How will I know if I am over my download limit?

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Published: 24th December 2010
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Most broadband plans in Australia have a download limit, which means the user only has a certain amount of data to use up over a month. Everything you do on the internet uses up data, so it's important to know what will happen once you use up your quota and how you can monitor your usage.

Some plans split the quota between 'peak' and 'off peak' times. These times vary between providers but off peak times are usually overnight.

For example, a plan might be advertised at 100GB but only 30GB is available in the day and the evening.


If you go over your limit, whether in the peak or off-peak time, you will be penalised by your provider. Usually this will either be by slowing your connection down (known as 'shaping') or by charging for excess data.

The charge will vary between providers, as will the shaping speed, so it is important to ask exactly what will happen if you exceed your data limit before signing up.

For example, if your provider charges 10c a MB for excess data, this might not sound like a lot, until you use up 2GB and you're hit with a $200 bill!

Charging for excess data use is typical for post-paid mobile broadband customers, while shaping is more usual for ADSL and ADSL2+ users. If you are on mobile broadband and don't want to be charged for excess data, you could sign up with Virgin Mobile or Optus, both of whom give you the option of buying more data if you run out.

Checking your usage

Your ISP may send you a warning if you are close to your data limit. Usually this will be through the email account you used to set up the contract, so keep an eye out for messages from your ISP.

However, your ISP may not send you a message, so it's important to know how to monitor your broadband use yourself.

When you sign up to your ISP, you will get an account username and password. If you go to your ISP's website, there will be an area for customers where you can log in and check your usage for the current billing period. Often these areas are 'unmetered', which means you can check your balance without using up your data.

By checking your account on a regular basis, you can keep your usage in check. If you find you are consistently using up all your quota before the end of the month, you may be on the wrong plan. Most ISPs are happy to upgrade your plan, even if you are still within contract, for a small fee or for free.

If you have received a large bill for going over your quota, your ISP may be understanding (provided this is the first time!). Give your ISP a call and see if you can negotiate a reduced payment and move onto a higher plan.

Find more expert advice on choosing a broadband provider at

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