We discussed the difference between streaming and downloading last week. That raised a question with a reader: “How does Streaming affect my monthly Data limit, as set by my ISP. Is it the same as downloading the file?”

Great question. ANY online activity is going to count towards your monthly data limit. Streaming can be especially taxing on data.  Video streaming service Netflix accounts for almost 40% of all bandwidth used in North America. Streaming services use about 70% of all bandwidth for the Internet.


If you’re streaming a service like Netflix, you’ll run through about 7GB per hour for Ultra HD, 3 GB per hour for HD, .7 GB per hour for medium quality and .3 GB per hour for low quality.

You have the option on your account to adjust the quality.  If you plan on cutting the cord and depending on streaming for your entertainment, it’s a good idea to pay for a plant with adequate data. Overages will just end up costing you more in the long run.  Netflix suggests a minimum 5.0 Megabits per second connection. If you’re planning to stream in ultra HD, up that to 25 Mbps. Music streaming services use around 115 MB of data per hour.


Downloading also uses data. HD video uses about 10 MB per minute of length of the video. Downloading a game or song takes about 4 MB.

Other activities take up bandwidth as well. Browsing the Internet is about 1 MB per web page. Uploading to FB is about 500 KB. Sending an email is around 15 KB for text or 300 KB with a photo attachment.

In the past, many ISPs didn’t do much to enforce their data caps unless they noticed a suspicious pattern of activity that might indicate illegal downloading. But these days, more and more ISPs are acting like wireless carriers and actually charging for overages.

~ Cynthia