[]   Your account

What is a broadband data usage allowance?

What is a broadband data usage allowance?

When it comes to taking out a new broadband deal, one of the biggest decisions you’ll need to make is whether you’re happy with a data usage allowance or want an unlimited broadband package. Here’s everything you need to know about broadband data limits.

Holly Niblett
From the Digital team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 7 JANUARY 2020

What exactly is a broadband data usage allowance?

This is the amount of data you can upload and download each month without incurring an additional charge. 

A supplier's fair usage policy might incur restrictions on how much you’re allowed to download each month before they slow down your connection or take other measures.

How much data will I use doing different things?

Activity Data use
1hr of web browsing 10-25 MB
1hr on social media 20 MB
Streaming 1hr of online gaming 43 MB
Streaming 1hr of music or radio 150 MB
Streaming 30mins of YouTube 200 MB
Streaming 1hr of BBC iPlayer 225 MB
Streaming 1hr of Netflix in SD 1 GB
Streaming 1hr of Netflix in HD 3 GB
Downloading a music track 4 MB
Downloading a SD film 700 MB - 1 GB
Downloading a HD film 4 GB

Data usage varies depending on what you’re doing. Broadly speaking, if you’re a family with heavy internet usage including movie and music streaming, any allowance might soon get used up. Don't forget watching catch up TV on your smart TV will eat into your data allowance too – it's not just your laptops, mobiles and tablets. In these circumstances an unlimited package might be worth considering.

How is download data usage measured?

When it comes to downloading data, you need to find out the answers to two questions before you choose a broadband package:

  • How fast can you download data? The speed of downloading data is measured in Mbps (megabits per second). See broadband speeds explained.
  • How much of it can you download each month?The amount of data you can download is usually measured in megabytes (MB) and sometimes in gigabytes (GB) and kilobytes (KB). 

What are typical download limits?

Download limits vary between providers and the packages on offer. 

  • What are the highest and lowest download limits around? Monthly download limits for home broadband use can vary from around 10GB per month to unlimited usage.
  • How can I avoid being hit by a data limit? If you’re able to choose from multiple suppliers where you live, most will be able to offer both an unlimited usage package and packages with a stated download limit, so just choose a package that will sufficiently cover your typical data usage. Most major providers offer an unlimited package.

What data limit do I need?

Now you know how much data your activities use, simply work out what data allowance you need and then choose the broadband deal that’s right for you. Some internet providers offer you usage monitors in your account so you can see how much data you have been using to help keep you on track.

Type of user Monthly limit needed
Light 10 GB
Frequent 25 GB
Heavy 50 GB
Very heavy 100 GB

What happens if I exceed my data usage limits?

If you go over your limit two things could happen:

  • extra payments: your provider will likely charge you extra amounts for each GB of data you use above your allowance.
  • throttling bandwidth: your internet provider may turn down the speed that they’re supplying to you, making all but the most basic of browsing almost impossible. 

Compare broadband packages with us

Before committing to any broadband download or data limit it always makes sense to compare prices from different providers. Doing that with us really couldn’t be easier. You can get a quote in minutes.

Just tell us your postcode and we’ll show you the deals so you can choose the one that suits you best.

Compare broadband providers

Find deals in minutes and you could start saving

Get a quote
Compare broadband providers Get a quote

comparethemarket.com uses cookies to offer you the best experience online. By continuing to use our website, you agree to the use of cookies. If you would like to know more about cookies and how to manage them please view our privacy & cookie policy.