.

What happens if I exceed my data limit?

If you go over the fair usage limit or your plan’s data limit, you will usually be charged per GB for doing so, so it can work out to be quite costly. If your provider doesn’t impose charges, it’s possible they could restrict your service once you go over the limit, which can be very frustrating.

Why do I need unlimited data?

As you can see, the amount of data you use will vary massively depending on whether you mainly use your broadband to browse the internet, or you spend the majority of your time online streaming content.

If you live in a busy household, with many internet users, opting for a truly unlimited broadband package will give you peace of mind. It means you’ll be charged the same amount each month, regardless of how much you use the internet, so you won’t need to worry about extra charges.

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