How Much Internet Speed Do I Really Need?

DecisionData Team
July 02, 2020

When selecting an internet plan for your home or office, you may encounter many questions: What is a good internet speed? How many Mbps do I need? What is a good upload speed? 

While you may prefer a 2,000 Mbps internet speed plan to get the fastest internet experience, your actual internet use may not necessarily need such high speeds. Or, if you’re planning to connect multiple devices for gaming and need internet speeds for streaming, you may discover a 5 to 10 Mbps internet plan will struggle to deliver the right experience.

Use this guide to learn what are good internet speeds, as well as how to determine the right speed to meet the needs of your online activities.

General Guidelines on Internet Speeds

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband internet as one that delivers at least 25 Mbps of download speed and 3 Mbps of upload speed. However, good internet speeds depend on your actual internet use.

Slower speeds in the range of 5 to 10 Mbps are sufficient for basic internet surfing, email and social media. But, you’ll need higher download and upload speeds if you’ve got multiple users running data-intensive applications on their devices at the same time.

The FCC recommends download speeds of 12 to 25 Mbps for moderate internet use, which includes basic surfing and one high-demanding application, such as video conferencing, high-definition (HD) video streaming and online gaming. These speeds are ideal for two to three devices connected at a time. You’ll need speeds higher than 25 Mbps if there are more than four devices connected.

Not sure if the connection from your internet service provider (ISP) is meeting these speed requirements? Check your internet speed using a speed test tool and find out if your connection matches the speed demands of your online activities.

Common Internet Speed Terms

The terms associated with internet speed are often confusing. However, knowing them will help you get a better understanding of what are good internet speeds and which speed will best meet your requirements.

Ping

Ping is a software utility that verifies if a remote computer on the internet can accept requests. Measured in milliseconds (ms), ping reflects how responsive your internet connection is. A higher ping is necessary for applications that require fast response from the remote computer or server, such as when playing online games.

Latency

Latency is a delay between your action and the resulting response from the application on the internet network. For example, when you click on a link to open a website, there will be some delay in displaying the webpage on the screen. While latency-free internet is nearly impossible, a connection with lower latency will ensure a better internet experience.

Mbps

Mbps, or megabits per second, is a standard unit to measure internet speeds. One megabit consists of one million bits of information. Formerly, slower connections, such as dial-up internet, used kilobits per second or Kbps as a unit to measure internet speed. One kilobit equals 1,000 bits of information.

Upload speed

Upload speed is a measure of how fast your internet connection can transmit data from your device to the web. Higher upload speeds will help you in sending large files to someone quickly or will improve video-calling quality.

Download speed

Download speed is a metric used to measure how quickly you can receive data from a remote computer on the internet to your device. Most online activities require higher download speeds compared to upload speeds.

Speed Requirements for Online Activities

Use this guide to find out what internet speeds you’ll need for some of the most common online activities.

  • Basic web surfing, checking email and social media: The FCC recommends download speeds between 3 to 8 Mbps for web surfing and other basic online activities, such as chatting, social media and email.
  • Video streaming: Internet speed requirements for video streaming will vary depending on the video quality.
    • For standard definition (SD) video, the recommended speed is 3 Mbps.
    • For streaming high-definition (HD) videos, you’ll need at least 5 Mbps.
    • The recommended speed for 4K or Ultra-HD videos is 25 Mbps.
  • Gaming: Download speeds in the range of 3 to 6 Mbps are suitable for online gaming. However, ping time is also a crucial factor for several online games. While a ping rate of less than 20 ms is best, anything in the range of 20 to 100 ms will ensure a lag-free gaming experience. If you’re planning to stream your gameplay, you’ll also need symmetrical upload speeds.
  • Streaming music: The recommended speed to stream online music through popular apps like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music is in the 1.5 to 5 Mbps range.
  • Working from home: Internet speeds for your home office will depend on the type of work you do. A 2 Mbps download speed is sufficient for basic email and audio conference calls. For video conferencing and downloading large files, you’ll need 25 Mbps or higher.

Things That Slow Down Your Internet Speeds

Here’s a list of some of the most common reasons you may be experiencing slower internet speeds than you expect.

  • Using internet over WiFi. A wireless connection offers easy access to the internet, but it is not always fast. To ensure you get the best internet speeds, consider connecting devices with an Ethernet cable.
  • Location of your router. WiFi signal strength reduces as you move away from the router. If you’re planning to access the internet with a wireless network, make sure you have an unblocked path to your router.
  • Multiple devices connected to the network. Your internet plan can support a set number of devices at a time. You’ll experience a drop in the speeds if multiple devices are running data-intensive applications simultaneously.
  • Router not compatible to handle advanced speeds. If you’re using an old router, it may not necessarily support advanced internet speeds. Consider regularly updating the router firmware or upgrade the router.
  • Malicious programs draining internet speed. Malware or viruses are known to consume your computer resources. These may also eat your internet bandwidth and slow down your internet. Use anti-virus software and a malware scanner regularly to remove these malicious programs and keep your system protected.
  • Your ISP is giving a slow internet connection. If the above tips don’t help, there’s a possibility your ISP might be providing slow internet speeds. Now may be a good time to consider other providers in your area.

You can use our ZIP code tool to find an alternative provider and check if you can get a better deal.

Recap

Determining good internet speed is the first step you’ll want to take before committing to any internet plan. While a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 3 Mbps will meet the needs of most households, slower speeds can save you more money if you simply need the internet for email and basic surfing.

Similarly, you may need to select higher speed plans if there are multiple users and devices in your home running data-intensive applications, such as video streaming and gaming.

If your current internet connection is not performing up to your expectations, consider choosing a different internet plan or switch to another internet service provider. Use our ZIP code tool to find the best internet in your area.

We supplied the data; now, the decision is yours.

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