What is a download allowance?

When it comes to taking out a broadband deal you’ll have a few decisions to make about which package is right for you.

One of the things you’ll need to decide is whether you’re happy with a download allowance or whether you want an unlimited broadband package. Here we’ll give you some information which might help you answer this question when you come to choose a package.

Some basic lingo

Bits and bytes, megabits and megabytes, broadband certainly comes with a few technical terms. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to be an expert to understand these terms.

When it comes to downloading data from the internet, two things are important in your package, how fast can you download data and how much of it can you download each month?

The speed of downloading data to you is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). The amount of data you can download is usually measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB), but you might also see bytes and kilobytes (KB) mentioned too.

How they relate to each other is as follows:

1 KB = 1000 bytes
1MB = 1000 KB
1GB = 1000 MB

What are typical download limits?

So, with that bit of lingo now clear, what sort packages are available?

Well, exactly what deals are available to you will depend on where you live. Things like whether fibre optic cables are installed to your home or how close you live to a telephone exchange will make a difference.

Assuming you’re able to choose from multiple suppliers where you live, most will be able to offer both an unlimited usage package and a stated download limit.

Download limits for home broadband use can vary from 10GB per month through to unlimited packages. You may also find that some providers will offer unlimited off peak, but have a download limit for peak times of day. For mobile broadband, the limits may be considerably lower than this, with 500 MB and 1GB not uncommon.

What is a download allowance?

How much data will I use doing different things?

It’s all well and good knowing what download limits exist, but they’re not much use unless you know how much data you use doing certain things. Below are some typical activities that consume data with an estimation of what each consumes:


Data use

One-hour web browsing

10-25 MB

Downloading a music track

4 MB

1 hour on social media

20 MB

Stream 1 hour of music

150 MB

Streaming 30 mins of YouTube

175 MB

Download a non-HD film

700 MB

1 hour of non-HD video on Netflix


Downloading a HD film


(Remember 1000MB = 1 GB)

Broadly speaking, if you’re a family with heavy internet usage including movie and music streaming, any allowance might soon get used up. In such circumstances an unlimited package might be worth considering.

What happens if I use up my limit?

If you use more than your stated limit, two unpleasant things could happen. First, things might get expensive as your provider will likely charge you extra amounts for each GB of data you use above your allowance.

Alternatively, rather than expensive, things might slowwwww right down. Your provider may turn down the speed that they’re supplying to you, making all but the most basic of browsing all but impossible, this is called throttling bandwidth.

In short, it’s best to make sure you get an allowance that will be sufficient.

what happens if I use my download limit?

Compare broadband packages with comparethemarket.com

Before committing to any broadband, or combined broadband, TV and home phone deals, it always makes sense to compare prices from different providers. Doing that with us really couldn’t be easier.

All you need to do is use our broadband or broadband, TV and phone comparison service. Just tell us where you live and we’ll do the rest, presenting back to you the deals that are available so you can choose the one that suits you best.

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