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Data usage calculator: How much do you need?
Get an estimate with our data usage calculator and choose your home broadband plan with confidence.
With unlimited broadband data plans being rolled out in force by internet providers, the current trend is definitely in the direction of limitless Internet quotas across the board. It makes sense too, with the amount of streaming, downloading, gaming and video chatting we tend to do, not having to worry about reaching your data cap makes life a whole lot easier.
In this guide, we give you access to an easy to use data usage calculator, share some tips on how to reduce your data use, and what your options are when your usage varies month to month.
Data usage calculator
Our data usage calculator below will help you estimate your monthly data usage based on your Internet habits and help you decide whether you truly need vast quantities of data or whether you can make do with something finite.
This estimate provides a general guide and your own requirements may be very different. Remember that other factors may also influence your data consumption such as which setting you choose to stream your favourite TV shows and movies.
How much data do I need?
Here’s a guide to how much data you use on average for a range of internet activities.
|Social media||2 MB per minute/3 MB with videos|
|Music streaming||2 MB per minute|
|HD video streaming||(1080p): 30 MB per minute|
|4K video streaming||120 MB per minute|
|Large files downloads||20GB per file|
|Voice and video calls||0.6 MB per minute|
How much data does Netflix use?
It’s very easy to spend hours binge-watching your new favourite Netflix show, but did you know that you can burn through up to 7GB an hour doing so?
Depending on which subscription you have, you can watch in Standard Definition (SD), High Definition (HD) or 4K Ultra HD. There are four data usage settings in your Netflix account: Low, Medium, High or Auto so that you can adjust the video quality.
The Low setting is the most basic and uses around 0.3GB per hour. While your picture may not be quite as clear as on the other settings, it’s an option when you’re trying to use as little data as possible.
The Medium setting streams in Standard Definition and uses 0.7GB of data per device per hour.
The High setting can consume as much as 3GB an hour for HD video quality or 7GB per hour for Ultra HD if available.
The Auto setting automatically selects the best video quality based on how fast your current connection is.
If you only have a 150GB data plan, you’ll easily chew through your data in about 22 hours of watching Netflix shows in 4K Ultra HD compared to around 215 hours in Standard Definition.
How much data does Spotify use?
Spotify allows you to change the sound quality while streaming music through the app:
At the Low setting (24kbps), you will consume 10.8MB per hour or 1GB over 92.5 hours.
On the Normal setting (96kbps), it takes 1 hour to use 43.2MB or 23.1 hours to reach 1GB.
The High setting (160kbps) uses 72MB every hour or 1GB every 13.8 hours of streaming.
The Very high setting (320kbps) is the highest quality and consumes 144MB in an hour or 1GB in 6.9 hours.
There is also an automatic setting that chooses the best quality based on your Internet connection.
If you are playing songs over and over, you may use less data than you would by always listening to new songs. This is because Spotify can cache songs, meaning the data from the song is stored in the app’s memory.
What if my usage changes month to month?
While many households will use a similar amount of data each month, there may be times when you use more than others.
If this is the case for you, you’re probably wondering whether you should go for a higher data allowance just to be covered. This is good in theory, but you may end up paying more than you need to over the course of a year. However, there are three other options to consider.
Flexible/scalable plan. A few ISPs offer a ‘pay for what you use’ type broadband plan, where you are only charged according to your data usage for that month. Spark was the first company to roll this out with its Unplan plan, available on wireless or fibre. This plan flexes with your data use, offering three price tiers that you can move between each month.
Data add-ons. If you think that your data use will be quite steady but there may be the odd occasion that your usage will increase, you can look at ISPs that offer data add-ons for their broadband plans. This gives you the option to purchase an extra 10 or 20GB when you need it, for example, if you decide to have a lazy weekend at home binge-watching your new favourite show. Vodafone and Skinny are two providers to consider if you’re keen on having data add-ons available to top up your broadband plan.
Tips to reduce your data usage
Unlimited broadband keeps going and going, but choosing a plan with a data cap means that you do need to keep an eye on your usage each month. If you don’t read the fine print, you can easily find yourself with throttled connection speeds or extra charges on your bill. However, there are many simple actions to take that can make a big difference.
- Reduce video streaming. As you can see in the table above, video streaming uses the most data of any activity by a long shot, even more so with higher definition. Reducing how much YouTube or Netflix you stream is the single biggest usage change you can make.
- Control your video streaming. If you a serious binge-watcher and not sure if you can reduce the amount of Netflix you watch, consider changing the data usage settings. Changing to a lower setting may mean a drop in quality, but it’s really not that bad if it means you get more mileage out of your data.
- Change your browser. Some browsers, especially Google Chrome, eat up a lot of data in the background. Consider switching to a browser like Opera and switching it to Turbo mode to save on data.
- Disable background apps. By default, your computer allows a lot of applications to run in the background where – you guessed it – they can chew up data. You can stop them from doing this in your system settings.
- Turn on battery saver mode. If you’re really keen to minimise your data use, you can put your desktop or device into battery-saver mode. This automatically reduces the amount of data it’s using.
How should I compare plans to find the right one?
If you’re comparing broadband plans for the first time or are wanting to switch providers, you’re probably wondering how you can pick from the dozens of plans on offer. Use the following points to help you choose a plan that suits your needs.
- Connection type. While fibre is becoming the new normal in the broadband world, you may not have it available at your place. Depending on where you live, your only option might be ADSL, VDSL or wireless, but connectivity is improving throughout the country thanks to the government rollout of fibre and rural broadband.
If you are not sure what is available at your house, you can enter your address into the National Broadband Map. Not all providers cater for all connection types, but you can get an idea of which companies are able to supply broadband to your home from this website.
- Data. Now that you know how much data you use on a monthly basis by using the data usage calculator, you can make an informed decision about how much you need. While unlimited data plans are fairly common these days, you can still save quite a bit by choosing a 100GB or 200GB plan.
- Speed. If you only have ADSL or VDSL available at your place, typical speeds fall pretty similarly across ISPs, however, it’s worth checking to see what a particular provider indicates for maximum speed. Looking at fibre, there are different speed options to choose from, but the faster speeds generally seem to only be available on an unlimited data plan.
- Contract types. Some broadband plans are month-to-month, meaning you can change at any time. Others will lock you into a lengthy contract with an exit fee for leaving early. Make sure you aren’t locking yourself into a plan that doesn’t provide enough data or will leave you with hundreds of dollars in fees if you plan on moving house in the near future.
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