What Uses Up Your Broadband Allowance? 

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What uses up your broadband allowance?

When the nbn® rollout first started, most nbn plans included a fixed data allowance. So, besides deciding the speed of your nbn connection, you also had to decide the maximum amount of data you could use each month. Once you reached your data allowance, you would either:

  • Have your connection speed shaped, meaning both your upload and download speed would drop to a fraction of your normal speed
  • Be charged for each additional megabyte (MB) you used until the end of the billing period.

Neither option was appealing for heavy internet users, but as the nbn rollout expanded, service providers began offering plans with unlimited data. And while the cost of these plans was significantly higher than that of plans with a fixed data allowance, this has since changed. The price difference between plans with a fixed data allocation and those with no limit is almost negligible, with many service providers dropping data allocations completely.

But just because your chosen nbn access provider doesn’t limit how much data you can use each month, doesn’t mean your internet usage habits aren’t important when choosing an nbn plan. Your usage habits have a big impact on the speed tier you select, if all you do is browse the internet and some social media, send and receive basic emails and occasionally rent a movie or TV show, the highest speed tier is overkill.

In this guide we break down how common internet activities influence the nbn plan you should sign up for.

Dodo currently has five nbn plans: nbn15, nbn25, nbn50, nbn100 and Home Superfast. For most online activities, nbn25 is better suited to small households where only one or two people will be online at the same time. Our nbn50 plan is ideal for larger households, where up to six people might be online at the same time and nbn100 is for households with more than six people using the internet at the same time. Home superfast is a plan designed for the busy household and heavy users with multiple devices being used simultaneously. This is a loose guideline and what each user is doing while online will also influence which speed tier provides the best experience.

Understanding speed and data

When breaking down different online activities below, we will often talk about how much data each activity uses. Although this doesn’t seem relevant for users with an unlimited data nbn plan, it is still relevant to determining which speed tier is ideal. The typical evening speed for Dodo’s most popular plan is 50Mbps.

This represents the maximum speed under perfect conditions during the peak busy period (7pm to 11pm) for a single user. The more people using a single nbn access point at the same time, the slower the speed is for everyone, as the 50Mbps is split between each connection. Two people connecting at the same time could theoretically get download speeds of 25Mbps each, but the speed is never split equally, and some activities could cause one person to have faster access than the rest.

If you’ve ever tried downloading two large files at the same time, you might have noticed that the download speed of the first file slows as soon as the second download starts. The same applies here.

Therefore, a higher speed is recommended for certain online activities and for households where multiple people will be online at the same time. One person streaming Netflix at 4K quality would result in everyone else in the house struggling to use the internet.

Regular browsing & email

Basic browsing on the internet, coupled with similarly basic sending and receiving of emails doesn’t use a lot of data, unless visiting sites that use a lot of images and/or video and other multimedia files. Minimal visits to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube would increase this too, though not by much in a one or two-person household. Similarly, occasionally downloading software and software updates would not have a big impact. If this is all you do, our nbn25 plan should be quite enough, with nbn50 only being necessary if there are more than four people in your household who might want to access the internet at the same time. 

Video calls & conferencing

Video calls and online meetings using Skype, Zoom, Teams and other services are becoming more commonplace. The video quality, call duration and frequency all affect which speed tier is ideal. An hour-long Skype video call uses much less data than a Zoom call of the same duration. An entry-level nbn plan would be fine if there are no more than two video calls happening at the same time but might be insufficient if another person in the household wants to stream movies or TV shows while you’re busy with a video call. Adjusting the video quality can reduce the amount of data used, making it possible for more people in the same household to still use the internet simultaneously.

Social media

The different social media platforms, including YouTube, did not always use a lot of data. But with the widespread use of video, spending a single hour on Facebook could easily use over one gigabyte (1GB) of data. An hour on YouTube will use even more. The more time you spend on YouTube, along with the number of people in your home likely to use any social media platform at the same time, the less likely you are to find the experience satisfactory with only the basic nbn speed tier. A mid-level tier, such as our nbn50 plan, could be enough, if nobody else is also trying to stream Netflix, Stan, or Disney+ at the same time. On Facebook you can change the settings for videos to "never auto-play" and on YouTube you can manually change the video quality for each video. YouTube also allows you to permanently change the highest quality allowed for video playback, which can be useful in households with younger children.

Streaming movies & TV shows

Streaming movies and TV shows can use a lot of data or not too much. It all depends on how many consecutive streams are running, the streaming service you are using and the video quality. Two or more people watching separate streams at the same time will always require a faster connection, even if they are all streaming at standard definition (SD). This is further influenced by the service being used. Netflix is very good at video compression, so an hour of Netflix in SD quality could use between 300MB and 700MB, while other services might use double that. But data usage evens out at high definition (HD), which easily exceeds 3GB per hour regardless of the service used. While all nbn speed tiers can support TV and movie streaming, mid to top level speed plans are essential for small households wanting to stream in HD and larger households where more than one person might stream at the same time, irrespective of the video quality.

Renting movies & TV shows

When renting movies and TV shows, you can usually choose to stream it or download it to watch later. Like with Netflix and other dedicated streaming services, you use data for the full duration of the movie or TV episode, and this activity is better suited to standard (nbn50) or fast (nbn100) plans. Downloading it to watch later only uses data for the initial download and can be done on any nbn plan, though a basic (nbn25) plan will see the download take longer to complete.

Streaming music

Streaming music does not use a lot of data, though this varies according to the service being used and the audio quality. Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play Music and other popular services rarely use more than 150MB of data per hour at the highest audio quality they offer. The only outlier is Tidal, which can use more than 600MB of data per hour at lossless quality. All nbn speed tiers easily support music streaming, even when combined with other online activities in the same household.

Online gaming

Most aspects of online gaming don’t use a lot of data, aside from downloading the actual game, updates and other downloadable content (DLC). An hour of regular online gaming, regardless of platform, uses less data than an hour of Netflix. Speed in online gaming is important, but so is ping or more accurately, latency. In online gaming, ping refers to the time it takes for a packet of data to be sent from your computer to a specific server and for that server to respond. It is measured in milliseconds (ms) and having a high nbn speed tier does not mean you will have a great ping or low latency. Your location in relation to the server’s location, along with network traffic, plays an important role. Having a fast (nbn100) plan might benefit you, but only if there aren’t too many other people in your home using the internet for any activity at the same time.

nbn Speed/Plan1
nbn15 nbn25 nbn50 nbn100 Home Superfast
  • 15 Mbps typical evening speed1
  • A speed created by Dodo2
  • 25 Mbps typical evening speed1
  • 50 Mbps typical evening speed1
  • 100 Mbps typical evening speed1
  • 245 Mbps typical evening speed
✔️ Emails and Web browsing ✔️ Emails and Web browsing ✔️ Emails and Web browsing ✔️ Emails and Web browsing ✔️ Emails and Web browsing
✔️ Music streaming ✔️ Music streaming ✔️ Music streaming ✔️ Music streaming ✔️ Music streaming
✔️ SD video streaming ✔️ Online gameplay ✔️ Online gameplay ✔️ Online gameplay ✔️ Online gameplay
❌ Online gameplay ✔️ SD video streaming ✔️ HD video streaming ✔️ HD video streaming ✔️ HD video streaming
❌ Download/upload large files ✔️ HD video streaming ✔️ Download/upload large files ✔️ Download/upload large files ✔️ 4K video streaming
❌ HD video streaming ❌ Download/upload large files ✔️ 4K video streaming ✔️ 4K video streaming ✔️ 8K video streaming

1 NBN Co has introduced two new speed tiers–Superfast and Ultrafast–but these are only available in certain locations. Dodo currently offers Superfast only. 
The performance of the above activities is influenced by the total number of people using a single nbn access point at the same time, with higher speeds better for more than three simultaneous connections.
2 nbn15 and nbn25 are not suitable for large downloads.