What is a good internet speed?
Evaluating internet plans and just how many Mpbs you really need
A guide to upload and download speeds, and what people mean when they say "fast internet."
How much internet speed do I need?
In today's fast-paced, always-connected world, it's hard to imagine life without the internet. We use it for everything — from keeping in touch with friends and family to streaming our favorite shows and movies. While we all have different ways of using the internet, there's one thing we can all agree on: we need a fast, reliable connection.
How much internet speed you need depends on a few factors, including the number of people in your household and how you use the internet. This guide will help you figure out how much internet you need to get the best possible connection for your home.
What is internet speed and why does it matter?
Finding the perfect balance of speed and price can be tricky, but having an internet plan that meets your needs is essential. Understanding how internet speed works can help you make informed decisions when choosing an internet service provider.
Internet speed measures how fast your connection can download or upload data from the World Wide Web to your computer. It's usually expressed in Mbps, or megabits per second. The higher the number, the faster your internet speed will be.
This matters because a fast connection can significantly affect internet use. If you only use the internet for basic tasks like checking email and browsing the web, you won't need as much speed as someone who downloads a lot of music, movies or online games.
Internet speed glossary
To fully understand what the internet is and how much speed you need, it's essential to know a few key terms related to internet service.
- Download speed: This is how quickly data can be transferred from the internet to your device. It's crucial for activities like streaming video or downloading files.
- Upload speed: This is how quickly data can be transferred from your device to the internet. You can notice this speed typically when uploading photos to social media and sending attachments via email.
- Bandwidth: This is the amount of data that can be transported from the internet to your device in a given time. It's typically expressed in megabits per second (Mbps).
- Latency: This refers to the time it takes for data to move from your device to the internet and back again. Poor network and application performance can be caused by as little as 50 milliseconds of latency or less than one-tenth of a second.
- Jitter: Jitter occurs when data packets take a long time to send over your network connection, often caused by route changes and congestion in your network. Therefore, you will often see increased jitter when your connection runs slowly.
- Packet Loss: This happens when data packets are either dropped or lost during transmission. A low packet loss is important for activities that require a consistent connection, like gaming or video conferencing.
- Kilobits per second (Kbps): This is a unit of measurement for data transfer speed. One kilobit is equivalent to 1,000 bits per second.
- Megabits per second (Mbps): These are the units of measurement for throughput and network bandwidth. They are utilized to demonstrate the speed of an internet connection or network. The difference between Mbps and Kbps is that Kbps is much slower. One megabit is 1,000 times faster than 1 Kbps.
How much internet do you use?
Here are some general guidelines for internet users:
- Light users: If you only use the internet for basic tasks like email and occasional web browsing, you won't need a lot of speed.
- Moderate users: If you use the internet to stream video, music, or occasionally to do online gaming, you'll need more speed.
- Heavy users: If you download a lot of music and movies or play online games frequently, you'll need a fast connection.
But this doesn't tell the whole story. If you have any smart home devices or a security system, they are also potentially a drag on your internet and they need to be taken into account.
Number of devices
If you have multiple devices connected to the internet simultaneously, they will share your connection.
For example, if you have a 25 Mbps connection and two devices connected simultaneously, each device will only have 12.5 Mbps of speed to work with.
According to Deloitte, the average U.S. home has 22 devices connected to the internet at a time. So, you'll need a faster connection if you have multiple devices that use the internet frequently.
To get an idea of how much data you use, you can check your usage history in your account with your ISP. Many providers also offer tools and alerts that can help you track your data usage.
Internet speed considerations
Once you know how you use the internet, you can start to consider what kind of speeds you need and the available internet connections. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Upload speed vs. download speed
Download speed is often what people notice when their internet is slow. That's because it's the speed used for tasks like streaming video and downloading files.
Upload speed is the speed that's used for tasks like video calling and uploading files. You'll need a fast upload speed if you frequently do these things.
Gamers will need both fast upload and download speeds.
Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi
Ethernet is a physical connection that uses cables to connect your device to your router or modem, which connects to the internet. A wireless connection known as Wi-Fi connects your device to your router via radio waves.
Ethernet is typically faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi, but it requires a wired connection to your router or modem. Wi-Fi is more convenient, but it's not as fast or reliable. Connecting your device with an Ethernet cable will allow you to get the best possible speeds.
Using a modem or router
To connect to the internet, you'll need a modem, and the type of modem or router you use will affect the performance of your internet. A modem is a device that helps to connect your home network to your ISP's network.
The majority of modems also include a router built in. A router connects multiple devices to the internet via a single modem.
Understanding the difference between a modem and a router can help you understand how your home network should be set up, what internet devices you can use and how to troubleshoot any issues. Sometimes you can improve your internet simply by moving your router.
Internet speed recommendations for remote workers and distance learners
According to recent Census data, the number of people who worked from home rose from around 9 million people to 27.6 million people between 2019 to 2021 — a number that continues to grow to this day. Remote learning is equally as popular as well. In a survey conducted on K-12 students, nearly 29% of eighth graders are still learning from home despite opportunities to learn in the classroom as of 2021. And whether you enjoy work or school from home or not, the experience is a lot more agreeable with a fast internet connection.
Internet speeds for video conferencing applications
One of the most crucial things to consider if you're working remotely is the internet speed you need for video conferencing.Here are a few popular video conferencing applications and the minimum internet speeds they require:
- Skype: Skype recommends a minimum download speed of 400 Kbps for high-quality video calls and 1.2 Mbps for HD video calling.
- Zoom: For high-quality video calls, you will need 1.0 Mbps/600 kbps (upload/download). For 720p HD video calling, you will need 2.6 Mbps/1.8 Mbps (upload/download), and for 1080p HD video calling, you will need 3.8 Mbps/3.0 Mbps (upload/download).
- Google Hangouts: According to Google hangouts, outbound signals must always meet the bandwidth requirement of 3.2 Mbps. On the other hand, the inbound signals will depend on the number of callers. For two callers, you will need 2.6 Mbps. For five callers, you will need 3.2 Mbps, and 10 participants will need 4.0 Mbps.
- Microsoft Teams: Teams uses bandwidth sparingly and can deliver HD video at speeds of under 1.5 Mbps.
These are just a few examples, but as you can see, most video conferencing applications require at least 1 Mbps of speed.
If you're working remotely, you'll also need to be able to share files and folders with your team. The speed you need will depend on the size of the files you're sharing.
The Federal Communications Commission provides rough guidelines for internet use when working from home, noting that high use (for one person) requires advanced service of at least 25 Mbps. Remember: The average household has about 22 connected devices, some that are using the internet continuously.
It's easy to underestimate the number of connected devices you have and how using them can impact your internet. IoT and smart home devices run continually in the background, and though they may not always have a significant impact on your bandwidth, it can easily add up — and of course, smart cameras, home security systems and other devices that stream consistently may use even more.
If you have a lot of connected devices in your home, and you are a moderate to heavy internet user, you should consider a faster speed.
Understanding how much internet speed and home office essentials you need can be critical to working from home.
Internet speed recommendations for video streaming
If you use your internet connection to stream movies or TV shows, you'll need a fast connection to minimize buffering and other issues.
Here's how much internet speed you need – in addition to whatever your other devices require – to stream content from the most popular streaming networks:
- Netflix: recommends a minimum download speed of at least 5 megabits per second.
- Hulu: recommends 3 Mbps for streaming, 8 Mbps for live streams, and 16 Mbps for 4k content.
- Disney+: provides original programming, as well as access to Disney movies, shows, and more. They recommend at least 5 Mbps for high-definition content and 25 Mbps for 4k UHD content.
- Amazon Prime Video: recommends a download speed of 1 Mbps for SD content and 5 Mbps for HD content.
- Peacock TV: recommends a minimum download speed of 3 Mbps. However, they also suggest that your Wi-Fi or 4G/5G/LTE speeds be at least 8 Mbps to enjoy certain high-quality live events and ultra-high definition premium content.
- YouTube: recommends an internet connection of 500+ Kbps. They also offer a streaming platform, YouTube TV, which includes network TV and more.
Internet speed recommendations for gaming
Gaming is another popular use for the internet, and it requires a fast connection to lessen lag. Here are some of the critical aspects to understanding what is a good internet speed for gaming:
- Ping: Allows gamers and users to test and verify the existence of a specific IP address and to accept requests. A low ping time is important for gaming, as a high ping time can lead to lag.
- Lag: This is the delay between the time you take action in the game and the time that action is registered on the game server. Several factors can cause lag, but a slow internet connection is one of the most common causes.
- Latency: Low latency is important for gaming, as high latency can lead to lag. You'll need good internet speed for gaming with low ping times and low latency to avoid delay and other issues.
These recommendations are based on the need for a fast and reliable internet connection to avoid lag. However, your actual speeds may vary depending on your internet service provider, the type of game you're playing, and other factors.
Streaming to Twitch
If you're planning on streaming your gameplay to Twitch, a popular live-streaming platform for gamers. They recommend a high bitrate to increase your video quality, but only up to a certain point. The bitrate settings they recommend have also been tested to maximize video quality without wasting bandwidth.
Twitch also provides broadcasting guidelines to choose the proper resolution, encoding, bitrate, and frame rate setting so you can stream without any issues.
Console gaming is a popular way to play video games and doesn't require as much internet speed as PC gaming. However, you'll still need a fast connection to avoid delays.
Here are the recommended speeds for popular consoles:
- Nintendo: recommends testing your connection and comparing your speeds against 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
- Xbox: Having XBOX All Access is a wonderful option for gamers since it provides many content, games, and other options. To get the most out of your gaming, a minimum of 3 Mbps for downloads and 0.5 Mbps for online gaming uploads. They recommend a 1 Mbps download speed for SD streaming, while for HD streaming, a minimum of 3.5 Mbps download speed is needed.
- PlayStation: similar to Nintendo, PlayStation 3 and 4 require at least 2 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload for an optimal gaming experience.
- Mobile: Gaming on your mobile device will require a fast and reliable internet connection, as most games are played online. The recommended speeds will vary depending on the game you're playing, but you'll generally need a fast connection.
These are just some ways to use the internet, and as you can see, you'll need a fast connection for most activities.
PC and remote gaming
PC gaming is one of the most popular ways to play video games, and it requires a fast internet connection to get the most out of your experience. Here are the recommended speeds for PC gaming:
- Steam: recommends a minimum download speed of 1 Mbps.
- Steam link: recommends 5 GHz WiFi to avoid congestion from other devices.
There are a variety of other games that can be played remotely, and the recommended speeds will vary depending on the game.
How much speed do you need for different game types?
When it comes to internet speed for gaming, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The amount of speed you need will change depending on the type of game you're playing.
Here are some general recommendations:
- First-person shooters (FPS): These fast-paced games require quick reflexes. A fast internet connection is important to avoid delay, as even a small lag can cause you to miss your target. It is recommended to have a minimum download speed of >30 Mbps with an upload speed of >1 Mbps.
- Role-Playing Game (RPG): These games are slower-paced and require more strategy than reflexes. A fast internet connection is still essential to avoid lag, but you won't need as much speed as you would for an FPS game. It is recommended to have a minimum download speed of >1.5 Mbps with an upload speed of >1 Mbps.
- Massively multiplayer online game (MMO): These games are played online with hundreds or thousands of other players. A fast and reliable internet connection is crucial to prevent delay, as even a slight hiccup can cause you to miss your target. It is recommended to have a minimum download speed of >3.5 Mbps with an upload speed of >0.5 Mbps.
- Real-time strategy games: These games allow players to play simultaneously in real-time. It is recommended to have a minimum download speed of >3 Mbps with an upload speed of >0.5 Mbps.
Are you getting the maximum speed out of your internet?
A slow internet connection can be frustrating, especially if you're trying to game. If you're concerned that your internet isn't as fast as it should be, there are a few things you can do to troubleshoot the issue:
Speedtest: Finding how fast your internet connection is easy with a speed test. It will give you your download and upload speeds to compare them to the recommended speed for your games.
Understanding the results: Once you have your results, you can compare them to the recommended speeds for your activities. If your download speed is lower than recommended, you may experience lag. You may need help connecting to others if your upload speed is lower than recommended.
How to improve your network speed
If you need more than the speed you need, there are a few things you can do to try to improve your network speed.
- Router location: One of the first things you can do is to make sure your router is in a good location. Keep your router in an open area and, if possible, high up off the ground. You may not get the full signal strength if it's hidden away in a corner.
- Router settings: If you're still not getting the speed you need, you may want to adjust your router settings. You can usually access your router's settings by entering 192.168.1.1 into your web browser. Once you're logged in, you can try adjusting different settings. If you're unsure what you're doing, it's best to leave the settings at their default values and contact a professional for help.
- Hardware replacement: In some cases, you may need to replace your router or modem. This is usually only necessary if you're not getting the speeds you purchased from your ISP. Finding the right network equipment is essential to getting the best speed possible.
Remember that even with the fastest internet connection, there may be some delay due to the server's location. The further away you are from the server, the longer it will take for your commands to reach the game.
When to reevaluate how much internet you need
As your life changes, so will your internet needs. For example, if you move to a new house or apartment, you may need a new modem or router to accommodate the range you need in your new space. If you start working from home more often, you may need to upgrade your internet package to get a higher speed.
That is why it's essential to reevaluate your internet needs regularly. Understanding how much internet you need ensures you're always getting the best possible speeds for your gaming and other activities.
Signs you need to increase your internet speed
There are a few signs that you may need to increase your internet speed:
- Needing to disconnect devices to increase speed.
- Experiencing delays while doing high-intensity activities. If you experience delays while gaming or streaming 4K video, you may need a faster connection.
- Internet is consistently slow. If your Internet is always slow, no matter what time of day it is, you may need to upgrade your service. These are just a few signs that you may need to upgrade your internet speed. If you're unsure if you need a higher speed, you can always run a speed test to check your current situation.
Understanding how much internet you need ensures you always get the best possible speed. Whether you need to increase or decrease your speed, making the change can help improve your online experience.
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