Why does TrueWAN use more traffic than ADSL? - True Technologies


Why does TrueWAN use more traffic than ADSL?

Greetings TrueWAN client.

The Internet (and IT in general) is not as simple as it looks, not by  a long shot. I'll discuss a few issues here that confuse or anger some users and hope it will cast some light. We at TrueWAN have had quite a few accusations that we're miscalculating, or over-charging your Internet usage and even a few that accusations that our technicians are stealing your bandwidth, mostly from users coming from ADSL, why is that?

How can TrueWAN use more traffic than ADSL?

The short answer: Because it's so awesomely fast! :)

With the advent of Javascript and HTML5, websites are becoming more intelligent and can adapt it's usage based on a few parameters, a.o. the type of device you use, whether PC, tablet of phone, the type of browser you use, and surprisingly, your perceived Internet speed. Below follow some explanations on how this affect the same user, doing the same things, on different ISPs and getting different usages.


Casual YouTube users are not aware how much bandwidth a short movie clip use in comparison to just browsing webpages.

Not only does a video clip use a lot of data, increasing the quality(resolution or frame-rate) only slightly, subsequently increase bandwidth usage significantly.

Here is an indication on YouTube resolutions and it's maximum usage, minimum/average info can be found here:

YouTube resolution

Maximum bandwidth used

Maximum MB
per minute

MB for 4 minute
music video

MB for 50 minutes



67 MB

270 MB

3375 MB



45 MB

180 MB




15 MB

60 MB

750 MB



7.5 MB

30 MB

375 MB



5 MB

21 MB

262 MB

YouTube might decide what resolution to choose for you and will try to deliver the best experience (red:highest resolution) at all times, if left unchecked. To see how, while watching a YouTube video, right-click on the gear-icon bottom-left and select 'Stats for nerds'.

Here it shows the connection speed YouTube detect/perceive that you have. On fastest ADSL it will probably never be above 3500kbps. YouTube then knows it is slow and therefore automatically play videos at a lower resolution, using less bandwidth.

On TrueWAN capped however, e.g. here YouTube detects 12014Kbps (12Mbps) so it will (by default) attempt to play HD quality videos. (I sometimes get up to 29000kbps at night!).

This can be a massive difference i.t.o. bandwidth usage. Also other factors, like making the video full-screen can cause YouTube to go-HD or the highest resolution/speed it deems possible, even if it must buffer sometimes. It might look cool(er) but your bandwidth usage increase disproportionately for the increased quality(unless you're obsessed with HD quality of course :-) ).

Then some videos come with a range of resolutions but the recorded material is of lower quality. So watching an 80s music video in HD will still look like the 80s quality, but it will use HD bandwidth. So carefully select YouTube resolutions, higher is not always better.

This can fortunately be fixed/changed on PC and mobile by limiting excessive bandwidth usage, see

E.g. the other day I saw my Internet at home was slow, after doing some Sherlock-Holmes type of stuff, I saw my son was watching a YouTube video on our iPad (on 1080HD) and it was using 10Mbps constantly! That totals to +-75MB of CAP used for only one minute of HD video! Obviously I was not impressed, but it made me wonder about people complaining that they use a lot more bandwidth on TrueWAN than on ADSL.

On further investigation, many 'load as you go' pages like Facebook or Pinterest can also adjust bandwidth usage according to perceived speed. So in conclusion, if you are using more bandwidth on TrueWAN, it is not because we're stealing your cap, it is just because the Internet agrees that TrueWAN is awesomely fast. :)

Then we also, from time to time get queries about bandwidth speeds on uncapped. Especially PlayStation users can get upset very quickly as e.g. an uncapped 1Mbps connection will only show as +-0.75Mbps on a Playstation speed test. But do a test from PC on that same link and you get 1Mbps upload and 1MBps download. This is because of the way Playstation use the network/Internet. With gaming, latency (response times) are more important that throughput (raw speed). So PlayStation send/receive data as many small packets instead of fewer, larger packets. This is analogous to a courier only using a quarter of it's bakkie so it can be loaded/unloaded quicker. Every packet carries a header that you pay for (as part of your CAP), but that is not your data, like tags that get attached to you luggage. If you only send large suitcases, then the tags is a negligible addition, but if you send many small packets, then the tags become a significant part of the total payload. Therefore, PlayStation or not, you will always use slightly more bandwidth that you get, on large-packets services like YouTube, you might loose <5% of bandwidth to overheads, but on a low-latency service like VoIP or PlayStation network, you can expect to loose up to 25% just on 'overheads', so 0.75Mbps (instead of 1Mbps) is perfectly  in line with that calculation and to be expected.

Software updates
As there are just more and more virusses on the Internet, Anti-virus databases increase in size. Also software today compared to 5 years ago are much 'fancier' and use a lot more bandwidth.

E.g. Windows update can easily use a GB of data in the background, without you even knowing it is downloading. Anti-virus and other software like dropbox can also use a lot more that expected. Windows 7,8,10 have updates that dwarf e.g. Windows XP updates. Many times uploading or downloading in the background without you knowledge. So to keep a curb on unexpected downloads, disable automatic updates on Windows and any other software like anti-virus, unless you want it to stay up-to-date automatically. If you do disable automatic updates, remember to manually do updates every now and again so you are not caught by a new virus or vulnerabilities.

Most movie downloaders use torrents (called peer-to-peer networking) to download their stuff. The good and bad thing about torrents is that once you have a piece of a file, any other user can get that piece from you.

The traffic of communicating what you have and what you need can become quite significant when using torrents. So much so that even not downloading/uploading anything with a torrent program, can use quite a few MBs in a hour. The biggest problem however, is uploading. You might be downloading a 4GB movie, but the pieces you have are available for upload to other users. Even if your download is complete, other users will upload pieces of files from you constantly, this can cause significant Internet usage at times that you are not even using your PC. You might download a 4GB of movie with torrents, but end up using 6GB download and e.g. 2GB uploads, totaling 8GB for the actual 4GB move you have.

Most torrent programs load themselves on start-up, so you might not even be aware that your PC is using the Internet constantly, even if you are not downloading anything. We strongly recommend removing torrent software from start-up, so you can start it to download what you want, then close it when done and not just leave it running. On top of that, some torrent programs like Vuze does not close like you would expect a normal program to behave. Just clicking the normal X top-right merely minimizes the app, but as it is not showing on the taskbar (bottom), you think it's closed. The reality however is that it is still happily chewing up bandwidth in the background. Vuze, as an example, have to be closed by right-clicking on the icon hidden next to time. Many times you have to click the arrow to expand all icons to reveal it, before it can be killed. Using torrent on TrueWAN can also significantly increase usage, compared to ADSL just because it is fast (and full-duplex), therefore can upload much more in the background that ADSL. It might be a good idea to limit torrent usage by adjusting your torrent program's settings,. E.g. allowing a limited number of connections, limiting maximum upload bandwidth, etc.

ADSL stands for 'asynchronous digital subscriber line'. The A (asynchronous) means that the upload and download speeds are shared and balanced. I.e. on a 4Mbps ADSL line, you might be able to get speeds of 3.5Mbps download and 0.5Mbps upload. So you think you get 4Mbps, but it is 4Mbps shared up/download. This is normal in the Internet industry as the total line speed is used to denominate the speed. TrueWAN however break the mould. On a 1Mbps TrueWAN uncapped, you get 1Mbps upload and 1Mbps download. In normal terms it should be called a 2Mbps connection! So on TrueWAN, you basically get double the speed than as advertised.

On ADSL the upload speed is limited to 0.5Mbps. On TrueWAN, if you have a 10Mbps connection, but you can upload to a max of 10Mbps, that is 20times faster that ADSL although 4Mbps vs 10Mbps does not sound like a massive difference. The difference is in the upload. So even torrents that upload in the background will be able to transfer a lot more data on TrueWAN, than it can on ADSL.

So in a way, the improved speeds that come with TrueWAN, can cause some frustrations to unsuspecting users. There are thousands of programs and hundreds of thousands of websites available on the Internet. Internet usage is constantly increasing and webpages become more and more bandwidth hungry. E.g. Facebook of 2 years ago and Facebook today already have a notabl;e increase in traffic, especially since watching video clips as part of posts is common nowadays.

Speed tests
Users might do a speed test and see that they only get e.g. 0.5Mbps of Internet speed. However, to do an accurate speed test, you need to be sure that you and any other device on your network (sharing the same connection), is not downloading/uploading anything at that time. The speed-test is just another webpage, so it will get a fair share of available bandwidth. Without your knowledge, someone else (or a program working in background on your own PC), can be downloading or watching YouTube, causing your speed test to be inaccurate. So stop all downloads, close all browser windows, check other users on your network also, then do a speed test.

The reality is that, we at TrueWAN only have control over our network. 'The Internet' is not something we sell or maintain. We connect you to the rest of the world, what they do, is up to them. E.g. during office hours, many sites will be slower. Just after 17:00 it suddenly becomes faster. This is nothing we at TrueWAN do, it is just 'how it is'. Many services, servers, users go offline around that time, so the national network is relieved and therefore perform better. So, all things equal, doing speedtest during office hours should give worst results, up to +-23:00 'medium' results and after that to +-07:00 the fastest.

Buggy software and virusses
The worst case of bandwidth use can be buggy software. E.g. we recently discovered a Skype-click-to-call bug, that caused it to continually update in the background. the update would fail and it would start again. This used 7GB a day on one user's PC! PCs infected with a certain virus can also use a lot of bandwidth. Some virusses send thousands of emails, other try to hack networks from your PC. So unknown traffic can also be attributed to some foul ply in the form of virusses or buggy software.

WiFi security
Especially in the older days, most WiFi hotspots only had WEP encryption. With a free program installed on a laptop, almost anyone can 'hack' your wifi password on a WEP access point in less than a minute.

Better security like WPA2 is a must nowadays and passkeys must be made 'strong'. Although it is not common for a WPA2 hotspot to be hacked, it is not impossible. Changing the WiFi password periodically is also a very good idea. To hack a WPA2 key takes a long time, so to change the password is very frustrating to hackers as they have to start from scratch.

Unknown users
Even with all this keepinh hackers and virusses in mind, the most unknown and confusing abuse of Internet have come from friends and family. E.g. friends/children/grandchildren that download movies on other people's internet connections without their knowledge. House-cleaners or sitters watching Youtube or listening to HD internet radio can also add up quickly. Between a hacker and a friend/family-member, it is unfortunately by far greater change that the latter is responsible for 'stealing' your Internet cap. Many times unknowingly and innocently enjoying your cool TrueWAN connection.



Anton Ekermans


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Fax: +27 42 293 1851
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