Broadband has had a considerable impact on the lives of many people and many of us have become data addicts. The average amount of data downloaded by broadband users is, according to Ofcom, around 18 Giga Bytes (GB) a month (though mobile broadband users download only 0.3 GB a month).
The data used to arrive at these figures was given to Ofcom by the major internet service providers (ISPs) and there were considerable differences between them; the lowest reported average usage was 10 GB and the highest was 40 GB.
If you compare broadband deals, you will discover that the data allowance for different contracts can vary from 2 GB right up to an unlimited amount of data, so you need to be aware of your data requirements before you sign up on any broadband contract. Sometimes the penalties for excessive data usage can be expensive, and there is no point in paying for more data than you actually require.
In order to get some idea on your data usage, the following figures illustrate the time you will need to spend on various activities in order to use 18 GB of data. Note that the figures are very approximate.
- Browsing the web for 1,000 hours
- Streaming a radio station for 500 hours
- Watching video (non HD), for instance from BBC iPlayer for 65 hours
- Downloading 5 movies in high definition
- Watching 1080p HD videos on YouTube for 10 hours
- Making calls using Skype for 250 hours
- Playing online games for 1,000 hours
- Video conferencing for 40 hours
Looking at those figures, if you mainly use your broadband for browsing the web, then you would need to be using it for twenty four hours every day to get anywhere need to the average data usage, but if you are into streaming video in either standard or high definition, then it is very easy to reach the average; certainly a broadband deal that gave you say 10 GB data allowance would be wholly inadequate. If there are several users in the household, and especially if they include some teenagers, then expect to reach the average usage very quickly.
If you opt for a broadband deal that includes an unlimited data allowance, you may find that your data usage is subject to a 'fair usage' restriction. The justification for this is what broadband providers call the contention ratio. Broadband services are shared between groups of people and the more people who are online, the slower the broadband connection. If a few users are continually downloading huge amounts of data, then the connection speed for other users in the group could be reduced. Check the speed of your broadband by running a broadband speed test.
There are various penalties that suppliers impose to users who regularly exceed what is considered to be fair usage. The more common ones are to throttle (slow down) the broadband speed at peak times and to prevent the user from certain types of data usage, for instance peer to peer file transfers.