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What is a download allowance?

Find out what impact your download allowance has on your broadband bills.

A download allowance is used to regulate your Internet use. It refers to the maximum amount of data you are permitted to download, including pictures, movies and music. Download allowances is usually measured in GBs per month.

How much can I download?

How quickly you reach your download allowance depends on file sizes and the frequency you use the Internet. File sizes are generally measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), where 1GB is 1024MB and 1Mb is 1024Kb.

Generally, small amounts of data are downloaded when using email or looking at websites that use largely plain text. Gaming applications, video and music downloads, and other Internet content with a high degree of graphics will require more data. If you have a 10GB download allowance , you will reach your limit fairly quickly when downloading a 5GB film or several hundred songs that typically are between 3MB or more.

Estimating Internet use is difficult as it depends on individual users and what is being downloaded. On a typical day, you might expect to send and receive approximately 50 emails. This would account for approximately 2.4MB. You might also visit several sites on an average day, viewing about 200 pages. This would account for approximately 10MB, depending on how much graphic content a page might have.

In addition, you might download 10 songs for about 50MB total. You may also download an episode of your favourite television programme, for an additional 400MB. In this example, 462.4MB of the 5GB limit was downloaded roughly, during four hours of Internet use.

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What are average file sizes?

File size depends on the type and quality of the content. For example, a high quality MP3 may be 4 - 10MB, while a HD video may be several gigabytes. The following list summarises average download sizes for commonly downloaded files:

  • 20Kb - text emails sent and received

  • 50Kb - website page

  • 3MB - song

  • 3MB - video clip (3 minutes)

  • 400MB – film

What is unlimited broadband data?

A number of broadband service providers provide unlimited plans. Although these plans are marketed as offering unlimited downloading, in reality they are often guided by fair usage policies.

When subscribing to an unlimited broadband package, read the contract to fully understand data allowances. Certain fair usage policies limit speeds to prevent individual users from taking up too much bandwidth, especially during peak hours of the day. In addition, a service provider may notify customers with unusually high amounts of data and reduce their connection speeds.

Fair usage policies generally have impacts on customers who frequently use Peer-to-Peer software, online gaming, stream large films, or download and stream large numbers of songs.

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What are mobile broadband data plans?

Many mobile phone service providers feature data allowances. These limits are generally much lower than allowances for other types of broadband connections. As a result, using mobile broadband is generally not ideal or affordable for users who frequently download music and videos. Anyone who uses their mobile device for downloading large amounts of data should consider plans with high download limits or unlimited data plans.

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What happens if I exceed my download allowance?

Unlike unlimited data plans, users who download more than their data limit or allowance will face penalties. Most Internet and mobile phone service providers will charge extra fees for additional data beyond the download allowance. Other service providers may reduce download speeds for your connection.