What is data usage and how can understanding it lower my broadband costs?

Data is information that is moved or processed by computer networks. Understanding how data is used and the impact of different speeds, is important in making sure you have the best and most cost efficient package for your needs.

Most broadband packages offer unlimited data. They vary in speed, contract length, set up charges, exit penalties and what else is included in the package (e.g. calls). To keep costs down, don’t pay for more data, faster speeds or more extras (‘bundles’) than necessary.

Assessing data usage

Your first step is to check if you are in or out of contract. If you already have a package, it may be worth revisiting it. It could be better to switch to a lower-speed, lower-cost deal. Does your deal provide more optional extras than you are using?

Warning: Beware of exit fees, as most providers operate on a contractual basis.

Things to consider:

  • How many family members are using one connection at the same time?
  • How many devices are in your household? Don’t forget to take smart televisions, smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles into account as well as computers
  • What is the internet used for?
  • Browsing the web or social media
  • Browsing or applying for jobs
  • Paying bills or council tax
  • Online shopping
  • Online banking
  • Video calling with friends, family, support groups or work
  • Video streaming or online gaming

Understanding data usage

Streaming video through Netflix or ondemand television usually consumes the most data in an average user’s internet package. Some examples of data usage are:

  • Document download: 2MB
  • Music track download: 4MB
  • Web browsing (1 hour): 10-25MB
  • Browsing Facebook (1 hour): 20MB
  • Music streaming (1 hour): 150MB
  • YouTube streaming (30 min): 175MB
  • Video call (1 hour): 500 MB-1 GB 
  • HD video streaming (1 hour): 2GB
  • HD film download: 4GB

There are 1000MB in 1 GB of data.

You can check your data usage on your smart phone under settings. You can also set data limits on your phone so that you do not go over your set limit, which may mean charges depending on your network and contract.

Once you have calculated the amount of data you use on average, you can work out if there is a better package or deal more suited to your needs.

Further information and advice can be found on the Good Things Foundation website.

Further information on internet data usage can be found on the Broadband choices website.

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