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Avoid costly download dramas this Christmas

12th December 2011 Print

The Christmas break is weeks away and many Brits will be looking forward to great food, great company and great entertainment over the festive season. Despite the potential for fights to erupt over control of the TV remote or games console, the boom in online services now means that consumers are spoilt for choice in their home entertainment options.

Michael Phillips, product director at commented: "Internet services have become incredibly sophisticated in recent years - online catch-up TV, gaming and music sites have all upped the ante, placing the average broadband connection under immense strain.

"UK broadband users are now downloading an average of 17GB of data per month - this is an enormous seven fold increase over the last 5 years but broadband speeds and download allowances are only beginning to catch up.  With the whole family home for Christmas simultaneously watching the Downton Christmas special online, emailing festive photos and indulging in a session of Call of Duty 3 online gaming (this year's must have gift), households risk smashing their download limits and incurring a hefty penalty fine.

"Part of the problem is that consumers often have no idea what their internet activity means in terms of their usage limit. It is crucial to check the small print of your contract and remember that even if a broadband package advertises itself as ‘unlimited,' it is still likely that it will have some form of fair usage policy attached. Use the below guide as a rule of thumb to ensure the only thing you overspend on this Christmas is having a good time:"

Online Activities:

Watching a 3 minute music video on YouTube: 12MB
Downloading a movie of DVD quality: 1.5GB
Watching an hour of Downtown Abbey on iPlayer: 300MB
Uploading a photo to send to family overseas: 2MB's top tips for safe downloading this Christmas:

Pick the right broadband provider - Both Sky ‘Broadband Unlimited' and Virgin Media Broadband XXL have unlimited downloads with no fair usage policies attached whilst Orange and O2 also offer packages that are truly unlimited. Ultimately, you need to compare what is available in your area using an Ofcom-accredited comparison calculator to find the best deal for you.

Download at night - Traffic shaping, which slows down a broadband connection, is applied by many providers during the peak evening hours (around 6pm to midnight). Therefore broadband users who download at night - usually from midnight onwards - should find their music and movie files download a lot quicker. Some providers like PlusNet offer free overnight downloading, so it won't come out of your monthly usage allowance.

Track your usage - If you have a set download limit, or you're concerned about exceeding your fair usage allowance, then installing a free Broadband Download Monitor is a great way of tracking your downloads, and you can even set alarms to alert you as you near your limit.