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What are peak and off-peak times in relation to broadband internet?

  • Peak splits can be expensive if you're not careful
  • Telstra, Internode and TPG all offer plans with no splits
  • Make sure you're not being charged for going over
Alana Faigen Written by
02/07/2010

These days when you sign up to an ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband internet plan huge download data limits are often quoted, but in reality the actual number of gigabytes you can use in waking hours are much less. This is because many plans are split into on and off-peak time periods, with the off-peak period falling in the middle of the night when the majority of people are asleep.

Why on and off-peak times?

Off-peak data usage is great for people who know how to set up their computer to download files (like movies and songs) with peer-to-peer file sharing services overnight via a timer. For the rest of us this time period is pretty much obsolete in terms of data usage, as we are asleep at the time. So, if you are signing up to a broadband plan with 40GB, 20GB of which falls between an off-peak time period between 2am and 8am, then in all actuality you are receiving a 20GB download limit.

This means internet providers can make it sound like they are offering a large amount of data, E.G. 90GB, but in truth only 40GB is available to be used when you are awake in the on-peak time period. This could result in either excess fees when you exceed your 40GB on-peak limit, or a massive decrease in speed as your connection is forcibly slowed down. All this occurs legally even if you haven’t touched your 50GB of off-peak download data.

Here are a few examples:

The Optus 120GB ADSL2+ broadband plan Standard Modem Included (with Home Phone) on a 24 Month Contract comes with 50GB in the peak time and 70GB in the off-peak period. Optus’s off-peak period goes from 12am-12pm (the entire night and morning EST), but you should note you are slowed to a dial-up speed of 64kbps when you reach your 50GB limit during the afternoon and evening. The other point to consider is that both downloads and uploads count toward your data limit.

*See our related article, ‘My broadband plan counts both uploads and downloads towards my data limit; what is the difference?’

The TPG ADSL2+ Super Fast Standard 130GB broadband plan on a 12-month contract comes with 130GB, split between 70GB in the peak time and 60GB in the off-peak period. The off-peak period sadly extends from 2am to 8am EST, but only downloads are counted (not uploads), which is a real advantage. When you reach your data limit you will be shaped down to a 1000kbps (1mbps) speed, which is still pretty quick.

Exetel's OTD 90GB broadband plan (+$30 monthly phone line rental) 12 month contract with free wireless broadband plan comes with 90GB with no on or off-peak times. You can use your download limit around the clock with only downloads counted (not uploads). When you reach your limit you can either be slowed down to a 512kbps speed, or pay 50 cents per GB, which is incredibly cheap.

Before signing up to an ADSL or ADSL2+ broadband plan ensure you know what your on and off-peak download data limits are, what time the off-peak period is, whether or not uploads are counted towards your limit, and what speed you’ll be slowed down to if you do reach your data limit (or, how much you’ll be charged for excess data usage; this can range from 50 cents per GB to 15 cents per megabyte ($150 per GB)!


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