Review: How Much Data do you Need for Stan, Netflix or Foxtel Now?


The revolution in consumer TV is officially here. We ask the question “Is your internet provider up to the challenge?”

In this review, we’ll look at how much data these popular services like Stan, Netflix, and Foxtel Now use, and give you a few pointers on how to select a data plan that matches your viewing habits.If you are looking for more information about Australian broadband providers – and want to find out about the latest offers and deals – have a look at the Broadband section, where our experts compile, compare, and review all the best offers for you!

I like to have the option of watching what I want, wherever I am. So with my Australian Netflix account I stream one or two episodes of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries or Call The Midwife during my downtime, and maybe a movie or two on the weekend.

Doing the math, that’s easily four hours a week – so my viewing habits average out at 16 hours a month. Keep in mind that this is on top of my other internet-related activities. Bottom line? It all adds up to quite a lot of data.

I’m one of the many Australian viewers that have been howling for better TV. Streaming services like Stan, Netflix and Foxtel Now have answered my howling with some much-needed variety. They also add on-demand access into the mix as well. However, the increase in viewership might impact how much – and when – I can watch my favourite shows.

Foxtel from Telstra

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What about the neighbours?

According to research, December 2017 saw over 14 million Australians owning an internet subscription. That’s more than half of the over-24 million of us paying for the internet. This not counting users that piggy-back their housemate’s connection or leech from the cafe down the road. Add them to the list and you get a whole lot more people logged into the world wide web – as much as 88% of the population according to some statistics.

Unfortunately, Australia’s communication infrastructure wasn’t designed for this kind of usage. That’s why, when we all log in at once, we can experience “evening slowdown”. Everything slows down as the ISPs’ servers try to sort out which requests go where. Streaming TV caught ISPs by surprise, but thankfully they’ve made moves to fix this very annoying problem.

Plus, you have the issue of data caps. Australia is one of the few countries where caps still play a part in a contract. You go over, you pay. Or your download speed gets throttled. Plans with “unlimited” data are available from most major providers now, which are ideal for streaming but can cause slowdown if everyone’s taking advantage of them.

So what happens when you plug high-definition streaming services into the mix?

Internet brownout

14 million Australians own an internet subscription, so when we all log in at once you can expect congestion. Photo: Supplied

Let’s take a look

SVoD services try to remove buffering and loading screens as much as possible. One way they do this is by controlling the video definition you receive. The better the speed, the better the quality – but more data gets used.

Our increased streaming habits can quickly demolish our monthly data quota. This often results in one of two outcomes:

  1. You either pay an overage fee for every MB you consume after your cap.
  2. Your broadband speeds get throttled. Which means you only get low-res versions of your favourite shows, if they can play at all.

Moreover, with more people crowding onto your local network, chances are that – without a solid connection speed – you might experience some kind of quality slowdown during peak times. From experience, that’s usually between 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm on a weeknight and 9:00 pm to 11:00 pm on weekends. This happens as everyone settles down in front of their favourite devices. Maybe they’re streaming a movie on the big TV, trawling eBay on the tablet, and scrolling through Facebook on the smartphone – it all adds up.

So, how can you avoid these unpleasant occurrences? By making sure you have a data pack that suits your new viewing habits!

The SVoD Stats

To start, you need to know just how much data your binge-watching actually requires. Here’s a quick breakdown of how much bandwidth your favourite shows can use up.

Netflix

For starters Netflix Australia offers four tiers of viewing quality. The service automatically adjusts video quality based on your connection speed. This is done to avoid buffering. But you can also choose your preferred viewing quality in account settings.

Video Quality Gigabytes per hour Recommended minimum connection speed
Low 0.6GB/h 1.5MBit/s
Standard 1.3GB/h 3MBit/s
HD 2.2GB/h 5MBit/s
Ultra HD (4K) 7GB/h 16MBit/s

If I was watching my full four hours a week in Ultra HD (4K) then I would need an extra 112GB each month.

Stan

Stan offers four tiers of video quality. These are adjusted automatically to avoid buffering.

Video Quality Gigabytes per hour Recommended minimum connection speed
Low 0.57GB/h 2.5MBit/s
Standard 1.13GB/h 3.5MBit/s
HD 2.89GB/h 6.5MBit/s
UHD 7GB/h 15MBit/s

Foxtel Now

Foxtel Now, formerly known as Foxtel Play offers three levels of viewing quality, which users can switch between to save bandwidth or improve quality.

Video Quality Gigabytes per hour Recommended minimum connection speed
Low* 0.47GB/h 2MBit/s
Standard 1.4GB/h 3MBit/s
HD 3.2GB/h 7MBit/s

(*not available on Xbox One, or Sony Smart TVs)

At the highest resolution, I would need over 51.2GB extra bandwidth when using Foxtel Now.

What’s New?

Netflix has been quietly adding new, more effective video compression systems to its service, and uses less data than ever before. If you’re viewing in 4K devices that support the latest format (such as Xbox One, Playstation 4 Pro or the Apple TV 4K) your connection speed requirement can drop to as little as 12Mbit/sec.

What can you do if you need more data?

As you can see, even mild viewing habits like mine can quickly add up. So if your current data package doesn’t support your watching habits, you have two options. You can upgrade your plan, or switch to an ISP with an unmetered option.

Want to see which broadband pack works for you? Check out our comparison tables. They even include plans with unlimited caps.

Check out the table below and see how these providers stack up against one another!

TV Plans

Foxtel from Telstra Entertainment
  • Set-top Box Included
  • 2 Content Genres
$29/mth

BigPond Movies
  • Service Only Plan
  • 8 Content Genres
$/ days

Kayo Sports Basic
  • Service Only Plan
  • 1 Content Genres
$25/mth

hayu
  • Service Only Plan
  • 3 Content Genres
$6.99/mth

What about mobiles?

It’s possible to binge on cartoons while, say, waiting in line at the bakery. At the time of writing, Optus offers unmetered streaming of Stan and Netflix on its higher-end mobile plans – though the free streaming is limited to 1.5 Mbps, which means you’ll be viewing on the go in standard definition. Alternatively, telco provider OVO Mobile gives its customers unlimited streaming of selected content through their OVO Play app. This does not currently include Stan, Netflix or Foxtel Now, but it’s a phenomenon that’s worth keeping an eye on.

best TV Streaming services

Without WiFi, the data usage may be enough to make you drop your cronut. And you don’t want that. That’s how you get ants. Photo: Supplied

What can you do?

If you’re not sure that your current broadband pack is going to work out, maybe it’s time to take a look at the alternatives.

For example, Optus is one of the increasing number of Australian providers that offers an unlimited broadband bundle. It also optionally includes Yes TV by Fetch. If you have Foxtel broadband, streaming Foxtel Now is unmetered. Browse through multiple offers until you find one that best suits your needs.

However, if you’re a heavy streamer, unlimited broadband is the way to go. This feature means I don’t have to count the megabytes every time I feel like re-watching The Avengers in HD (which is a lot). Or, if I ever decide to try binge-watching, I can do so without fearing that I’ll bust through my data cap and have to watch cartoons in *shudder* standard definition.

Check out our unlimited broadband reviews to find one that suits you.

Family Netflix

Optus is one of the growing number of Australian providers that offers an unlimited broadband bundle. Photo: Supplied

What about the future of SVoD?

Here at CompareTV, we like to keep tabs on what’s happening in the world of Australian TV options. It‘s pretty clear that Netflix, Stan and Foxtel Now have fundamentally changed the way we all view our favourite shows and discover new ones. We’re going to make sure we stay on top of these new developments.

Whether you’re looking for SVoD reviews or trying to pick cable TV packages that meet your needs, you’ll find some of the Hottest Deals right here.

How much data do you need to sustain your viewing habits? Give us a shout in the comments!

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