What is data?

Everything on a computer takes the form of a file.

This file has a size that’s measured in bytes (b), kilobytes (Kb), megabytes (Mb), gigabytes (Gb), and so on.

When you view content, or do anything, on the internet, you’re actually transferring files from the remote system across the network and into your computer or device.

These files are known as “data”.

This page provides an overview of what data means to your internet connection, and links to pages that provide advice on using the data supplied on your internet connection wisely.

Uploads and downloads

Data is both uploaded and downloaded.

  • When you’re looking at things using an internet connection – watching movies, playing games, doing your banking, reading emails, doing research – you’re downloading data.
  • When you push information into the internet – managing a website, sharing work with other people, sending emails – you are uploading data.

Some online activities upload and download data. For example, making a video call through programs like Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp or FaceTime.

Most internet plans have faster speeds for downloaded data than they do for uploaded.

If you send a lot of information over the internet, such as sending video or high-quality image file, you need to pay more attention to your upload speeds and inclusions than someone who is sending emails and uploading the odd social media post.

Why does it cost money?

Data takes up space. It requires storage at the remote system, and it takes up space as it’s transferred to you. Even if the content didn’t cost anything for you to access it, it still costs someone money when it travels into your computer, or TV, or iPad.

How much do I get?

On average, a household watching the odd movie, using email, doing web research and browsing, can expect to use 50Gb – 80Gb of data per month.

“Included data”, or your “quota”, is one of the parts of a broadband connection plan. It’s generally measured in gigabytes (Gb) these days, although you might still find some very basic mobile plans measured in megabytes – Mb (there’s 1000 Mb to one Gb).

Some plans allow you “unlimited” data. That is, you can use as much as you like during a month. There is always a compromise, however; you may have to pay a lot more than the average plan, or you may be speed-limited after a certain amount of data has been used.

Many plans available to rural, regional and remote customers will specify the amount of data you can use each month – they are “metered“.

nbn™ Sky Muster™ Plus satellite service plans differentiate between specific kinds of data, allowing some to be metered – that is, counting toward your monthly quota – and others to be unmetered. Broadly speaking, streaming audio-visual services such as watching videos are metered; everything else is unmetered.

nbn updates its examples of metered and unmetered data regularly on its website.

This list is not comprehensive and is subject to change. Accurate as at 1 April 2020.

Platform What is unmetered?
Data that DOESN’T count toward your monthly data usage
What is metered?
Data that DOES count toward your monthly data usage
Social Media Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, SnapChat, Instagram, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and video streaming on these platforms Tik Tok
Video Conferencing Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime, Messenger, GoToMeeting, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Google Duo, Viber, Google Hangouts, Line, Tango, MyVMR & other applications that support collaboration
Cloud Programs * Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, cloud accounting programs, Canva, icloud etc
Emails Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, Hotmail, Outlook Express etc
Virtual Private Networks (VPN) None All traffic using a VPN is metered
Video Streaming Embedded video streaming on social media sites that support social connectedness. Netflix, Stan, You Tube, Foxtel, Itunes Movie downloads, BigPond Movies, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, PlayOn, SBS Online, Google Play video, ABC iView, Video embedded on news/magazine sites etc
Gaming * Software Updates, console updates (xbox, playstation, switch etc), most online gaming platforms e.g. minecraft, Google Stadia
Voice Wi-Fi Calling, VOiP, Messenger voice calls, Skype voice
Audio Streaming Spotify, iTunes music, Audible, Amazon Music, Google Play music
Software/Application Updates * App updates, phone & computer updates, software downloads e.g. Microsoft office
Education Reading Eggs, Mathletics, Blackboard, Moodle, Study Ladder, Turnitin, ClickView etc YouTube
Web browsing All other web traffic, not listed is unmetered e.g. retail sites, weather, netbanking
Apps All app downloads & updates from Google Play or Apple Store


Some plans split a day into “peak” and “off-peak” periods. “Off-peak” is generally from about midnight or 1am to 6am or 7am (nbn™ Sky Mustersatellite service off-peak periods are 1am to 7am, specific to the time zone you live in). Such plans will provide more generous data inclusions for off-peak periods, and less generous inclusions for on-peak.

As an example, a plan may be advertised as including quite a generous 180Gb of data per month.

When you check more closely, however, only 80Gb is available for the on-peak period. The remaining 100Gb is available for use between 1am and 7am.

What can I do if I’ve used my quota for the month?

What happens after you have used your quota for the month will be outlined in your contract from your internet service provider.

Your service provider may:

  • slow down (“shape”) your connection speed to a level that only supports email and very basic web browsing.
  • allow you to purchase more data (this can be very expensive).
  • suggest that you upgrade your internet plan to the next “level” up. This upgrade will apply until you manually change it, and will generally take effect at the beginning of your next monthly billing cycle (although some providers do offer mid month plan changes). .
  • cut off access to the internet entirely (this usually is only relevant for pre-paid mobile plans).

You can often upgrade your plan through your providers customer portal.

For further information, contact your internet service provider.

Can I get it back?

No. When you’ve used it it’s gone, even if you didn’t mean to use it.

See our pages on Controlling data usage, and Using off-peak data for some suggestions on managing your data inclusions.

Need more information?

Contact our Helpdesk directly.