A guide to 4G broadband data limits

New broadband has come to Ireland in the shape of 4G, which can be accessed on a laptop, phone or tablet. It is a way to get the most out of broadband services, and to experience Netflix, Spotify and the thousands of other applications that rely on a fast broadband connection.

However, while adverts from 4G mobile broadband providers suggest broadband can be accessed anywhere, the cost can build up very quickly. The speeds experienced are better than most fixed line broadband connections, but in the cases where customers have fixed data limits, the service will cost a significant amount if the limits are exceeded.

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Watch out for data limits

The data limits currently being offered for 4G broadband services on smartphones by the majority of operators are difficult to afford. If you go over your data limit you’ll end up paying a premium for the services you require and if you need such services for work or leisure, you have no other option but to pay extra.

For instance, a Spotify song takes up to 10MB per stream while a Netflix TV series could take up to 1GB an episode – even with the current best deals, engaging in such habits will still cost hundreds of euros per year.

The content listed above is relatively modest in size and it is likely that an average user would exceed that amount – it doesn’t take into account emails or the use of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, keeping an eye on your data limits and usage is essential unless you want to run up additional costs.

Staying under the limit

Once you hit that limit, you’ll either have to stop using the services altogether or pay for additional services which do not come cheap. Using home or work broadband connections can help to preserve your usage allowance, even if speeds are lower or the services reduced.

Applications can be installed to measure usage, although this should still be done with caution as they are not always accurate. Alternatively, a mobile operator should be able to advise you on the best ways of tracking your usage.

What are your available options?

Currently, operators offer 4G broadband services via phone plan tariffs, which goes some of the way to highlighting why costs are so high. An alternative and cheaper option is to use standalone 4G dongle services for a laptop or tablet.

This is, however, little use for those who access the services on smartphones and who are limited by the amount of data they can actually use.

Vodafone and Meteor offer dongle services with various usage limits, although watching usage is still highly recommended as charges will apply when limits are exceeded.

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