Whether you work from home, attend school remotely, or just enjoy gaming or surfing the web, it’s important to have speedy, reliable internet. But there are different internet needs for different activities. If you livestream conference calls from your home office, you’ll need more speed than someone who only surfs the web and sends emails.
Understanding what kind of internet speed you need will help you avoid overpaying on your internet bills while still getting the most out of your coverage.
The basics of internet speed
Internet speed is how fast information from the web can be received, downloaded, or uploaded by your device. This speed is measured in megabits per second, or Mbps.
Uploading information is putting some files from your device onto the internet. So, when you post on Instagram or Facebook, you are uploading that information onto the internet. Upload speed is how fast this information can travel or how long it takes for you to post a file or video onto the internet.
Downloading information means information is traveling from the internet onto your device. When you surf the internet, scroll through social media, or watch YouTube videos, you are downloading. So, download speed is how fast this content is processed and loads.
Bandwidth vs. internet speed
When understanding internet speed, it’s also important to understand bandwidth. Many assume that bandwidth and internet speed is the same, but this isn’t the case. However, bandwidth and speed are like two sides of the same coin. They work hand in hand to fuel your internet use.
Bandwidth is how much information your device can handle per second. Speed is how fast this information is transferred to or from your device.
In other words, if using the internet were like filling up a bathtub, speed would be how fast the water flows while bandwidth would be how much water exits the faucet at a time! The higher the bandwidth, the faster information can flow.
Another important term to understand internet speed is latency. Latency is sometimes called the delay or "ping rate." This is the speed at which information can travel from your device, to the server, and back to your device.
In other words, it measures the responsiveness of your connection. Latency is especially important for gaming or uploading information and not something to worry about for just downloading.
If you have high latency, this means it takes longer for information to upload. You may refer to this as lagging, buffering, or even glitching. A lower latency, on the other hand, means you experience less delay or lagging and information uploads faster.
How much speed do you need?
Below are some of the recommended internet speeds for different activities to help you figure out how much speed you need!
General internet use
If you don’t use the internet for the majority of the day and only use it to check your email, scroll through social media, and surf the web for a few minutes, you probably only need around 8-10 Mbps. With this, you can also stream music. If you have multiple users, you may need a couple more Mbps, but 8-10 Mbps is perfect for one or two users with basic internet needs.
However, most households have more than one internet user. The general recommended internet speed for the basic household is 25 Mbps. This amount lets you stream videos without buffering on a maximum of two devices, play online games without lagging, and surf the internet quickly and smoothly.
There are many factors that affect your internet needs, like how many internet users are in your home and what each user does on the internet. So, if your internet needs are a little more complicated than this, don’t worry.
We’ve broken down the most common internet usages below to help you understand your needs and only pay for what you use.
More people are replacing television and cable with streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu, and we’re here for it! This not only helps you lower your monthly spending on household bills, but it also lets you only pay for shows you like.
If you’ve cut the cable cord and enjoy watching Netflix, it’s important to get fast download speeds. Having fast, reliable internet speed is also important for those who watch online lectures for school or videos for work.
Here are the speed guidelines from the Federal Communications Commission for different kinds of streaming.
If you watch videos in standard resolution, you may need as little as 5 Mbps for one user. If you want to stream in 4K Ultra HD, you’ll need 25 Mbps for one user. The more users you add, the more Mbps you’ll need to avoid interference if two devices try to stream at the same time. This is because of how the internet is shared between users. When multiple devices are on the internet at the same time, each device gets a piece of internet connection.
In other words, if you have a 50 Mbps connection speed but you also have three kids who enjoy watching Netflix in their rooms at the same time, this connection will be divided into three parts—one for each device—and each will have around 16 Mbps of speed.
The recommendation for having multiple devices used for streaming is to get 50 Mbps or more.
While surfing the internet and streaming Netflix are activities that download information from the internet, gaming uploads information. Because of this, it requires a high internet speed. If you’re the only internet user, 25 Mbps is recommended for the smoothest gaming. However, if you’re the only user in the house, don’t use the internet for much other than gaming, and don’t mind occasional lagging, you can probably scrape by with 5-10 Mbps.
If you enjoy gaming, consider getting fiber optic internet or cable internet. These forms of the internet are typically faster and avoid lagging! In addition, be sure to ask what upload speed your internet provider offers. Download speed is the main speed advertised, so be sure to clarify what upload speed you need to have smooth, glitch-free gaming!
Working or school
Working and attending school remotely continue to be the reality for many people, so it’s vital to have an internet connection that is stable and has a reliable speed. And the good news is, you probably don’t need a crazy amount of internet speed to work from home successfully.
If you work or learn from home and find yourself downloading files, uploading information, and participating in video meetings or conference calls, we recommend a minimum of 25 Mbps for glitch-free working. If you have multiple people in your household who work and attend school from home, then consider doubling this to 50 Mbps.
Tips to boost your internet speed
If you experience lagging, poor internet connection, or slower speeds, here are some tips to help you maximize your connection.
- Reset your router. Unplugging your router and plugging it back in resets it and can often solve connectivity issues or lagging. While it seems simple, it’s always a good place to start if you’re experiencing slower speeds.
- Update the security settings on your internet router. If you live in an apartment or have close neighbors, they may be using your internet. Create a complex password for your router and change it every month or so. In addition, having security on your router can prevent others from hacking it and protect your connection.
- Move your router. This may seem like a simple solution, but moving your router to a spot with less interference and objects in the way can help you get a clearer connection on your device and faster internet.
- Use an Ethernet cable. If you are using Wi-Fi, your signal may experience interference from the air or objects in your home. Connecting your device to an ethernet cable lets you connect directly to the modem and get you faster internet. This solution does require some effort, but if you enjoy construction projects, using an ethernet cable might fix your internet problems!
Finding the best speed for you
Despite knowing what speed is right for you and your internet activities, you still may be overpaying for your internet. If you go over your data usage, you may be paying overage fees. If your promotional rates expired, this could increase your internet bill as well.
Nobody wants to pay for something they don’t use—so why would you overpay for internet speed you don’t need? Count how many people in your home are using the internet and figure out which internet activities you enjoy most. Understanding these factors and using the guidelines in this article will help you choose the best speed for your needs so you can work smoothly and enjoy all the internet activities you and your family like to do.