Some broadband tariffs, especially mobile broadband offers, are still sold with a monthly data limit.
In some countries, unlimited data broadband deals can be very expensive. Therefore, you might be wondering how much data it’s really worth paying for.
In this guide, we’ve explained how to calculate how much data you need each month, given how many people live at home, and how often you’re online.
What determines how much data you need?
When shopping for a broadband tariff, here are some of the factors to consider when deciding how much data you need to pay for.
- How many people use the internet at home. The more people that are online, the more data you’ll need.
- What you use the internet for. If you often download large files or stream 4K video for example, you’ll need a much larger data allowance compared to if you just read emails and browse webpages.
- Whether this will be your main way of getting online. If you’re buying a mobile Wi-Fi tariff for example, it might just be something you’ll use on holiday, or when your fibre internet goes offline. But if you’re buying a 4G or 5G router, you might be planning on using it as your main way of getting online at home, meaning you’ll use more data.
It may be that your internet usage varies quite a lot from month to month, which can make the process of calculating how much data you need even more difficult. If this is the case, it’s best to think about how much data you’ll use in a month with slightly above-average internet usage, otherwise you will end up hitting your data limit every few months or so.
How much data do I need?
Here are some guidelines to help you decide how much of a data limit it’s worth paying for when buying a broadband tariff.
With these guidelines, we’ve assumed that you’ll be using your broadband or mobile broadband connection as your main way of getting online at home. If you’ll only be using the connection occasionally, you won’t need as much data.
- For a 1-person household, a 100GB data limit should be enough if you’re a light internet user. Meaning, you don’t often perform large file downloads, you don’t work from home, and you only watch TV or stream videos occasionally. If you’re a heavy internet user, you will likely want at least 200GB of data each month.
- For a 2-3 person household, a 200-300GB data limit should be enough, again provided you are not heavy internet users.
- For a 3-4 person household, you will ideally want an unlimited data tariff to avoid hitting any usage caps.
Essentially, limited-data broadband tariffs are only really a good idea if you don’t use the internet much, and when you do, you don’t watch many videos or download large files.
Most internet activities these days, even social media, use up huge amounts of data, which is why fibre broadband plans nearly always come with unlimited usage all the time, except in some countries like Belgium.
How to tell how much data you use
Fortunately, most modern phones and computers can actually tell us how much data we use, which can be helpful when calculating how much data it’s worth paying for.
On Android phones for example, under Settings > Wi-Fi > Wi-Fi data usage, you can see exactly how much data you’ve used in the previous month. The same is true on Windows, under Settings > Network & Internet > Data usage.
This data can give you a much better idea of how much data you’re actually using. Just ensure to take a measurement after a typical month of internet usage, not just when you’ve come back from holiday. And also ensure to check all of the devices in your house, to get an idea of your total data usage.
What happens when you hit your data usage limit?
If you hit your data usage limit in a given month, here are the three most common ways your broadband provider will deal with this issue.
- Your download and upload speeds will be throttled. You’ll still be able to access the internet, but only with a very slow download speed.
- You will have the option of buying extra data, or you might be charged for extra data you use automatically. If this is the case, your provider will likely inform you of this when you sign up for a broadband tariff.
- Your connection will be cut off entirely until the start of the next month.
Most of the time, having your download speeds throttled is the most common thing that happens when you run out of data on your internet plan.
Being charged extra to use more data or having your connection cut off is quite rare in most countries. But it’s worth reading the terms and conditions carefully before buying a broadband tariff with a data limit, especially if you think you might reach the data cap on occasion.
I’m Roger, and I’m the founder of Broadband 4 Europe.
I grew up in Switzerland but live in Germany now, and also lived in South Tirol for a while in the past.
I have a background in IT and have performed extensive research into the broadband markets of most major European countries. Learning about fixed-line broadband markets is my nerdy hobby, but I’m also excited by the possibilities that 5G (and eventually 6G) broadband will provide us in the future.
When I’m not researching broadband companies and their networks, you’ll find me playing volleyball or the piano.