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How much internet speed do you need? Well, let’s walk through how to find the best internet speed for your lifestyle. You’ll need to identify the internet activities most important to your day-to-day, know the minimum requirements, and keep your budget in mind.
It’s a good process to go through occasionally to make sure you’re getting the speed you need. Who knows, you might find that you are paying for too much speed and can save a few bucks.
How is internet speed measured?
It’s important to understand how internet speed is measured and what components make up the overall speed of your internet connection. It’s typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps) — the higher the number, the faster your speed.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband internet as having a download speed of at least 25 Mbps and at least 3 Mbps upload speed. Download speed is how fast data is transferred to your device, and upload speed is how fast your internet connection can transfer data to the internet.
The other component that makes up your internet speed is latency. Sometimes referred to as ping, delay, or lag, latency is how fast a packet of data can be sent from your device to your provider’s network, and then back to your device.
How much speed do I need?
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when assessing how much speed you need:
- The number of people and devices sharing your internet connection
- Resource-intensive activities like streaming HD video or gaming online
- Working from home and video conferencing
- Home automation devices
All of these activities often require faster speeds and greater bandwidth. To begin formulating how much speed you need, here is a list of activities and their speed requirements:
Activities & Minimum Speed Requirements
|Streaming radio and music||< 1 Mbps|
|General browsing, email, and social media||1 Mbps|
|Streaming standard video||4 Mbps|
|Online gaming||3+ Mbps|
|Video conferencing||5+ Mbps|
|File downloading||10 Mbps|
|Online school and telecommuting||5-25 Mbps|
|Streaming HD or 4K video||5-25 Mbps|
|Activity||Streaming radio and music|
|Minimum Speed*||< 1 Mbps|
|Activity||General browsing, email, and social media|
|Minimum Speed*||1 Mbps|
|Activity||Streaming standard video|
|Minimum Speed*||4 Mbps|
|Minimum Speed*||3+ Mbps|
|Minimum Speed*||5+ Mbps|
|Minimum Speed*||10 Mbps|
|Activity||Online school and telecommuting|
|Minimum Speed*||5-25 Mbps|
|Activity||Streaming HD or 4K video|
|Minimum Speed*||5-25 Mbps|
*Recommendations per user from the Federal Communications Commission broadband guidelines.
How many people & devices are using your internet connection?
While 25 Mbps is an acceptable speed for one user, you’ll need to increase that number with more users accessing the internet in your household. The easiest calculation is to multiply 25 Mbps by the number of users in your household.
But it is common for people to be using multiple devices simultaneously. Maybe you’re streaming a show while downloading and uploading work files and checking your socials on your tablet. Security and home automation devices that use your WiFi network also increase your minimum speed requirement.
If you have multiple users and devices simultaneously using the internet in your household, you will need to increase your per-person speed requirement. A decent speed to consider per person is 50 Mbps, or even higher for a more stable online experience for all users.
What to Know About Internet Speeds
Now that you know how much speed you need, keep in mind that the following may require you to increase your minimum speed.
Advertised vs Actual Speeds
Internet providers advertise the maximum speed for each of their plans. However, due to numerous factors, your actual speed will almost always be lower than the advertised speed. And once you have purchased your internet plan, we advise you to perform an internet speed test to ensure you’re getting close to the speed advertised in the plan.
Wired vs Wireless Connection
The advertised speed is based on a wired connection to your router rather than a WiFi connection. Only with a wired connection will you ever be able to reach your provider’s top speed. But realistically, most devices connect wirelessly.
Wireless connections are convenient for today’s digital lifestyle. But it is always slower than a wired connection. In addition, multiple connected devices cause congestion that further reduces the speed of your WiFi connection.
If the majority of connections on your network are wireless, then placing your WiFi router in an optimal location will greatly benefit each connection and overall internet speeds. Keep your router clear of obstructions on all sides, and don’t put it in a cabinet or on a shelf with other items around it.
Keeping it clear improves its reach and ability to manage multiple connections more efficiently. The best place to put your router is in the center of your home and at the height of at least 3-4 feet off the ground. Placing it higher allows for greater signal strength and less chance of obstruction from other pieces of furniture.
With the number of considerations to be mindful of when calculating your speed needs and the number of things that can draw down your internet speed, it can be tricky to get to the actual speed you need. At a minimum, consider 50 Mbps per person in your household. While it may cost more, 100 Mbps will provide more bandwidth and less frustration for everyone’s internet experience.
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