How much you download from the Internet varies from month to month, but is fairly consistent over the long term. This total amount of bandwidth may seem like an also-ran when compared to the speed of your connection (remember to regularly check your bandwidth performance with an Internet speed test), or its price, but knowing how much data you transmit and receive can help determine which providers offer the best deals, and which want to charge too much per megabyte; to estimate this data use, you need an Internet bandwidth calculator.


The Vanishing Buffet

Water, electricity, and natural gas are all metered based on actual consumption — the more you use per month, the higher your bill. Internet, however, has typically been an all-you-can-eat affair, allowing users to download and upload as much as they want for a fixed monthly fee. This model posed no problems for providers in the days of dial-up modems and first-generation affordable desktops, but advances in connection speed coupled with the rise of mobile devices has led to massive consumption with an expectation of unlimited use. Smartphone and tablet providers were quick to impose limits on mobile data, which consumers had no choice but to accept in an emerging market. Wired Internet providers, however, have been trying to cap the amount of data per user for years. Some companies have tried opt-in plans that come with lower monthly rates, while others give users willing to pay for higher speed packages larger data caps. Others are simply mandating caps and assessing fees for any overage; in other words, if you plan allows only 10 gigabytes per month and you download 11, expect to pay a premium.

A Quick Test with an Internet bandwidth calculator

To avoid paying more than you should for data, you need to determine how much you use in a typical month. One way to find this number is by recording the size of every file you download or send — this includes emails, emails with attachments, images, videos, songs, and even the data transferred while web surfing. Although possible, most users don’t have time for this kind of detailed study and instead turn to a free Internet bandwidth calculator. Many sites offer this service, allowing you to estimate the number, type, and size of files you send and receive during the month to produce an average result. Some will give an estimated total use in gigabytes, while others will suggest how fast your connection should be to support your needs. If your concern is hitting a provider’s data ceiling, look for a calculator that returns results in amount of data downloaded; faster transfer rates do nothing to lower the cost of data overages.

Not all providers have switched over to hard caps, especially on home network or small business connections, but if you’re not sure always call and ask exactly what your plan covers and how much per gigabyte you’ll be charged for going over. Although a bandwidth calculator can’t give an exact reading on how much you’ve downloaded — or will in the coming months — using this tool is a good way to determine if you need to scale back on your downloads or find a provider that doesn’t limit your use.

Paul Williams
Paul Williams

Paul Williams brings a wide range of experiences to his writing. He worked extensively in technology, as a software engineer, technical writer, and now a technology writer. Known as the leader of one of the top American Spacerock bands, his forward-looking music continues to be heard all over the world.