Do I need unlimited broadband?
Capped data vs an unlimited allowance? It's a key buying decision but how do you decide? Read our guide for expert advice.
Internet service providers offer a range of packages including more expensive deals with unlimited data allowances. However, cheaper packages with capped allowances may be fine for your home needs.
In this guide we'll lay out what you need to consider when weighing up whether to go for an unlimited deal or a capped service. You might be surprised how much you can do online with just a few gigabytes.
Find the best unlimited broadband deals by reading our broadband package reviews.
What is a broadband data allowance?
A broadband data allowance is the amount of internet data you can use every month as part of your regular monthly plan. If you end up going over this limit, your provider might slow down your broadband speed or add an extra charge to your bill.
Allowances are measured in gigabytes (GB). Most capped packages come with 10, 20 or 50GB though Sky's Lite package includes just 2GB of data each month. That won't be enough for many people but could suffice for light users and its price (free if you take out Sky TV with a Sky Talk home package) is certainly attractive.
How much broadband data will I need?
Data use varies dramatically. If you do lots of downloading, stream loads of films, TV programmes and video clips online, or live with several other people who all use the internet a lot, you may find that a capped allowance isn't enough.
This graphic gives an idea of how much data you'll use doing typical online activities.
Are packages genuinely unlimited?
You may think your broadband package means you can use as much data as you want, but this may not be true.
To ensure that networks operate efficiently some broadband providers apply a fair usage policy – a clause that allows them to limit your apparently unlimited connection if you use a lot of data. Providers can also penalise heavy users by slowing down your connection.
Fair usage policies are far less common than they used to be and none of the big four providers (BT, Sky, Virgin and TalkTalk) apply them to their current unlimited packages. Meanwhile speed restrictions are also less prevalent than they once were.
However if you're a very heavy internet user then you should check a provider's policies before taking out one of their packages.