Most ADSL and ADSL2+ broadband plans have a data quota that is split into a peak and off peak period. This means only a small amount of the advertised data could be available during the day and the evening, when most people want to use the internet.
Using your off-peak quota
Splitting a data quota between peak and off peak times keeps the broadband plan cheaper as Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t expect many people to use the internet in the middle of the night. It’s best to sign up to a plan that has enough data for you in the peak time and think of the off peak allowance as a bonus.
You should also be aware that the data is not always evenly split. You might see a 100GB plan advertised at a very cheap price but beware: only 30GB of this could be available when you want to use it.
If you want to make the most of your off peak data and you download a lot of movies or TV, it’s possible to set up a timer to start the download while you sleep. You could also pick a plan with a reasonable off peak time, as they vary from provider to provider. Some plans have an off peak time that includes the morning, so you could wait for your weekend mornings before downloading large files.
Shaping and excess fees
When you go over your data limit for the month, your ISP will slow down your connection (known as shaping) or charge you for using excess data, unless your plan allows unlimited downloads.
This means that if you use up all your on peak data allowance, you will have a slow connection during this time for the rest of the billing period. However, you will still be allowed to browse the internet without restrictions during the off peak time, until you use up your quota for the off peak.
Some ISPs, like Internode, allow you to use your entire quota anytime of the day. When comparing the prices of plans, it is important to check the allowance for the peak time. For example, a plan with 50GB available all day could be better value than a 100GB plan with 30GB available in the daytime, even though the 50GB plan is more expensive than the 100GB plan.
TPG and Dodo offer unlimited plans in some areas. On an unlimited plan, there is no shaping, charging or on and off peak times, just unlimited downloading.