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Understanding your broadband data allowance

If you’re not using an unlimited broadband package, it’s worth making sure you have the right amount of data for your needs. To find out how much data you’re going to need, check out our guide below or contact our switching support team on 0800 542 4704 for a free one on one consultation.

By on November 17, 2013 at 13:00 PM
Understanding your broadband data allowance

What is a broadband data allowance?

A broadband data allowance is the amount of internet data you can use every month as part of your regular monthly plan. If you end up going over this limit, your provider might slow down your broadband speed or even add an extra charge to your bill.

Some deals come with unlimited data, which means you aren't restricted by a data cap, and you can happily stream or download as many tunes and videos as you like. Others might carry a more stringent data cap - so it's always important to ask yourself whether the deal you're opting for will give you a large enough data allowance, before you sign up.

For a range of great broadband deals, including some fantastic unlimited data packages, head over to our provider page.

How is broadband data measured?

Amounts of data are generally measured in bytes, not to be confused with a bits which is used to measure broadband speed. These are generally grouped together as kilobytes, around 1000 bytes, megabytes, around 1000 kilobytes, and gigabytes, around 1000 megabytes.

It's not overly important to know that off by heart, but it's worth remembering that kilobytes (KB) are the smallest and gigabytes (GB) the largest.

How much data does it take to do things online?

  • Things that take up about 100KB of data: Downloading a web page, reading an email, having an instant messenger chat, downloading a document
  • Things that take up about 2MB: Downloading a single photo
  • Things that take up about 5MB: Downloading a single 4 minute song
  • Things that take up about 15MB: Watching a 5 minute YouTube video
  • Things that take up about 1GB: Streaming an hour of HD online video, e.g. via Netflix or BBC iPlayer
  • Things that take up between 2-5GB: Downloading a full HD 1080p movie from iTunes

How much data do I need?

The amount of data you need will depend on what you use your broadband service for and how many people are regularly using it.


This will usually be enough for anyone just using their broadband to browse the web occasionally. While using Skype or video streaming services regularly would certainly push you over the limit, it's still possible to watch a few videos on YouTube without risk of going over your allowance.


For a while this was the standard amount of data provided by most broadband suppliers, and for many users this is still more than enough. 40GB will allow you to browse the web, stream music or catch up with your favourite soaps on iPlayer without having to worry too much about hitting your cap.

Unlimited broadband

Unlimited broadband is now more affordable than ever, with many providers offering it as standard. Without a download cap you have much more freedom to use the web as you please, allowing you to download, surf and stream as much as you like. 

It's also worth knowing if your supplier has a fair use policy, which could slow down your broadband connection during peak times. To find out more head to our simple guide.

What online activities use up my broadband allowance the most?

  • Streaming HD video content
  • Downloading HD movies or other large files
  • VoIP services such as video calling on Skype or Google Hangouts

Is there anything I can do to increase my broadband data allowance?

Look closely at the terms and conditions that come with your broadband package. It should state the maximum you can download on a monthly basis. Also, for your convenience ISPs offer software which calculates how much allowance you have left. If you're finding that the amount of data included in your package is consistently not sufficient you may be able to upgrade your package by calling your broadband provider.

For the best unlimited broadband deals currently available in your area, speak to one of our broadband advisors on 0800 542 4704. We'll make sure you can get the most out of your broadband service whilst still saving money every month!

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