What Internet Speed Do I Need? Key Numbers for Your Online Activities

By: HPadmin | May 17, 2019
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Most internet packages place great emphasis on speed, leading a lot of users to ask, “Well, what internet speed do I need, anyway?”

More speed sounds better, but it can be difficult to tell what that actually means for everyday online activity. Whether you’re looking for basic email and browsing activity, plan to stream videos and online games, or if you’ll be working from home—here’s a quick guide showing the ideal minimum numbers in Mbps or megabits per second.

Online Basics

You can accomplish plenty of things online without blazing fast internet. For example, you can easily send and receive emails, browse social media and shop online with a basic internet connection.

  • Emailing: For emailing activities, you will want speeds around 1 Mbps (downloading) to make sure everything runs smoothly and you don’t have to wait to open larger or more graphically intense emails.
  • Basic Browsing: Browsing and searching the web? That will also take around 1 Mbps when finding your way to the right site.

Streaming Media

Netflix and chill, anyone? Streaming video services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and YouTube and audio services like Spotify and Pandora work best with the following internet speeds.

  • Netflix and Hulu: Netflix, Hulu and other streaming video sites can typically offer better video quality for higher internet speeds. Netflix likes it if you have around 1.5 to 3 Mbps on the download side, but if you really want to take advantage of the HD videos, you need speeds at 5.0 Mbps or above. Want Ultra HD? You’re looking at 25 Mbps or more. Services like Hulu actually offer several settings depending on your internet speed. You can increase the settings for better quality if you have enough available bandwidth.
  • Streaming Music: Music streaming is relatively simple compared to streaming full video, so it takes a lot less speed to give you good sound. You’ll want 1 to 2 Mbps for reliably playing tunes. No problem at all! But when asking “What internet speed do I need?” remember that mobile services, including mobile music streaming, may require greater speeds to ensure the same quality.
  • YouTube and Other Video Streaming: Video streaming from sites like YouTube follow the same general rules that Netflix and other streaming sites use. For low-definition videos, 1 Mbps will suit you just fine. But if you want to view higher quality videos, you’ll need more speed. According to Google, the minimum requirement for good streaming of 720p HD videos is 2.5 Mbps. For 1080p, consider 4 Mbps or more.

Online Gaming

If you’re an avid gamer, playing online with friends might be one of the things you enjoy most. And having faster internet is really important for that.

  • Playing Online Video Games: Microsoft offers a handy reference document to help you know how fast your internet speeds should be to accommodate online play. According to the document, you’ll want a download speed of 3 Mbps or better and an upload speed of 0.5 Mbps or better. Your ping rate (a measure of lag your internet connection causes in online gaming) should also be less than 150 milliseconds (read more about latency here). Sony and Nintendo recommend the same speeds.
  • Twitch and Game Streaming: When it’s time to stream games between friends on Twitch, you’ll need faster connectivity, according to Microsoft and other game companies. According to Twitch’s broadcasting guidelines, you’ll need a bit rate of at least 2.5 to 4 Mbps to play at  720p and 30 frames per second. It then goes up to 3.5 to 5 Mbps for 720p at 60 fps. If you want to stream at 1080p and 30 fps, you need 3.5 to 5 Mbps as well, and 1080p at 60 fps demands 4.5 to 6 Mbps.

Work-Related Tasks

Got a home office? Or are you trying to finish up that key project over the weekend? Check out what internet speeds you’ll need for web-based phone calls, conferencing and more.

  • VOIP: Voice calls are one of the easiest streaming tasks. They do not require complex video, and their audio needs are a lot simpler than music. We’re talking around 0.1 Mbps on both the download and upload side for basic at-home VOIP. However, for clear, reliable connections, speeds up to 1 Mbps are better, especially when dealing with mobile devices.
  • Video Web Conferencing: Web conferencing through services like Skype establishes a real-time connection with two-way video. This can require particularly high upload times, generally equal to the download times (in order to maintain a quality conversation, at least). So, typical video calls need around 0.5 Mbps downloading and uploading. However, HD video will probably require more along the lines of 1.5 Mbps both ways, and adding more people to the call will require more like 4 to 7 Mbps.
  • Hefty Uploads and Downloads: For most intense internet activities, like sharing files through the cloud or uploading and downloading large files in others, you want an extra kick of speed. Ideally, speeds around 50 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload will allow you to upload and download high-definition media or massive files within seconds (or minutes, on a bad day). This is especially handy for graphic designers and others who frequently deal with larger files.

To sum it up, check out this chart.

Keep Number of Users in Mind

Got multiple internet users in your home? Or is it possible that you’ll be doing more than one of these activities at once? You’ll need to further increase your internet speed to watch Netflix in the living room while your son streams Twitch in his bedroom. Add up the Mbps for each activity that may happen simultaneously.

Caveat Alert!

Keep in mind, asking “What internet speed do I need?” for specific activities is a helpful task, but all answers should be taken with a grain of salt. First, service speeds can vary based on issues or changes on the platform’s end—YouTube or Pandora, for example, may run into problems that create a slowdown even if your own speed capabilities stay the same.

Second, bandwidth or internet speed at your house can vary considerably based on the time of day and even the activities of your neighbors. Run a speed test on your internet connection at different times of the day if you are curious about your real speed numbers.