Bandwidth Explained

Document created by shaw-james on Aug 7, 2013Last modified by shaw-jamess on Jun 9, 2017
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Bandwidth is essentially the measurement of the amount of data that can be passed through an Internet connection over a given time. Like water through a pipe, bandwidth can be measured as a speed (a snapshot of the maximum performance of your connection) or as usage, the amount of data used over a given period of time. This page will explain how bandwidth is measured, how bandwidth is related to the way you use your internet connection, and how much data is used by various web services, like email, downloading files, Youtube, Netflix and more. 


On This Page



Average Home Usage Examples

Download Data

Upload Data

Average Data Usage Examples

How To Check Your Internet Usage

Frequently Asked Questions

Related Articles





Internet connection speed is normally measured in either kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps). Whereas storage is usually measured in kilobytes (KB), megabytes (MB), or gigabytes (GB). The higher your internet speeds, the quicker things will download and the faster web pages, videos, and other internet services will load.


If you would like to test your current connection speed you can use the Shaw Speedtest tool or a third party tool like (which is provided by Netflix). For the most accurate results, please ensure that no other devices on your network are actively downloading or uploading data (streaming video, downloading files, gaming) as all usage will subtract from the measured speed of your connection. 


For complete information on Shaw's internet packages and their specific connection speeds, please visit


Speed Test Example

Shaw's Speed Test tool

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Usage refers to the amount of data that you can transfer through your Internet connection over the course of a month. As a residential Internet customer, your connection has a monthly traffic limit. We measure data usage in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). For example, if your internet plan includes 300 GB of data usage, that means that you can upload and download a combined total of 300 Gigabytes per month. 


You can find out more about the monthly traffic limit of your Internet package at


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Average Home Usage Examples


Internet ActivityExample UsesEstimated Data Usage

Websites and Email

Facebook, Twitter, CNN, Ebay

Less than 0.1 GB/hr

(not including linked videos)

Online Video Gaming

Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Diablo, etc

0.3 - 0.5 GB/hr

Audio/Music Streaming

Spotify, Tidal, Apple Music, Podcasts

0.3 - 0.5 GB/hr

Standard Definition Video Streaming

Youtube, Twitch, etc

0.5 - 3 GB/hr
High Definition Video StreamingYoutube HD, Netflix, iTunes, Google Play3 - 7 GB/hr
4k/Ultra HD Video StreamingNetflix 4k, Youtube 4k, IPTV10+ GB/hr


Other applications which can use your monthly data include BitTorrent, downloading music, videos, and other types of files, online voice and video chat (like Skype or Facetime), and more. In fact, everything that you do on the Internet (via your Shaw connection) contributes to your monthly bandwidth usage. 

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Download Data


Bandwidth use is broken down into two categories; download data, and upload data. Download data is any data that has come from the internet, through your Shaw modem and to one of your devices. Essentially any use of the internet will involve download data transfer, but the most bandwidth intensive uses are video streaming services like Netflix, Youtube, and similar. 



Netflix's impact on your bandwidth usage is based upon the level of quality you select for your video stream. You can reduce the quality/resolution of a stream to limit the amount of bandwidth it will use. For Netflix, you can change the settings for each profile, under Your Account then Playback Settings. For more information, please visit Netflix's help page


For an example of data usage, if you watched three hours of Netflix every night at the HD quality, it will use at least 9 GB of data per night. If you did this every day for a month it would add up to no less than 270 GB per month (for Netflix alone, not counting any other use of your connection). Keep in mind that this example only captures a single television (or Netflix stream), if you have multiple users in your household, your total bandwidth usage will factor for all users on the connection. 


To see typical data usage for Netflix, please go to Average Data Usage Examples



YouTube allows you to change the quality of your stream, but the quality is organized by the resolution of the video playback. Generally starting at 144p (the lowest quality but also lowest bandwidth consumption) with usual options including 1080p (full HD, much more bandwidth usage) and 4k UHD (the highest quality picture, but also the highest demand for both connection speed and bandwidth usage). More information can be found on YouTube's Help page.


To change the resolution of your Youtube video playback, please follow these steps:

  1. Click on the gear icon in the lower right corner of the Youtube video
  2. Click Quality
  3. Select from the list of available resolution options. The list is organized in descending order from highest quality to lowest. Lower quality streams require less bandwidth. 


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Upload Data


The other way that data is monitored is in upload. Upload data is data that is sent from your devices through the modem and to the internet. If you put a photo on Instagram or Facebook, you are uploading that file by sending it to that service. While most Internet services will require some sort of upload, here are some common examples of upload-intensive activities. 

  •  Peer to Peer file sharing programs, such as Torrent clients like µTorrent, Bit Torrent, UTorrent, Azure, etc. These are used to connect directly to other sources of a file (to download music, pictures, audio books, movies, etc.). For these systems to function, they generally require users to share files from their computers, requiring a considerable about of upload data usage. You can limit the effect on your bandwidth usage by removing or stopping torrents/files when the download has finished and you can also adjust the setting in the file sharing program to limit the amount of upload that is allowed in a month (this is client dependent, but a common feature). 
  • Video and Photo Services: Uploading or streaming live video or photos to services like Youtube, Vimeo, Instagram, and Flickr use upload as you send the file to the service.
  • Chat Clients: Video, photos, and text sent in chat clients like Facetime, Whatsapp, Hangouts and Skype will all impact both your download and upload bandwidth usage. 
  • Cloud-based file storage services: Online backups (Apple iCloud, Crashplan, Backblaze, etc.) and file storage platforms (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc.) require your computer to send the files to a storage space on the internet. These services may offer settings to limit monthly upload or max upload speed (please check with each service specifically). You can also pause the syncing of the service to preserve bandwidth. 
  • Security Camera Systems: Security camera systems that record to cloud-based file services will be constantly uploading to maintain the video stream. Depending on the quality of the upload, this could represent a massive amount of bandwidth in the course of a month. 


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Average Data Usage


Here is a breakdown of the estimated bandwidth requirements for various services and their available levels of quality. 

QualityNetflixYoutubeCraveTVTwitchIPTVCrunchy Roll
Ultra 4K or UHD10-20 GB/hr10-20 GB/hrn/a5.85 GB/hr10-20 GB/hrn/a
High (HD) 1080p3-7 Gb/hr2-5 GB/hr0.9-2.4 GB/hr1.58 GB/hr3-7 GB/hr2 GB/hr
0.7 GB/hr1-2 GB/hrn/a700 MB/hr2-3 GB/hr700 MB/hr
0.3 GB/hr0.5-0.7 GB/hrn/a382 MB/hr0.7 GB/hr375 MB/hr
Option to change settings?YesYesNoYesDevice DependentYes

Note: These numbers are estimates taken from third party sources, real world usage may vary. 


Other Notes

  • The above usage estimates are per device. If you are streaming on multiple devices the usage would be multiplied. 
  • If you are streaming on an Apple TV or many Smart TVs (like Samsung, Vizio, Sony), the device will default to the highest quality stream available for the programming. 

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How to Check Your Internet Usage

You can check your current monthly bandwidth usage by logging into My Account. To see your current usage and past usage, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Log in with your Shaw ID
  3. From the My Account main page, click Internet on the left menu. 
  4. View your usage (and past months) at the Internet Usage panel (shown below)


My Account - Internet


My Account - Internet Usage


If you require assistance with any of the above information, please reach out to our bandwidth management team at 1-844-595-7429. We’re able to assist with walking through basic setting changes of common video streaming services, and our technical support team can assist with updating passwords for Shaw equipment. For more information visit: View Your Internet Data Usage in My Account

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Frequently Asked Questions


What services most commonly use a large amount of data?

  1. HD video streaming services: Netflix, CraveTV, Crunchyroll, YouTube (see above for more details)
  2. Peer to Peer file sharing: UTorrent, Bit torrent, Azure.
  3. Large media file downloads


Do video games use a lot of data?

  • Most online games use very little data. Most of the data is already on your device after initial install. That said, the initial download of digital games can result in high data usage when using services such as Steam, PS4, and Xbox One.


What devices in my home use data?

  • All devices that connect to your home internet connection will use data. 


Should you have any questions about bandwidth or your Internet package, you can contact our Customer Care staff through online chat, email, or phone our bandwidth management team at 1-844-595-7429 for more information. You can also reach Shaw on Twitter or Facebook.

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Related Articles

Securing Your Wireless Network

View Your Internet Data Usage

My Account


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