How much was Telstra’s free data day worth?

Alex Kidman 4 April 2016


Telstra had its "free data day" yesterday as its apology for a recent network outage, with record quantities of data being slurped up by Aussie consumers.

Telstra had its second free data day yesterday, where all data consumed on its mobile networks, even if you were with a Telstra MVNO was free to use. The second data free day was more widely publicised than the first, where some 1,841 terabytes of data were downloaded according to the company’s own estimates.

Yesterday saw that amount eclipsed with a staggering 2,686 terabytes of data downloaded on Telstra’s networks according to a blog post by Telstra’s Mike Wright, Group MD of Networks.

What could you do with that much data?

Everyone's usage patterns differ, and without a doubt plenty of folks used their free data in ways they normally wouldn't do. Here are some rough calculations as to what you could have used that data for if you were the sole user:

  • Video: Standard definition streaming video chews up around 1GB an hour, which means that you could watch video for some 111,916 days, or a hefty 306 years of continuous viewing. Even if you switched up to HD viewing, that would still be 102 years of Hollywood blockbusters to work your way through.
  • Music: Music streaming is even more data-friendly in this aspect; if you lined up a typical streaming playlist from today and gave it 2,686TB of bandwidth, you'd still be listening in the year 8,328, presuming music streaming services were still around at that point.
  • Gaming: Gaming usage is a tough critter to estimate, but not game file sizes. A premium AAA title can easily tip the scales at a 30GB download, so if we use that as a baseline figure, you'd be able to download 89,533 AAA games from Steam. You would need quite a few hard drives to store all those titles, however.

How much is all that data worth?

Telstra doesn’t reveal details of its commercial arrangements with other carriers, so putting a precise figure on the cost to Telstra is more or less impossible. It’s interesting to note that it went with a "free data day" rather than a cash reimbursement to customers, however, which may give some indication of the relative cost. It seems unlikely Telstra would have opted for a free data day if some kind of customer reimbursement would be the cheaper option overall.

What we can calculate, however, are rough figures for the cost of that data were it consumed in a priced way. The exact value of a gigabyte of data varies slightly depending on which Telstra plan you opt for and the particular deal on offer at the time, but one constant across Telstra’s postpaid contract plans is how much you pay for excess data. That data usage is charged at a flat $10 per gigabyte.

Yesterday’s usage could well be described as "excess" in many ways, so it’s as good a figure as any. 2,686 terabytes of data equates to a hefty 2,686,000 gigabytes of usage.

At a flat $10 per gigabyte, that means that collectively Australia ripped its way through $26,860,000 of data charged at those rates. While there’s no doubt that Telstra users wouldn’t normally have used data at those kinds of rates on a regular weekday, let alone a Sunday, so it’s not exactly "lost income" for Telstra, it’s still a staggering sum.

Picture: TK Kurikawa /

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