Broadband Data Usage Guide: How much do you need?

woman browse internet

With an abundance of special offers available picking a broadband plan is hard enough. Add in the fact that 1. We’re now more internet-dependent than ever and 2. The emergence of streaming TV services has woken up the binge-watcher in all of us. So which data limit is right for me?

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.

NBN Broadband Plans

Core Internet Plan
  • Up to 20Mbps Standard Evening
  • 200GB Data
  • NBN 25™ Fixed Line
Min Cost - $1,899 if you stay connected for 24 mths

nbn™ Broadband Basic (Small)
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • 100GB Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
Min Cost - $50 over 1 mth

Unlimited Premium Month to Month
  • Up to 80Mbps Premium Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 100™ Fixed Line
$79.95 for first 12 months, $89.95 thereafter
Min Cost - 79.95 over 1 month

NBN Standard Plus Month to Month
  • Up to 40Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
Min Cost - $130

good mates
  • Up to 9Mbps Basic Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 12™ Fixed Line
Min Cost - $59


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:

yes You’re OK

yes You’re stretching it

no You will likely go over your limit

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

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.

General email and googling

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.

Checking 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…


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:

  • 360p = 5.625 MB/minute, 337.5 MB/hour
  • 480p = 7.5 MB/minute, 450 MB/hour
  • 720p = 18.75 MB/minute, 1,125 MB/hour
  • 1080p = 33.75 MB/minute, 2,025 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.

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.

Netflix, Stan, and other streaming services

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:

  • Netflix uses 0.7GB/h for SD streaming and 3GB/h for HD streaming
  • Stan uses and 1.13GB/h for SD streaming 2.89GB/h for HD streaming
  • Foxtel Now uses 1.4GB/h for SD streaming and 3.2GB/h for HD streaming

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.


Related Offers

$10/mth discount for first 12 months. Ends 21.07.2019
on the Unlimited Premium Month to Month plan with Unlimited Data
No contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the NBN Standard Plus Month to Month plan with Unlimited Data
No contract
$5/mth discount for first 12 months. Ends 21.07.2019
on the Unlimited Premium 12 Months plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
12mth contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the NBN Standard Plus 12 Month Contract plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
12mth contract
$125 Telstra Box Office credit
on the Unlimited Internet Plan + Telstra TV plan with Unlimited Data and a modem included.
No contract
40GB of off-peak data
on the nbn™ Sky Muster Satellite Basic Speed Plan (Small) plan with 70GB Data
No contract
RISK FREE 14 day trial
on the NBN UNLIMITED Plan - STANDARD SPEED plan with Unlimited Data
No contract
$80 Free Mobile Credit
on the ADSL 100GB 12 Month Contract plan with 100GB Data and a modem included.
12mth contract