Broadband Data Usage Guide: How much do you need?


woman browse internet

Updated 27th October 2020

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 with the emergence of streaming TV services, data has become more important than ever. So which data limit is right for you?

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How much internet data do you need?

The best way to understand your ideal data limit is to look at your internet habits. Some online activities are known to use hundreds of megabytes, 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 nearly complete. By now, most Australians can connect to the speedy new 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 surfing10 GB: yes20 GB: yes50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes
Social media10 GB: yes20 GB: yes50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes
YouTube10 GB: yes20 GB: yes50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes
Gaming10 GB: yes20 GB: yes50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes
Streaming TV10 GB: no20 GB: no50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes
Downloading10 GB: no20 GB: no50 GB: yes100 GB: yes500 GB: yes

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 about 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.

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 of 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 still 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 downloads can be larger than 100GB – 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

ProviderSDHD
Netflix0.7GB/h3GB/h
Stan1.13GB/h2.89GB/h
Foxtel Now1.4GB/h3.2GB/h

Stream Resolution

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 Ozark.

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

Plan
Inclusions
Price
Unlimited Data
  • Free BINGE Standard for 3 months
  • Buy online: no connection fee
  • Unlimited Data
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 50Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • #1 provider to stream Netflix
  • Telstra Smart Modem included (with 4G back up)
  • $90/mth
$90/mth
Min Cost - $2,160 when you stay connected for 24 months, and may change if the month-to-month plan price changes. New customers. only.

nbn™ Unlimited Broadband Turbo
  • nbn™ Unlimited Broadband Turbo
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 50Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • Ideal for households of 3-4
  • For gaming & video streaming
  • $75/mth
$75/mth
Min Cost - $75 over 1 month

Unlimited 100/20Mbps Flexi
  • Unlimited 100/20Mbps Flexi
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 100Mbps Premium Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 100™ Fixed Line
  • BYO Modem
  • Great plan for a larger household
  • $89/mth
$89/mth
Min Cost - $89 over 1 month

NBN Sky Muster - 200GB Sonic
  • PlayOn Cloud free for 3 months
  • NBN Sky Muster - 200GB Sonic
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 25Mbps Standard Evening
  • 200GB Data
  • NBN 25™ Satellite
  • 65GB peak, 135GB off peak data
  • No excess usage
  • $54.95/mth
$54.95/mth
Min Cost - $54.95 per month

NBN25 Unlimited - Month to Month
  • $10 off w/ electricity & gas on selected areas
  • NBN25 Unlimited - Month to Month
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 25Mbps Standard Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 25™ Fixed Line
  • Includes landline service w/ pay as you go calls
  • Pay as you go calls or add calling packs from $10/mth
  • $65/mth
$65/mth
Min Cost - $209.90 over 1 month (inc $120 setup & modem and $24.90 P&H)

Unlimited Data nbn50 Month to Month
  • Unlimited Data nbn50 Month to Month
  • No Lock-in Contract
  • Up to 50Mbps Standard Plus Evening
  • Unlimited Data
  • NBN 50™ Fixed Line
  • Landline w/ pay as you go calls
  • Add Fetch from $10/mth with 1 free channel pack
  • $75/mth
$75/mth
Min Cost - $189 over 1 month ($99 setup & modem + $15 P&H included)

Last audited 18 November 2020

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