Ask LH: Are Uploads The Reason I’m Being Shaped Every Month?

Ask LH: Are Uploads The Reason I’m Being Shaped Every Month?

Hi Lifehacker, I’m on an ‘unlimited’ cap, which offers a set amount of download data before it slows down to unbearable speeds. But do they cap my uploads? It’s never mentioned at all. Thanks, Out Of Shape

Picture by John Trainor

Dear OOS,

The short answer is almost certainly “yes”. The slightly longer answer:

These days, the vast majority of Internet service providers (ISPs) include both downloads and uploads when calculating your monthly usage, especially for home plans. That wasn’t always the case a decade ago, but in parallel with overall download limits increasing, the rules applied by most ISPs have tightened up. There are some exceptions and occasional workarounds — Internode, for instance, lets you pay $10 a month to include uploads in your total — but it’s safe to assume that your plan does include both downloads and uploads unless it makes a specific point of telling you otherwise.

Home broadband services in Australia are invariably asymmetric, meaning that the upload speeds on offer are much lower than the download speeds. That means that the majority of your usage is still likely to be from downloads rather than uploads, simply because your capacity to consume data via downloads is much greater. However, if you are uploading significant volumes of data — most likely because of using BitTorrent, but also if you regularly upload large videos to YouTube or access large design files for work — that could be a factor in your monthly total.

If you are on a plan that includes shaping after you hit the limit, then you’ll typically see shaping applied to both your upload and download speed. For instance, a plan that offers 20Mbps downloads and 1Mbps for uploads might slow down to 256Kbps for downloads and 64kbps for uploads. Again, you’re more likely to notice the speed difference with downloads, but both will be affected. (I’d also argue that a plan with shaping is not an unlimited plan in the strict sense, but for most consumers it probably represents better value.)

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • I’m interested to know which provider is being talked about here.

    I am in the process of porting my current TPG plan (heavy user) to the unlimited with phone line ($59.99).

    I presume that unlimited means unlimited. I have no knowlegde of shaped speeds with TPG on this account. If I am wrong, please let me know!

    As for this post, without knowing the provider, it is hard to say why unlimited is being capped….

    • I’d personally be VERY wary of any and all plans that claim to be “unlimited”, and I wouldn’t presume anything. TPG are usually pretty transparent in my opinion, but telco’s (Optus) have been pulled up on this before…

  • TPG offers REAL unlimited, no counting and no throttling and no peak/off peak…i’ve been with them for years and i’ve never understood why people complain about them, they have been super awesome to me

  • Find yourself a good local download counter. One that hooks into your outgoing network connection on your PC and monitors what programs are using your network, and how much. You might find that updates are downloading at the wrong time or that torrents are downloading at a rate quicker than you’d like.

    ISP-based logs are good to look at too, but they tell you how much you’ve used for your internet as a whole, not the individual PCs that contribute towards that whole.

  • I’m not usually one to pick on grammar, but:

    “…Internode, for instance, lets you pay $10 a month to include uploads in your total..”

    Sure you don’t mean *exclude* there Gus? Doesn’t make sense for Internode to charge you so you can have it included…

  • I think it’s a bit extreme to go so far as to say that “almost certainly” all ISPs include uploads. While it’s a trend in the market which is gaining more and more momentum, the last time I switched ISPs (~10 months ago), there was still plenty of choice for ISPs that do not count it. Un-metered uploads was actually a criteria I set when looking for a broadband plan, as I was looking for a low download limit (and in turn, lower monthly cost) due to the fact I’m in a “Regional 2” zone.

    As to whether metered uploads are an issue however, it really comes down to how your using your internet service. General browsing will cause uploads, but they are generally much smaller to the volume of data coming in.

    As Gus also pointed out, peer-to-peer file sharing will have the most significant impact on your uploads, especially if you’re trying maintain a respectful ratio of 1-to-1 or higher.

    Whilst Whirlpool’s forums are slipping further and further into a medium for a small number of users to slander their ISPs, I still find that their “Broadband Choice” is fantastic. It gives all ISP’s plans a level playing field, allowing you to directly compare allowances and prices against one another, and filter down providers based of geography and key criteria which is essential to your potential future service.

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