Broadband Data Usage Guide: How much do you need?

woman browse internet

Updated 8th August, 2019

Picking the best broadband plan is hard enough as it is, without the inclusion of special offers and deals. Add in the fact that we’re now more internet-dependent than ever and the emergence of streaming TV services, data has become more important than ever. So which data limit is right for me?

How much internet data do you need?

The best way to understand your limit is to look at your internet habits. Some online activities are known to use hundreds of bytes, while others can require almost no data across the month.

Thankfully, more and more ISPs are currently offering unlimited plans. Especially since the NBN rollout is going according to plan. By now, nearly one in three Australians can connect to the speedy network. As a result, there’s been a surge in affordable offers from fresh NBN providers, so you’re basically spoilt for choice. If you’re an avid user, the choice is clear.

But if you don’t spend too much time online, investing in an unlimited plan can seem wasteful. We break it down for you below, so you’ll be better informed when choosing a broadband plan to cover all your needs.

 10 GB20 GB50 GB100 GB500 GB
Web surfingyesyesyesyesyes
Social mediayesyesyesyesyes
Streaming TVnonoyesyesyes

yes You’re OK

yes You’re stretching it

no You will likely go over your limit

How much data do I need for downloads?

Downloading can be a huge hit to any data cap, so carefully think about your downloading habits before picking a broadband provider. For instance, if you regularly rent movies or TV shows through services like iTunes or Telstra movies, the numbers quickly add up. A standard length movie on iTunes requires 4GB for a HD file and about 1.5GB for a SD copy. That’s a lot of data when your limit is only 20GB per month. If you’re on a modest data plan, always check the size of the file you’re considering before hitting download. Here’s a handy table to guide you when picking a broadband plan:

How much data do I need for Emails?

Let’s say you’re not that internet-savvy and you only use the web for minimal stuff – like sending emails, doing some research for work, looking up recipe ideas and reading the news. As long as you don’t go online to download or stream, you will only need a limited amount of data to get by – so a 20/50 GB data plan might just be enough to satisfy your surfing cravings. This is clearly not the case for everyone though. A report by Nielsen revealed that the average person spends the equivalent of almost an entire day online every week. Moreover, if your family also regularly goes online, you need to take into account their needs as well. And kids are known to spend a lot of time in front of the computer. A limit of 20GB for the entire family will be insufficient – in fact, 100GB might even be a stretch.

Additional tip: If you frequently make calls via Skype, you don’t need to worry about exceeding your data limit. A standard voice call on the popular messaging service only uses about 360KB per minute.

How much data do I need to use Social Media?

checking social media
Social networks aren’t that data-hungry, but you should still consider this if you’re an avid user. Photo: Shutterstock

Social media is all the rage nowadays, and the same study we mentioned above states that seven in ten Australians are active social media users. During a minute of casual Facebook browsing, you can easily burn around 2MB of data. So if you’re an avid user who spends more than an hour per day chatting and looking at Facebook pics and videos, you can easily burn over 3GB of data just to indulge your Facebook habit. Moreover, if you upload a lot of photos, that can add up to quite a significant amount of usage. Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all consume less data than the mighty Facebook.  Not the same can be said another popular site, which brings us to…

How much data do I need to watch YouTube?

stream video online

Streaming a lot of videos online can take a real toll on your data cap. It’s a common belief that streaming a video consumes less data than downloading it, but that’s not necessarily the case. Whenever you hit play on a video, the file buffers ahead of time – you’re basically downloading it. You can end up using more data. Think about it: if you accidentally close the page or refresh it you will have to download the file all over again.  

Here are the rates at which different resolutions consume data:

Data Usage per Resolution Size

ResolutionPer MinutePer Hour
360p5.625 MB/minute337.5 MB/hour
480p7.5 MB/minute450 MB/hour
720p18.75 MB/minute1,125 MB/hour
1080p33.75 MB/minute2,025 MB/hour

Sure, this is merely a drop in the ocean for someone on a big 1000GB plan, but you would be amazed by how fast streaming YouTube videos can burn through smaller data limits.

How much data do I need for Online gaming?

Surprisingly, playing the games isn’t what uses up most of the data – they generally burn around 1-2 MB per minute, sometimes less. However, if you plan on downloading the game from an online store, things get trickier. Some game files can be larger than 50GB – if you’re on a modest broadband plan, you can easily wipe out your internet for the month with a single download.

How much data do I need for streaming TV and Movies?

Streaming TV services are similar to YouTube in how much data they use per minute. However, due to the fact that TV shows and movies are longer than your average YouTube video, you will end up using more data over the course of a month.

We already covered approximately how much data you need to stream content on Australia’s most popular subscription video on-demand services, so we won’t get into it again. Here’s a quick cheat sheet:

Data Usage Per Hour

Foxtel Now1.4GB/h3.2GB/h

Resolution Stream

It’s also important to note that these services will automatically choose the resolution of the stream based on the speed of your connection, so you have to manually adjust it if you’re looking to reduce the amount of data you spend while watching Mindhunter. Also, these services are unmetered on some providers, so that’s something worth inquiring about before choosing a broadband plan.

What is the best Broadband Plan for your needs?

As you can see, picking a broadband plan largely depends on how you plan to use your data. Of course, if you’re an avid internet user and streaming junkie like we are, an unlimited data plan is always your best bet. You can browse through offers on our site and see which plan best fits your needs.

NBN Broadband Plans

Unlimited Internet Plan
  • 20,000 Telstra Plus Bonus Points
  • First month free. New customers only
  • $99 connection fee waived when you buy online
  • #1 provider to stream Netflix
  • No Contract
  • Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • Unlimited standard local, national and Australian mobile calls
  • Broadband Protect: Online security to keep your family safe
Min Cost - $2,070 when you stay connected for 24 months, and may change if the month-to-month plan price changes

nbn™ Unlimited Broadband Turbo
  • Get 3rd mth free & included modem. Save up to $169! Use code SCHOOL. Ends 31 Jan
  • No Contract
  • Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • Suited for gaming and video streaming
  • Ideal for households of 3-4
Min Cost - $70

Unlimited Premium Month to Month
  • $5/mth discount for first 12 months
  • No Contract
  • Up to 80Mbps Premium Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 100™ Fixed Line
  • BYO Modem
  • PAYG Home Phone
$94.95 for first 12 months, $99.95 thereafter
Min Cost - $94.95 over 1 month

NBN Sky Muster - 200GB Sonic
  • No Contract
  • Up to 20Mbps Standard Evening
  • 200GB Data
  • NBN 25™ Satellite
  • 60GB peak data
  • 140GB off peak data
Min Cost - $54.95 per month

NBN Standard Plus Month to Month
  • $80 Free Mobile Credit
  • $0 Standard Activation
  • $60 Wi-Fi modem
  • No Contract
  • Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • No excess usage charge
  • Powered by Telstra
Min Cost - $130


Related Offers

40GB off-peak data
on the nbn™ Sky Muster Satellite Basic Speed Plan (Small) plan with 70GB Data
No contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the NBN Starter 12 Month Contract plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
12mth contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the ADSL 100GB 12 Month Contract plan with 100GB Data and a modem included.
12mth contract
20,000 Telstra Plus Bonus Points
on the Premium Speed + Unlimited Data plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
No contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the NBN Standard Plus 12 Month Contract plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
12mth contract
RISK FREE 14 day trial
on the NBN UNLIMITED Plan - STANDARD SPEED plan with Unlimited Data
No contract
120GB off-peak data
on the nbn™ Sky Muster Satellite Basic Speed Plan (Large) plan with 180GB Data
No contract
Get 3rd mth free & included modem. Save up to $169! Use code SCHOOL. Ends 31 Jan
on the nbn™ Unlimited Broadband Turbo plan with Unlimited Data
No contract