What is a Good Internet Speed?

Sean Jackson
October 07, 2020

Topics covered on this page:

Internet Speed Classifications What is Considered a Fast Internet Speed? What is Considered a Slow Internet Speed? Fast vs. Slow Internet Speeds How to Improve My Internet Speed

What is a good internet speed? What is a good download speed? These are some of the most common questions people have when shopping for a fast internet connection. 

Everything that you do on the internet involves data transmission between your device and the web. Your internet experience depends on how fast your internet connection can manage this data transfer, which is why speed is one of the most decisive factors, along with price, when choosing a particular internet service. But what is a good internet speed? Is 100 Mbps fast and 10 Mbps slow? And, what speed is sufficient for your specific online activities?

Getting answers to these questions can help you select the right internet plan and will also prevent you from spending more on packages that provide excessive speeds you may not need. This handy guide will walk you through everything there is to know about internet speed.

Internet Speed Classifications

Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), which is a measure of data packets moving in one second. This data transmission once happened through a dial-up connection using a modem and telephone line. However, with the introduction of broadband technology, data transfer is much faster today, which means consumers are able to enjoy much faster internet connections.

A broadband connection has two speeds, download speed to get data from the web to your device and upload speed for the reverse process. Broadband internet is available through multiple types of technologies such as DSL, cable, fiber and satellite. 

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), a broadband internet connection has a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps. We can then classify what is considered a fast and slow internet speed based on this benchmark.

The FCC recommends minimum download speeds of 3 to 8 Mbps for light internet use, such as email and simple web browsing. For moderate internet use, such as video streaming, online gaming and video conferencing, download speeds in the range of 12 to 25 Mbps will ensure a glitch-free experience. But, if there are multiple devices simultaneously running data-intensive applications in your home, you will need download speeds above 25 Mbps.

What is Considered a Fast Internet Speed?

The definition of a fast internet connection varies on what your needs are. For example, if you are streaming HD videos, you may need an internet connection with higher speeds in the range of 10 to 25 Mbps. But if you mostly use the internet to surf the web or check email, even a 5 Mbps internet plan would be considered fast enough.

We can also define fast internet based on heavy usage and the number of devices an internet connection can support. With the FCC benchmark, speeds higher than 25 Mbps are considered fast since it will handle multiple devices and simultaneous data-heavy activities.

Here are some of the common speed tiers that support multiple devices and users, which you can get through cable and fiber internet connections:

  • 50 Mbps
  • 100 Mbps
  • 200 Mbps
  • 250 Mbps
  • 300 Mbps
  • 400 Mbps
  • 500 Mbps
  • 1,000 Mbps

Internet providers break down speeds based on several factors including your download and upload speeds. Downloading is the time it takes for the server to respond to your request. Think of it as the length of time it takes to stream your favorite show. Meanwhile, with uploads speeds, it’s the other way around. This is the time it takes for you to upload something to a server. In this case, think publishing a video to social media or uploading a large document to the cloud. With these things in mind, here’s a breakdown of which download and upload speeds are suitable for specific purposes.

Fast download speeds

SpeedsBest For
50 MbpsStreaming HD videos, online gaming, downloading large files on 2-3 devices simultaneously
100 MbpsA glitch-free internet experience for 4-5 devices
1,000 MbpsMultiple devices accessing connection at same time for gaming and streaming

Fast upload speeds

SpeedsBest For
10 MbpsMaking high-quality video calls or uploading large files quickly
50 MbpsLive-streaming 4K videos and uploading large attachments quickly

In general, there are going to be several types of internet that offer much quicker download and upload speeds. The fastest, fiber, is becoming more readily available in metro areas. If you don’t have access to fiber internet, cable internet providers offer packages with tiered speed choices to help you find the right solutions for you. 

What is Considered a Slow Internet Speed?

Although the FCC recommends speeds in the 3 to 8 Mbps range for light internet use, any speed less than 25 Mbps would be considered “slow internet,” since any usage requirements beyond simple web browsing would be difficult at those speeds, such as streaming HD videos, playing online games or connecting multiple devices.

Here are some of the common speed tiers that fall in the slow internet category:

  • Speeds less than 1 Mbps
  • 2 Mbps
  • 3 Mbps
  • 5 Mbps
  • 10 Mbps
  • 15 Mbps

These speeds are typical with dial-up and DSL internet connections.

Slow download speeds

SpeedsBest For
Less than 1 Mbps1 device, but speeds slower than 1 Mbps will affect your browsing experience
2 MbpsA single user browsing the web, using email or checking social media

Slow upload speeds

SpeedsIssues
Less than 1 MbpsDelays when uploading an attachment or glitches during video conferencing
Less than 0.5 MbpsWill affect your experience when attaching large files to your email and will also lead to poor video-calling quality

You’ll commonly find these download and upload speeds with specific types of internet. Dial up internet is among the slowest internet options available whereas DSL will also offer lower speeds depending on where you live, as this determines which plans are available in your area. You might also have access to fixed wireless internet. This is usually available in rural areas. And if you’re eligible, it can also be on the slower end with download speeds starting from 3 Mbps. 

Fast vs. Slow Internet Speeds

To illustrate the difference a fast internet speed can make, let's look at online gaming and file downloading as examples.

Apart from internet speed, online gaming depends on two other factors: ping rate and latency. Ping rate or “ping” refers to how fast your internet connection responds after your device sends a request. It is measured in milliseconds (ms). 

Latency is the delay between your action in the game and its display on the screen. Lower ping rate translates to low latency. A ping rate of 20 ms or lower is generally better, but most online games can perform well up to a 100 ms ping rate.

For first-person shooter (FPS) games, you will need a download speed of up to 6 Mbps, an upload speed of 1 Mbps and a 16 ms ping rate. Whereas, massively multiplayer online (MMO) games usually require 3 Mbps download speed, a 0.5 Mbps upload speed and a ping rate of 150 ms or less. These speeds are per gaming user, which means you will need an internet connection with higher speeds if there are more players in your network.

Similarly, internet speed will also affect how fast you can download large files, such as movies. For example, with a speed of 1 Mbps, downloading a movie file of 5 GB will take approximately 12 hours. You can download the same file in less than eight minutes with a download speed of 100 Mbps.

What download speeds do you need for video?

Netflix recommends having download speeds of at least 3 Mbps to stream a movie in standard definition. However, if you want to download a standard video file, then this table demonstrates how much of a difference speed makes while downloading a file:

1 Mbps10 Mbps50 Mbps200 Mbps1,000 Mbps
Over 9 hours57 mins11 mins2 mins34 secs

What speed do I need for online gaming?

Since games vary wildly in the data they require, this table demonstrates the base of download speeds you’ll need for different types of online gaming:


First person shooting games

Role playing games

Online multiplayer

Real time games (strategy)
30 Mbps1.5 Mbps3 Mbps3 Mbps
Source: AllConnect

How to Improve My Internet Speed

If you have a larger household with multiple devices or plan to do many online activities that require a lot of data, then you’ll want to maximize your internet speeds. Here are so ways to achieve this:

  • Upgrade your internet package: Many providers have different tiered plans where you can receive faster download and upload speeds for an added cost.
  • Compare internet providers: You can see what other internet options you have in the area. By knowing all of your options, you can find the best price with the right plan for you. 
  • Buy a WiFi extender: For those living in larger homes, a WiFi extender takes your existing WiFi signal and boosts it throughout the slower areas of your home. This allows you to tackle your work projects in your home office while your children play their favorite online games downstairs. 

Recap

Internet speed plays a vital role in deciding your online experience. While a download speed of 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 3 Mbps are usually good for most online activities, you will need faster internet speeds, generally above 50 to 100 Mbps, if there are multiple devices running data-demanding applications simultaneously. However, slower speeds in the range of 3 to 8 Mbps are sufficient for basic internet surfing.

To find the right internet plan for your home, use our search tool: Internet in my area.

Internet Speeds Frequently Asked Questions

What providers offer the fastest internet?

This depends in large part on where you live. You can use this tool to find the best internet options in your area. In general, providers like Verizon, Xfinity, AT&T, Spectrum, Optimum, and Frontier.

What internet speed do I need?

There are several factors you want to consider. First, how many connected devices will use the internet at the same time? Next, which online activities will everyone do? If you live in a smaller household where you only use the internet to email or surf the internet, you can get away with a lower speed compared to a larger household where the residents online game and stream movies.

How do I get faster internet speed?

Speak with your internet service provider about upgrading your package to a faster speed. You’ll also want to examine all options in your area to guarantee you’re receiving the best price for the fastest speeds.

What is a WiFi extender?

If you live in a larger home or one with multiple floors, then you’ll notice the internet might not be as fast in areas further away from the router. This is where a WiFi extender helps. It’ll boost the signal on your router, carrying it to the slow zones in your home.

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

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