Monthly Download Limits - FAQs

One of the main concerns highlighted by our customers in the Algarve is relating to potential download limits imposed by Mobile Internet service providers.

One thing to bear in mind is that ALL the service providers have a traffic shaping clause written into their terms and conditions - i.e. they reserve the right to impose traffic limits on your account if you usage volume or pattern "risk the integrity of their network". Some of the network providers are more active in imposing these traffic limits, MEO are one such network and have recently reworded their 4G contract deals and no longer use the "unlimited" word when relating to monthly usage. Many customers on the NOS network (formerly Optimus) comment on enjoying unlimited download limits however we are seeing more and more complaints from customer on NOS (or WOW) about network speeds.

So how much traffic do I use? Realistically the thing that is going to eat your bandwidth if watching TV or videos on the internet, so let have a look at some of the popular options:

RTP Player

Portuguese TV! Obviously when accessing from your home in the Algarve, you dont have to mess about with VPN connections, just browse to RTP and watch! So, Brazil vs Columbia on RTP - monitoring 10 minutes watching live TV.

bandwidth usage intervet TV world cup 10 minutes bandwidth usage intervet TV world cup

Total traffic used = 46MB
Total traffic used for 1 hour viewing = 276MB
To use 1GB of traffic = over 3 and a half hours of continuous viewing

If we look at the data profile for the RTP player we can see it uses bandwidth at an average download of less than 80kB/s.

iPlayer over VPN

So here we have to consider that any time you are connected to a VPN it is, in effect, reducing your available bandwidth (internet speed). This is caused by 2 factors:

1. The VPN is an encrypted tunnel between your computer and another computer (eg a server based in the UK allowing you to access BBC iPlayer). Running this encrypted tunnel has an "overhead cost", ie. it takes some of your potential internet speed away to operate this type of connection
2. The VPN server you are connected to has a big influence on the quality the web resource you are accessing (i.e. iPlayer, ITV player) - there are a few factors in play here but you are likely to get a better experience on a paid-for VPN service vs a free service. Nothing new here. If you want to test how good your VPN service is, run a speedtest on your normal connection, then run a speedtest when connected to the VPN.

bandwidth usage iplayer vpn 10 minutes  

10 minutes of iPlayer
Total traffic used = 41MB
Total traffic used for 1 hour viewing = 246MB
To use 1GB of traffic = just over 4 hours of continuous viewing

Here we see the iPlayer (even over VPN) uses a little less bandwidth than the RTP player - you'll also note its more "bursty" characteristics from the data profile which relates to the buffering characteristics of the plug in. IPlayer doesn't have a way to choose the quality of the picture to adjust for watching on a slower VPN connection. Viewers without a very good internet connection in the first place might be disappointed watching a programme via the iPlayer from the Algarve.


A popular way for expats in the Algarve to watch UK TV over the internet without any special equipment or VPNs (just a computer/laptop/tablet or SmartTV). Not sure what I am watching on BBC One but it's probably something about antiques, buying/selling houses or cooking - anyway here goes on the 10 minute test to see the bandwidth usages characteristics of FilmOn!

/bandwidth usage FilmOn - BBC1 10 minutes usage bandwidth usage FilmOn - BBC1 

10 minutes of FlimOn (SD quality)
Total traffic used = 33MB
Total traffic used for 1 hour viewing = 198MB
To use 1GB of traffic = just over 5 hours of continuous viewing

Here we see the usage similar to the iPlayer even in SD mode - still about 20% more "bandwidth efficient" than connecting via VPN to watch the BBC and better than the RTP player stats.


Either accessing YouTube directly or via a website using YouTube to stream an event - the YouTube plugin try to detect your internet connection and will choose the speed most likely to give you the best viewing experience - unlike other players, YouTube allow you to manually select a lower bandwidth... this is good if you are concerned about your monthly download limit or other applications/users require simultaneous access to the internet.

 bandwidth usage youtube 360p 10 minutes 

10 minutes of YouTube (360p quality)
Total traffic used = 67MB
Total traffic used for 1 hour viewing = 402MB
To use 1GB of traffic = just over 2 and a half hours of continuous viewing

Here you can see on the download profile the additional bandwidth used - averaging out at around 120kB/s. Also note the peaks of data download - this shows the excellent buffering of the YouTube player - all giving you a better viewing experience.


Since the loss of BBC/ITV from the satellite, IPTV has been a topic of conversation for alot of residents and holiday makers people in the Algarve. Unfortunately there seems to be ALOT of different combinations of equipment and subscription choices out there. One thing that does seem common is that IPTV boxes use ALOT of internet bandwidth - for this reason most installers in the Algarve will only recommend using their systems when you have a fixed line DSL connection (note you MUST pay MEO by direct debit to get unlimited download on a fixed line broadband connection).

So your IPTV box sits there and seems to be using massive amounts of bandwidth when in use - I am sure there are different options for image quality so users on slow speed fixed line internet can also use the service. There are a number of people using IPTV systems on the NOS (formerly Optimus and WOW) mobile internet service, this is because there is no hard coded monthly download limit (although watch this space...). If some of these boxes use 1-2Gb of data per hour, it is not hard to image that 30 or so households in one cell area all using IPTV will be seriously affecting mobile internet network speeds for all users... does your NOS (Optimus) mobile internet slow down massively from 1700-1900 every evening? well maybe it's related to this....