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Broadband guide

Do I need unlimited broadband?

Do I need unlimited broadband?
Mark Whelan

Mark Whelan

Staff Writer

Data limit is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing a broadband package. Most suppliers now offer unlimited data packages, but they are often subject to 'fair usage policies'. Customers who exceed their data limit could be charged extra fees for doing so.

What is unlimited broadband data?

'Unlimited' (also referred to as 'uncapped') broadband data usually means that customers can download or upload as much data as they like. However, unlimited deals are usually guided by ‘fair usage policies’ which are designed to ensure that some users don’t take up too much bandwidth at certain times of the day which can affect other users’ access to the Internet.

So, if you download unusually high amounts of data, by playing online games, streaming or downloading large numbers of songs or films, then a service provider may get in touch to notify you, charge you penalties and possibly reduce your connection speed.

What is limited broadband?

Limited broadband means that a customer may only use a certain amount of data per month. Download limits vary from provider to provider, and can range from 1Gb to 500Gb. Customers who exceed their monthly data limit may be charged penalties, which can also vary between suppliers.

If your package has a 30Gb monthly download limit, you can’t download or upload more data than that over a monthly bill period. If you do use more than your limit, your provider may charge you extra usage fees.

How much data do you really use?

Some of us are unlikely to exceed standard limits, but if you are a heavier user, it's worth learning as much as you can about how much data you use.

  • If you send 50 emails containing mostly text, you’ll use about 3Mb
  • If you use the internet every day and view about 100 pages, you’ll use 5Mb to 7Mb depending on the websites you visit
  • Ten music tracks might account for 30-40Mb
  • Streaming an episode of Fair City on the RTE Player might take up to 250Mb
  • Downloading a feature-length film will likely use 700Mb of your allowance in standard definition
  • And a HD movie will cost you a massive 2Gb

What kind of broadband user are you?

Another way of figuring out what allowance would suit you is to work out what kind of a broadband user you are.

If you are a light user, then you use the internet infrequently and generally just for catching up on emails and doing a little web browsing. Light users are unlikely to need a large data allowance. 10Gb per month would probably be more than enough.

However, many more of us could be classified as medium users in that we use the internet most days, and not just for email and browsing but also video streaming services like RTÉ Player and YouTube. A 40Gb data limit should be enough for a medium user.

Gamers, movie buffs and digital music fans should consider a high usage limit or go unlimited altogether. Quality video and audio files are data-intensive, and online gaming can really drain a usage allowance. So why worry about a data limit?

An unlimited package would certainly be recommended for a family or shared house with a number of regular internet users.

What are the limits for mobile broadband?

Given the lower speeds, the download allowances for mobile broadband packages, whether they are 3G or 4G-based, are usually a lot lower than for fixed-line broadband. They range from as little as 2Gb up to 30Gb and it’s rare to find a truly unlimited mobile broadband plan – if you have one you should hold on to it!

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