How much data do I really need?

02 May 2017

When you’re shopping for an internet plan, the amount of data you need each month plays a major role in choosing the right plan for your household.

Nowadays, many families are turning to unlimited data internet plans to make sure the internet is ‘always on’, just like electricity and running water. The thing is, there is money to be saved if you calculate your usage and find the right plan. Depending on the provider, you’ll find there is often a $10 to $20 per month price difference between unlimited data plans and cheaper alternatives. 

Which plan do you need?

50GB 100GB 500GB Unlimited Data
Web Surfing
Online Gaming
Streaming TV
Downloading Movies & TV
= Good to go
= Caution
= Need more data

How much data do you use each month?

The easiest way to figure out how much data you need is to look at old internet bills. If you don’t have these handy, then below we have examples of the things people tend to do online, and how much data it takes to do them.

Add up the data for the different services and apps you use each month.

General web browsing and email


How much data do you need to browse the web every day?

  • Census data suggests that the average Australian browses the web for 48 hours per month.
  • The average web page is 2.5MB in size.
  • This equals about 7GB per month, per person.


Facebook logo

How much data does Facebook use?

  • Browsing Facebooks uses about 2MB per minute.
  • The average Facebook user is on the site for 20 hours each month.
  • You'll need about 2.5GB for each person on Facebook in your house.

Netflix and other streaming TV services

Netflix Menu

How much data do you need to watch Netflix?

  • Netflix HD video uses about 3GB per hour. 
  • Netflix SD video uses about 700MB per hour.
  • Watching a season of your favourite show (13 episodes) will use about 65GB.

Renting movies & TV shows

Renting iTunes movies

How much data do you need to rent a movie on iTunes?

  • A standard HD movie on iTunes uses about 4GB.
  • An SD quality movie on iTunes uses about 1.5GB.
  • If you want an HD movie each week you'll need at least 16GB.
YouTube logo


How much data do you need to watch YouTube?

  • A low quality video uses about 1,5MB per minute.
  • A Full HD (1080p) YouTube video uses about 12MB per minute.
  • YouTube data usage varies greatly depending on the quality of the stream.

YouTube Usage 240p 360p 480p 720p 1080p
Per min. 1.6MB 2.66MB 4MB 7.4MB 12.4MB
Per hour 100MB 160MB 240MB 450MB 750MB

Online gaming

Online gaming

How much data do you need to play games online?

  • In most cases, playing multiplayer games uses very little data, up to about 50MB per hour, but some can require a lot more.
  • Game downloads and update files can be several GBs.
  • Automatic file updates can use a lot of data, but this varies depending on the files.



How much data do you need to make Skype video calls?

  • Very little. Skype uses about 360KB per minute.
  • Each hour of video calling uses about 25MB.
  • You would need to Skype for about 50 hours each month to use 1GB.

Bits & Bytes

To make things super confusing, Data Downloads and Data Speeds are calculated using two different measurements. Keep an eye on which letters are capitalised.

  • MB: Downloads are measured in bytes: Megabytes (MB), Gigabytes (GB), etc. Each increment is 1000x larger than the one before it. So if you download a 500MB file, you are using 0.5GB of your monthly data allowance.
  • Mbps: Speed is measured in Megabits per second. There are 8 bits in a byte. Therefore, if you connection speed is 100Mbps, you can download 12.5MB of data per second. If a movie you download is 1GB in size, it will take 80 seconds to download at this speed.

If you want to keep track of your usage when downloading, the speed of your connection has no bearing on how much data you are using. The important information is the size of the file being downloaded. This is what will affect your cap.

What happens if I go over? 

Fortunately, going over your monthly download limit isn't as big a deal as it once was. 

For fixed line internet connections, your speed is throttled when you reach your data limit. This means that the download speed slowed down until the end of your monthly billing cycle. It then returns to its normal speed at the start of the next month.

The throttled speed is about the speed of an old dial-up internet connection (if you remember that). You can check your email, and browse some websites, but that's about it.

If you want more information about how the major providers penalise excess usage, read our guide here. 

Tick and Exclamation Mark images from Shutterstock


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