Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at home

Can You Live With a 1TB Data Caps? We Take a Look… (Updated September 2017)


Depressed mature man holding paper and looking at it while sitting on the couch at homeRecently a growing number of internet providers have started to add a 1TB data cap to most of its plans. (2TB for gigabyte subscribers) That raised a lot of questions with our readers about their ability to stream what they want with a 1TB data cap. So we are going to do our best to answer that question today.

Note: We are rounding the 1TB data cap down to 1,000 for easy math and to have a buffer for any potential overages.

Video On-Demand Data Usage

For an HD video Netflix uses up to 3GB per hour of video. (That is not 3GB per show because most shows on Netflix are under 45 minutes long.) Using 3GB an hour, you could watch just over 333 hours of video on Netflix in HD. That works out to be just over 11 hours of HD video on Netflix every day in a 30-day month.

Live TV Streaming Data Usage

Sling TV, DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, and PlayStation Vue do not publicly list their data usage per hour, but you can do the math from the quality usage.

  • An hour on highest quality (4.7 Mbps) would consume 2.1GB of data.
  • An hour on best quality (3.7 Mbps) would consume 1.66GB of data.
  • An hour on high quality (2.8 Mbps) would consume 1.26GB of data.
  • An hour on medium quality (1.2 Mbps) would consume 540 MB of data.
  • An hour on low quality (800 Kbps) would consume 360 MB of data.

We find most Sling TV subscribers use best quality, so they consume about 1.66GB of data every hour. That means you could watch just over 602 hours of Sling TV every month or about 20 hours of video every day in a 30-day month.

So should you be worried about your data cap?

The question of whether you should be worried about the new data caps really depends on how many hours of video your house watches every month. For many 1 TB is more than enough, but others will need more. From running these numbers it looks like most families should be able to deal with these new data caps without issue though.

What to do if you need more?

First, check out our guide on how to stay under your data cap. Next, shop around for other Internet services providers in your area. For example, if you have AT&T with a 1TB data cap, look at Toast.net. It resells AT&T Internet with US customer support and no data cap.

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  • Tyson Treasure

    LOL Try 300 GB…1 TB would be a dream.

    • mikeblockcpa

      I was upset when grandson used 26g. Now I can deal with it easily.

  • Loren Kruse

    No — not with DirecTV NOW, Netflix, and individual channel apps. Luckily there is three internet providers in my area…too much competition for data caps.

  • Cooper McChester

    As long as you have a antenna for locals… it is easy

    • c_hack

      Yeah, and you could also save data by only watching B&W TV too. Brilliant idea.

      • Cooper McChester

        Before I cut the cord, I did a review on what we watched via the networks and found that 50 percent of our viewing was available OTA. I bought a DVR and signed up for Hulu/Netflix and saved about 120 a month. We rarely go over 500 GBs a month so our 1 TB is never in play.. You should come up with such a “brilliant” plan

        • William Knudsen

          How many people are using this “brilliant” idea in your household? Any gamers?

      • Evan

        Lack of color does not save any data. The picture is still transmitted in HD.

  • GZ3

    We got unlimited data with ATT Fiber and we have DIRECTV NOW, Netflix and Hulu and other TV apps. We are a family of five (me, my wife, 15 yr old boy, 10 yr old boy and a 9 yr old girl). Over the summer, my family consumed 1237 in May, 1354 GB in June, 1666 GB in July and 1263 in August. So far in September, we have consumed 246 GB.

  • Jack Astor

    My family of 4 averages about 2tb a month.

    I pay $99.99 a month for 60 mbps with Spectrum.

    • Daniel Darnell

      Spectrum has no caps thank god and legally can’t for at least another 3 years or so.

  • SpideyRules

    Does ‘HD’ mean 1080p or 2160p? Did you factor that in anywhere?

    • Josh

      1080. 4k is UHD or SUHD

    • dman

      The industry standard is that HD is considered anything 720p or higher.

    • SpideyRules

      Both of you missed the point entirely. We’re talking about the data usage, not simply the resolution.

      A 2-hour movie in 1080p could be around 2-4GB, whereas that same movie in 2160p could be 15-20GB. That’s a huge difference when considering data caps.

  • southhendo

    1TB is pretty tight if you have multiple screens.

    • Jon

      Bingo, We’ve got three, be adding a fourth soon. Holding breath for 5G Interwebs soon?!?

  • YorkshireTea

    Here we stream from about 6:30AM to 1:00AM, give or take. About 20 hours/day. During the mornings and evenings, when everyone is at home, there may be three concomitant stream flows. So, if you factor that in, you are talking about 24 hours/day of constant streaming. I don’t know what that means in terms of consumption, but I guess it’s a lot. We stream 1080p videos.

    Just did a rough calculation and got about 1.8TB/month. I’d round it to 2TB/month.

  • Rookie_B

    This only accounts for streaming. Not your phone Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo device downloading updates. That new PC you got that you have to update, download apps and games. Downloading your online backup and whatnot. Online gaming uses less bandwidth that streaming, but the games themselves? Say broke you PS4, and need to redownload those first party games you bought through PSN…say goodby to at least 250 gig. You have 2 kids that want destiny 2? 100 gig gone in an hour or so…well 150 ish from me because I will be playing with them.

    • Evan

      If you buy disc games why do you need to waste an hour or more installing it?

      • William Knudsen

        Those are pretty rare for pc gaming. Xbox and ps4 games usually have a pretty sizeable update for games from the get go.

  • Bryan Johnson (Level3Warning)

    This article doesn’t account for UHD and gaming. I have a house of 5 and we easily go over that 1TB number. I’m a pretty moderate gamer and frequent PC user. I had to redownload a game that was over 50GB twice. Downloaded an mmo that was about 100GB in total. That doesn’t include anything else I download in-between all that. The constant streaming between the wifey and the kids. Kids play the console games and occasionally my oldest uses his PC. I could go on but you get the picture. It amazes me we don’t get up to 2TB. Comcast wants to argue with me that reaching that 1TB number is impossible unless you’re pirating media and software. They’re reading off of a script and don’t know what it is they’re talking about. It’s all a bunch of bullshit propaganda. Everything I download is completely legal.

  • mnsportsgeek

    I have a 1 TB data cap and use DTVN for TV. I’ve never never come close to hitting the cap.

  • Evan

    I stream at home and I don’t stream 4K. Just HD is fine. 480p is no good.

  • Josh

    TBH, real frustrated. We are family of 5 that use no less than 1.5TB. Cox just unforced the 1TB rule this month. Thinking about dropping them and not paying the bill, switch to centurylink slow 20mb

    • dman

      I’m in the exact same boat as you… will probably also switch the CenturyLink, the speeds will suck, but at least Cox will be getting punished.

  • Dale T

    My family uses about 750gb/month on average due to streaming and gaming, so we signed up for Toast.net, AT&T without the data cap!

  • Fawzi Breidi

    poorly written. most people have 4k tvs. UHD and HDR content are 20gb an hour. This is how I plan to watch my content from now on. Gaming is another story 50gb minimum per game and another 50 gb for updates (per game!) some live tv. if you have 3 people in your household then this will increase exponentially .