Understanding How Much you Really Use the Internet

When it comes to getting broadband we all want to ensure that we get the correct package for our personal needs.  The challenge is that we have to understand not just what we are using, but what our whole family or household is going to use the broadband for.  It can get quite costly if we have a limited package and then we over use our data and have to pay additional data costs.  With BT Internet for example, you tend to have to pay an additional £5 for every 5GB of data above your plan.  5GB is not that much when you are streaming high definition movies.

This article will look at the different ways to gauge you internet user profile so that you can ensure that you get the best package for your needs.  We’ll touch on both mobile broadband and fixed broadband.

The Consumption Usage by Different Activities

It’s important to understand which activities actually consume the most data.  That way you can assess what you consume on the internet and find out which activities are eating the majority of your data allowance.  By doing this, you’ll be able to understand whether you are a light, medium, or heavy user, as classified by the different internet service providers.

The Consumption by Different Activities

  • If you are on BT Internet and you are streaming a high definition movie, you’re going to consume somewhere between 2GB and 5GB of data in most cases. 
  • A standard definition movie will probably consume around 700MB to 1GB. 
  • Downloading an e-mail will only be between 2kb and 10kb in most cases. 
  • Watching a YouTube video could be anywhere from a megabyte up to 30MB or more. 
  • When uploading photos to Facebook, you’re going to be using your data as well and it will depend on the size of the photos that you’re uploading as to the amount of data you will obviously consume.  If you used a really high pixel resolution camera you’ll be using a lot of data uploading many pictures.

The highest intensity activities are streaming of movies, multiplayer gaming, and heavy downloads.  On top of these there is of course Peer to Peer file sharing which consumes a great deal of data in some cases.

The Profiles of Different Users

As we’ve seen earlier, internet service providers tend to categorise users into light, medium, and heavy consumers.  Here is a look at the profiles.

Light Consumers

A light consumer tends to spend some time browsing and downloading e-mail and not much else.  They won’t be online for large portions of the day but might pop on once a day for a few minutes.  The Sky Broadband Lite package is free with the Sky broadband offering and offers 2GB of data per month.  This would be easily consumed by higher user profiles and is only for those that are really only using the broadband to stay in touch with the world through their social media occasionally and to browse and check e-mail.

Medium Consumers

A medium consumer will do all that a light consumer does but perhaps a little more intensively.  They may spend an hour or so online per day, but won’t tend to do that much streaming video or listening to online radio and so on.  They may do the occasional YouTube video, or other media activity, but they won’t be intensively watching online TV and gaming.

The Heavy Consumer

Heavy consumers will be using their broadband most days and it will be a part of their lives.  They may well engage with online TV, such as Sky Go or the BT Internet option BT Vision, and will probably also be downloading files as well.  They will need a hefty internet data allowance because their use will be unpredictable as well.  They may well spend a weekend online and consume 20+GB of data.  They will be streaming at peak times and therefore they will need a good fair usage policy.

Fair Usage Policies and Traffic Management

It’s importantto understand the fair usage policies and traffic management of the providers that you are putting on your short list.  This is because some companies that offer unlimited broadband, and target heavy consumers, in fact limit the amount of data that can be consumed.  This is a real problem when it comes to intense activity.  Some providers limit consumers to just 40GB on their home broadband solutions, which is far from unlimited.  Some of the good guys that do offer truly unlimited broadband are Sky Broadband, BE Broadband, and BT Internet Broadband.  Virgin Media have also upped their top level package to include unlimited broadband without a fair usage policy, although their other packages do include restrictions.

Traffic management is the shaping of internet consumption on internet service provider networks in order to ensure the stable running of the system.  Unfortunately what it means is that speeds can be slowed during peak periods and certain activities such as Peer to Peer file sharing, and even streaming and gaming, can be limited by the provider.  This can be an issue if you prioritise certain activities, so check out the traffic management policies of the providers on your shortlist to ensure that you are not restricted in your activities when you want to use them most.

Mobile Broadband as Opposed to BT Internet and Other Fixed Broadband Solutions

When it comes to mobile broadband data is more expensive.  We’re coming into the era of the fourth generation of mobile broadband—4G.  This again is expensive but it is fast.  It means that we’re going to be consuming more data on our phones, tablets, and laptops and that we are going to need better packages. 

Heavy consumers who are focused heavily on their mobile devices and get online a lot on the go will have to learn to use WiFi hotspots or consume all their data.  ‘All You Can Eat’ packages tend to limit themselves to around 20GB and not be truly unlimited in reality.  Again it’s important to check with your provider how much data you can actually consume and when, as you don’t want to end up with hefty costs, which can be even more on mobile broadband than they will be on your fixed broadband plan.

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