How to monitor your broadband usage
By Claire Nottage | Friday, December 2nd 2022
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
The only broadband services that still come with limited data options are those that use a 4G connection. Whether you have 4G for your home broadband, or you use a mifi device to get online when you are out and about, you may want to keep an eye on usage to avoid extra charges.
If you have an unlimited fixed broadband package at home, then you might want to monitor your data usage purely out of interest to see what (or who) is consuming the most data in your household, 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
When it comes to mobile data consumption, you can easily keep track of your usage by logging on to your provider’s app, which will show you how much of your monthly allowance you have consumed, along with a reminder of when it will renew again.
If you’re curious about your fixed broadband usage at home, you can keep track of it by logging on to your online account, although not all broadband providers offer this facility, due to the fact that most packages are unlimited. You may also be able to check your data consumption by logging in to your router. This will also show you which devices are connected to your wifi, making it easy to spot anyone that has hacked your connection and delete them. To get network-wide information on your data usage however, you will need to buy a specialist router as most routers do not offer this facility.
If you don’t have a means of monitoring your data usage provided by your provider, then you can download third-party monitoring software onto individual devices that will keep track of everything you do from a data standpoint. BitMeter 2, NetWorx, and Capsa are examples of software available in free versions that enable you to track usage on any device on which they are installed.
What is fair usage and traffic management?
Although some providers still 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.
However, due to the greater bandwidth provided by the ever-faster fibre speeds now available, fair usage and traffic management are now rarely used by broadband providers, although some activities such as peer-to-peer file sharing may still be slowed down. You can contact your provider directly or check in the terms and conditions of your broadband contract to see what, if any, activities might be subject to slowdown.
Switch to an unlimited broadband deal
If you still have a limited broadband deal, it is well worth switching to a new one, since all home broadband packages are now unlimited. If you haven’t switched provider for more than 18 months, (let alone years), it is almost certain that you are paying over the odds. Unlimited fibre deals can cost as little as £20 per month, so there are serious savings to be made.
By switching to an unlimited deal you will save money, enjoy faster speeds, 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
Several mobile networks now offer unlimited data usage with their 4G/5G home broadband packages, with some still offering limited data allowances too.
Vodafone offers both unlimited data as well as monthly allowances of 100GB and 200GB with its 5G Gigacube home broadband. Customers can use the My Vodafone app to monitor usage, or log in to the GigaCube’s admin page.
EE offers the fastest 4G download speeds. As well as offering unlimited data with 4G home broadband, EE also offers two limited packages, with allowances of 100GB and 300GB per month. EE’s 5G home broadband plans come with a choice of 500GB usage or unlimited. To keep track of your usage, you can either use the My EE app or log into your EE router.
Three offers the fastest download speeds for 5G, and both its 4G and 5G home broadband plans come with completely unlimited data, so there is no need to track usage.
Usage limits on satellite broadband
With satellite broadband now capable of providing download speeds of up to 75Mbps, 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. Unlimited fibre packages with average speeds of 36Mbps cost from as little as £20 per month
Which 4G mobile providers offer unlimited data?
Most mobile providers now offer unlimited packages for mobile phones: EE, Three, O2, Vodafone and a specialist provider called National Broadband all 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.