Back to top

Broadband data limits: How much data do I need?

While most deals come with unlimited data, do you really need it? Find out how much data you actually need and see if you can get by with a cheaper, limited tariff.

Last updated: 23 March 2021

Broadband data limits: How much data do I need?
Whenever your computer or device uses the internet it sends and receives data. This can be in the form of a web page, email, photographs, music, or even a video. This also applies to the apps you use on your phone, such as Google Maps, WhatsApp, or Uber.

It can be hard to get your head around how much data you’re actually using. Broadband providers won’t usually supply you with an itemised list of your data usage so it can be quite tricky to figure out where your data is being ‘spent’.

In this guide we’ll be helping you better understand data in general, how it’s measured, and how to figure out how much you’re using so you don’t find yourself with a nasty surprise down the line.

How is data measured?

The most common measurements of data are kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), and gigabytes (GB). There are 1024KB in 1MB, and 1024MB in 1GB.

How much data can I use?

This all depends on the particular internet package you have. You will sometimes be given set data ‘allowances’ per month, allowing you to use a certain amount of data. However, there are also many broadband deals and mobile packages that are ‘unlimited’ and have no usage limits.

It's important to note that while most unlimited deals are just that ('truly unlimited'), some will impose fair usage policies that restrict your download speeds at certain times of day if your usage goes over a certain amount.

What happens if I exceed my monthly data usage limit?

A few things could happen depending on your provider and your package. Some providers will shut off your data connection altogether until you pay to temporarily extend your data allowance.

Other providers will just slow down your internet connection speed so that you can only access very basic internet services.

Another possibility is that your service will continue as normal but you’ll have extra fees tacked on to your next bill for each megabyte or gigabyte of data you use over the agreed limit.

You really need to look at the terms and conditions of your package to be sure of how exceeding your monthly data limit will be handled by your service provider.
Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.