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NBN Data – How much do I need?

Now that Ballarat and surrounding areas are slowly connected to the NBN, one of the first questions you’ll be faced with is ‘What Data Plan do you want’ – usually this involves 2 components … The Connection Speed & the Amount of Data you will be using each month – this article concentrates on the DATA part of the equation.

Shocked couple receiving NBN bill

If you have previously had the internet connected via other technology (usually ADSL) then you may have some idea of your usage, but be aware – the higher speeds offered by the NBN can mean a higher consumption.

Which brings us to the most important part of choosing a plan:

Make sure your Data usage is capped.

This means that once you use your data allowance for the month, your connection speed will be dropped to something akin to dial-up but you won’t pay any more. If your plan has excess charges you can receive an astronomical bill due to the exorbitant rates your provider charges.

Be aware that your data allowance includes downloads and usually uploads (which hasn’t always been the case) If you have a device that regularly backs up data ‘to the cloud’ when connected to WiFi it will be included in your data usage.

To estimate how much data you’ll need to add up the amount of time you & your family ( & perhaps guests ) spend on:

  • Emailing
  • Browsing
  • Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.)
  • Chatting (Skype, VoIP)
  • Gaming
  • Downloading & Peer to Peer
  • Online Viewing (YouTube,  MetaCafe, TED, ShortForm, Devour)
  • Internet TV (Netflix, Stan, Fetch TV, Presto)
  • Backups to the Cloud (iCloud, Amazon, Dropbox)


Most emailing uses tiny amounts of data – unless you receive & download a lot of file attachments.
If you have an online email account (such as Gmail ) you can make sure that you only download attachments that you know & are expecting – if you don’t download, it won’t affect your  usage


General ‘surfing’ the ‘net consumes a fairly small amount of data – unless of course you frequent rich-content sites with embedded videos lots of advertising and detailed images – then you could be looking at 2-3MB per minute … which soon adds up


If your Social Interaction is via text ‘Tweets’ then you won’t be using much data … however, almost everything else includes images, videos, photos, advertising and can easily chew up at least 50MB per hour. If you have teenagers, then expect at least 5GB+ to disappear each month.

Chatting & VoIP

A standard voice call on Skype or VoIP (or similar) only uses about 360KB a minute – so if you talked for a full 12 hours you would only consume about 0.25GB.
However – If you use the Video component of these services the usage jumps to around 600MB per hour – this is highly dependent on the quality of your webcam … some of the newest models are capable of 1080p streaming at somewhere between 2 – 3GB per hour.


Online Gaming is another highly variable category: If you’re just playing the type of games presented by Facebook then you’ll probably use around 15MB per hour.
On the other hand, if your interest is First Person Shooter (FPS) or Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) can eat up huge chunks of your allowance – there’s the game platform, then updates, patches & add-ons that can be anywhere from 10MB to 10GB!  Then allow up to 200MB per hour for actual game play.
Not ALL games are this data intensive – but there are some that can make your data disappear in a matter of days.


Downloading covers everything from purchasing and updating software (including monthly updates to your Operating System) to becoming involved in the ‘shady’ side of BitTorrent (Peer to Peer) to share everything from music to latest release blockbusters. Be aware that ‘torrenting’ involves uploading as well – etiquette dictates that you share (or seed) at least as much as you download.

Downloading songs from online retailers will be around 5MB each and movies are usually at least 2GB.

Online Viewing

Online Video services such as YouTube stream video to your computer at varying rates dependent on the clip’s resolution – if it’s a small standard definition clip you may only use 8-9MB to watch a 5 minute clip. The same 5 minute clip in High Definition 720p or 1080p will consume 40 – 60MB.

When streaming you also need to be aware that the video is ‘buffered’ ahead of the point you are watching – If you refresh or close the page you’ll usually have to download the whole clip again.

YouTube used to publish statistics that revealed in 2012 the average viewer watched 6 hours per month – which would put our 720p viewer using around 3GB monthly. They no longer publish this statistic but do boast that this number is increasing by 50 – 60% per year!

Internet TV

Just like Online Viewing, Internet TV services & catch-up services use a large amount of data per month – if you have a Standard Definition service then if you watch the average 13 hours per week of TV you’ll use around 36GB. High Definition watching jumps to 156GB per month. If you are lucky enough to have a 4K Ultra HD TV then the premium plan is a must and you, theoretically, can consume a huge 360+GB per month – However, there is currently very little Ultra HD content available.

Catch Up Tv Services & ‘Freeview’ will use similar amounts as those listed for Netflix.

NOTE: There are a number of providers who do not add services such as Netflix to your data usage … this can mean you save huge amounts of data, so research and also look for terms like ‘freezone’ which host a treasure trove of FREE content.


If you have a Smart phone (or in particular a latest iPhone) beware! Their promise to keep all of your SMS, Contacts, Emails, Photos, Music ( & every other form of electronic detritus you may have accumulated) safe in the ‘cloud’ may have a significant impact on your data usage.
Recently our daily data usage shot up from an average 5 – 10GB to 40-50 which decimated our allowance.  Some tweaking & we’re back to normal, but a complete backup daily is overkill!
Daily incremental backups to a local drive are reasonable with a complete upload to the cloud once or twice a month is adequate for the average user.