What Exactly is Downloading?

A download refers to any information which is transferred from the internet, via your modem, to computers on your Local Area Network (LAN). Activities such as browsing websites and receiving emails count as a downloading. ISP's plans often incorporate an included download allowance with prices varying with the amount included as well as the speed of the connection. So it is important to understand that a "download" does not simply refer to the downloading of files, but to all information you pull from the internet.

Because of the way internet plans are structured it is useful to know how much information (data) you actually download in a month so that you don’t use more than your included amount. To give you an idea of how much data internet activities involve, here are a few examples. The following are some common internet activities, and the amount of data they use on average.

  • YouTube (normal quality) – 150 megabytes per hour.
  • Emails (with half-megabyte attachments) – 50 megabytes per 100 emails. Note that emails without attachments are very small.
  • General web browsing – 8 megabytes per hour
  • Online Multiplayer Gaming – 20 megabytes per hour

Using these figures, and some simple maths, you can easily estimate the amount of included download data you might need, and choose a plan accordingly.

On a plan allowing 15gigabytes (1 gigabyte = 1000 megabytes) of download data per month, you could:

  • Watch three hours of YouTube videos each day
  • Do three hours of General web browsing each day
  • Receive twenty emails a day with attachments, half a megabyte in size each.

If your internet connection is shared between a group of people, you need to take into account that you share the amount of included data.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that downloads also affect the apparent speed of your internet connection while those downloads are taking place. The more you download at once, the slower your connection will appear to be. See our previous technical tip on apparently slow connections for more information on this aspect of downloading.