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How to monitor your broadband usage

By Claire Nottage | Friday, October 16th 2020

Not so long ago, many broadband deals were subject to a monthly usage limit. Happily, the vast majority of broadband packages available now are unlimited, meaning that unless you still have a limited package, you no longer have to worry about excess usage fees.

However, you may still want to monitor your usage, either out of interest or security, or perhaps because you use a 4G home broadband package which is subject to a usage limit. In this guide, we look at the ways you can keep track of your data usage and save money.

When to monitor your broadband data usage

If you have a limited broadband deal, whereby you have an allocated allowance of data you can use each month, then you need to stay on top of your usage or face fees as a consequence. With more and more devices now requiring an internet connection, and with many streaming services now available, most people need an unlimited broadband package. If you are worried about getting through too much data each month on a limited package, it is probably time to switch to an unlimited package.

If you already have an unlimited broadband package, then you might want to monitor your data usage purely out of interest, or perhaps you have a suspicion that someone might be cheekily accessing your connection without your permission. If this is the case, we recommend that you check your security settings and change your password.

How to check your broadband data usage

If you have a limited broadband package, it is likely that your provider will have supplied you with the means of keeping tabs on it for free. BT offers customers BT Connection Manager, a piece of software that you can download for free and will provide you with information on your current and previous usage as well as any network preferences you have set up. Sky and Plusnet customers can check their usage by logging on to their online account.

If you don’t have a means of monitoring your data usage provided by your ISP, then you can download third-party monitoring software onto individual devices that will keep track of everything you do from a data standpoint. BitMeter and Networx are free Windows-based pieces of software that will track usage on each device on which they are installed. To get network-wide information on your data usage, you will need to buy a specialist router as most routers do not offer this facility.

What is fair usage and traffic management?

Although some providers still do control what you can do online and how quickly you can do it, these aspects of your broadband contract will not cost you any money in terms of excess usage fees. Traffic management and fair usage policies are measures taken by providers to ensure that all their customers enjoy a positive experience with their connection and are not slowed down unnecessarily by the activities of some individuals putting huge demands on the network.

Activities that will generally be slowed down or limited by a broadband provider include peer-to-peer file sharing, newsgroups and the downloading of huge files. However, there is no financial penalty for doing these things, and if you are doing them at off-peak times you shouldn’t experience any problems anyway.

Switch to an unlimited broadband deal

If you have a limited broadband deal, it is well worth shopping around for a new, unlimited broadband package. Broadband prices for both standard and fibre deals have come down in recent years and it is more than likely that you are paying over the odds for your current package.

By switching to an unlimited deal you will save money and no longer have the stress of wondering whether you are getting near your limit each month and in danger of incurring excess usage fees. You can see all the latest unlimited broadband deals on our comparison page.

Usage limits on 4G or 5G home broadband

A number of mobile providers now permit unlimited data usage with their 4G/5G home broadband packages. Although it offers some of the fastest download speeds, EE imposes a 100GB data cap on its 4G home broadband deals. To keep track of your usage, you can either use the My EE app or go onto EE’s website where you can see your current usage levels.

Usage limits on satellite broadband

With satellite broadband now capable of providing download speeds of up to 50Mbps, it is an appealing prospect for anyone who struggles to get a decent speed using cabled broadband. However, the downside is that not only does satellite broadband suffer from very high latency, making it unsuitable for FaceTime or Zoom calls or online gaming, it also invariably comes with a usage limit. To check your usage, you can visit your provider’s website where you can see both your monthly limit and your usage to date.

Frequently asked questions

Do I need unlimited broadband?

The vast majority of new broadband deals come with unlimited data. An unlimited broadband service will enable you to enjoy your online activities without worrying about going over a limit.

Is unlimited broadband expensive?

No. A standard broadband deal with unlimited data now costs around £20 a month, with fibre broadband costing just a few pounds more.

Which 4G mobile providers offer unlimited data?

Most mobile provides now offer unlimited packages for mobile phones, but only Three and Vodafone offer unlimited 4G/5G home broadband bundles.

Will a computer virus use up my data?

Yes. If your computer has been infected by a virus it will use up a lot of data. Run anti-virus software on your device and make sure you keep your security software updated to avoid further attacks.

Which activities use the most data?

Streaming music and video from sites such as Netflix, YouTube and Spotify uses up a lot of data. Also, running program updates or allowing tasks to keep running in the background will also eat into your data allowance and slow your device down at the same time.

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