How to Decide What Internet Speed You Need

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Which Internet speed is good for me

One of the most helpful improvements made to online technology is the increase in speed available for using the internet. Gone are the days where a typical file could take hours, sometimes days, to download. Today, we have the capacity to get these files in much less time, many times in just minutes.

The number of choices in internet speed has increased in step, with more and more companies offering different packages depending on how fast you want things to go. It is important to select the right amount of speed, since failing to do so can either mean unnecessary expense or a marked decrease in performance.

A Brief Explanation of Bandwidth

One of the most important terms in reference to Internet speed is bandwidth. In essence, bandwidth indicates the fastest rate at which you can send and receive data over the Internet. Bandwidth is separated into two categories, download and upload. Download refers to how fast you can receive data, while upload refers to how fast you can send it.

The amount of bandwidth you have is measured in bits per second, usually by megabit. It is important to notice the difference between megabits and megabytes, which is the measurement used in file sizes. One bit is an eighth of a byte, which you can use to determine exactly how long a file will take to download with different speeds.

It is essential to note that the speed given in most internet packages may not always be how fast your connection runs at. Rather this is the speed your connection can get up to, usually during optimal times and network usage. During periods of heavier network usage from all the different households and customers using the Internet service, your speeds will likely be lower.

The Most Important Factors in Deciding Your Internet Speed

Two primary factors should be considered when deciding how much Internet speed you are likely to need. These include:

  • Number of Devices and Users: The bandwidth capacity you are quoted when you sign up for Internet service applies to all devices that are being used simultaneously. So if you have multiple devices using the Internet at the same time, the speed for each device will only be a fraction of your total bandwidth. This makes it important to figure out how many devices will use the connection, and what type of activity is expected to be going on at the same time. Selecting enough bandwidth to accommodate your highest expectations will ensure all activities perform adequately.
  • Type of Activity: Different activities need different amounts of bandwidth to operate properly. For example, streaming a video, or downloading a large file, eat up much more of your bandwidth than just surfing the Internet, or playing online video games. If you do not have enough bandwidth to satisfy the needs of all running applications, you can experience annoying problems, such as lag in video games and the need to buffer when watching a video.

Top Internet Providers & Speed

Provider Max Download SpeedWhere to buy
XFINITY
1G Shop Plans >>
AT&T
940 MBPS Shop Plans >>
Spectrum
100 MBPS Shop Plans >>
CenturyLink
1G Shop Plans >>
COX
300 MBPS Shop Plans >>
Windstream
100 MBPS Shop Plans >>

Recommended Speeds for Different Activities

Finding the right amount of bandwidth is usually a pretty simple task, given how much research has been done in finding out how much each type of activity needs. Following is a list of the likely speeds to figure in for the most popular internet uses. These estimates are for a single user and device, so add accordingly if your needs are greater.

  • Surfing: Normal Internet surfing, such as visiting websites, writing emails, and using social media, only needs about 1Mbps (megabit per second).
  • Gaming: Fairly low intensive, gaming usually requires between 1Mbps and 3Mbps. The more important consideration is latency, or the amount of time it takes to communicate with the server hosting the game.
  • Video Streaming: This eats up more bandwidth, and depends heavily on the quality of video being streamed. Standard quality videos should get about 4Mbps, while high def needs up to 8Mbps and Ultra HD speeds up to 25Mbps.
  • Downloading Files: Widely considered the most intensive activity, large files can require speeds of up to 50Mbps or more to arrive in a reasonable amount of time.

In addition to the above, you need to consider the number of devices and people connected to the Internet on the same time. To calculate your speed needs, you may use this formula:

Download speed = Number of users x number of devices x Speed required per activity (max). So if you’re a family of four, each using three Internet-connected devices, and you like to watch Netflix in HD, the download speed you should look for is: 4 (people) x 3 (devices) x 8 Mbps = 96 Mbps. This is rough example, usually the higher the download speed, the better the chances to enjoy a great online experience, no matter how many devices you use to connect to the Internet.

Finding the right Internet speed is a balance between deciding how much you can afford and how good you want performance to be. Doing the proper amount of research on this is an excellent way to satisfy both sides of that balance perfectly.

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