How much data will I need on my ADSL broadband plan?

  • You may need more data than you think
  • Video is the main bandwidth killer
  • Gaming over XBox Live uses a lot of data

If you are about to sign up to a new ADSL broadband internet plan, one of the first questions an internet company’s sales representative will ask you is how much data you need. So, how much do you need? This all comes down to what you intend to do on the internet, as well as how many people or computers are online in your home.

How much data you use depends on the bandwidth speed of the internet content you are accessing, and this can vary a lot depending on the quality, size, or type of media you are consuming.

There are numerous types of content you can access online. There is general web surfing of sites for shopping, banking etc., email, watching YouTube videos, listening to internet radio, watching internet TV, downloading songs, downloading movies, sending and receiving photos or files, downloading software for your computer, and more.

Here are a few statistics you can look at in order to get an idea of how much data you may need on your new ADSL broadband plan:

First things first: the small stuff - email

If you want to send or receive an email it uses bandwidth – admittedly not much, but it can add up if you have an enormous amount of chatty friends, family members, or colleagues. Happily, 200 emails (without attachments) only use about 1MB of data.

However, if you receive or send attachments the story is much different. Transferring 100 low-quality photos uses only 10MB of data, while high quality pictures use around 100MB to 200MB.

Next: General web surfing

Let’s say you live in a family of four people and each of you has a computer plus an Apple iPhone, and you all share a single ADSL2+ Wi-Fi connection. If each person looks at websites for 2 hours a day on their computer and phone while at home, this is 8 hours, multiplied by around 30 days a month, equals 240 hours.
 
This would use around 3.6GB (3,600Mb) per month. Note: 100 hours of web surfing equals around 1.5GB of data.

It’s hard to know how long you’ll stay on each website, but 1GB would allow you to surf approximately 500 websites.

Transferring photo and text files:

If you open a file that someone sends you in an email, or if you upload your own, this uses data. A high-resolution photograph is about 2MB, a ten-slide PowerPoint presentation (with text and images) is 1MB, and the average MP3 music file is around 3MB. If you purchase an eBook from Amazon for your Kindle reading device, it uses a paltry 400KB (0.4MB) for a 250-page novel.

Making Skype phone calls over the internet:

If you are on a one-on-one audio conversation Skype uses around 0.5 MB per minute. This means a 10-minute call would use around 5MB, while a one-hour call would use 30MB. However, if you make conference calls or video calls, it would obviously use up more of your bandwidth.

Listening to online radio:

How much data you use when streaming music or podcast radio shows online depends on the particular internet radio website. Most streams run at 128kbps, which means listening to 33 hours of radio would equal about 0.5GB.

However, some streams run at slower speeds of 32kbps, 64kbps, or even faster speeds than the 128kbps variety, so of course this affects usage levels. On average you could say listening to online radio will use around 40-50MB per hour.

The Big Stuff: Watching internet TV


Online TV is becoming very popular. You can watch your favourite shows whenever you like, plus many channels don’t include commercials in their programming.

If you watch a half-hour TV episode on ABC iView it uses approximately 125 MB of data, so two hours of online television would equate to 0.5GB. Watching low resolution YouTube video clips uses around one quarter of the data of ABC iView, so watching short videos for a couple of hours would only use 125MB. This has also been measured to be around 28 short video clips. This data quota increases a lot if you watch high-definition clips.

Many people these days are watching Foxtel over their Xbox 360’s ADSL2+ broadband connection. An hour of high quality Foxtel TV uses up to 800MB of data, medium quality uses around 540MB, and low quality about 360MB.

Foxtel allows customers to adjust quality settings on their gaming console, so you can decide when to consume more data, and when to save because you’re getting close to reaching your monthly quota. On the highest setting your family would use 50GB a month just by watching two hours of TV per night!

Downloading movies:

The Apple iTunes store is a very popular place for people to rent and buy films legally. The average iTunes movie download uses 1GB of data. Note: There are some peer-to-peer torrent websites that offer legal files transfers. Ensure the site’s file is legal before downloading it, as you don’t want to get in trouble with the copyright authorities.