What is Gigabit Internet and do you need it?

If you’re like most people these days, you want all the Internet devices in your home to run as fast as possible. Due to the rise of Gigabit Internet over the past few years, consumers in many parts of the US are now enjoying Internet connectivity at unprecedented speeds.

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How fast is Gigabit Internet?

Gigabit InternetInternet speeds are measured according to how fast data travels over an Internet connection. Available today mostly through cable and fiber optic technology, Gigabit Internet runs at blazing fast 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) or Gigspeed. That’s equal to 1,000,000,000 bits of data per second, or 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). 

Gigabit Internet is fast enough for you to download an entire HD movie in a matter of a few minutes, take part in videoconferences with ultra-high definition video, or update your smartphone’s operating system within seconds, notes Xfinity, one of many Gigabit Internet providers.

If your carrier doesn’t yet offer Gigabit Internet in your area, you might be able to get a connection of 500 Mbps or more in your home. A 500 Mbps link will only run half as fast as Gigabit Internet, but it’s still pretty fast compared to some of the other options.


Who is Gigabit Internet for? 

Gigabit Internet is pricier than slower speed Internet connections. To take full advantage of the extra speed on your home WiFi network, you need a state-of-the-art Internet gateway or router, available through your carrier, as well as up-to-date devices. All this equipment must support the latest home networking standard, WiFi 6. However, the additional cost of Gigabit Internet can be well worth it, especially in the four following types of scenarios.

Scenario 1: Your household runs lots of Internet-connected devices. 

Most homes today seem to fit into this category, in fact. According to a survey done in 2020, the average American today has access to 10 connected devices in the home, says Statistica.

Generally speaking, though, when researchers talk about Internet-connected devices, they’re referring not just to a PC, Mac, or tablet, but to any device in the so-called Internet of things (IoT). That could be a smartphone. smart TV, microphone, audio speaker setup, HVAC system, security camera, garage door opener, or lightbulb, for instance.

But when you’re figuring out how much Internet speed your home needs, it’s important to recognize that the Internet data streamed to your household – also known as your bandwidth -- must be shared by all devices running on your home WiFi. So even leaving IoT devices out of the equation, if family members are running a laptop, iPad, and desktop PC all at the same time, each of these devices is likely to get around 300 to 400 Mbps of bandwidth.

Yet if you were operating these same three devices with a 100Mbps connection, each device would obtain less than 40 Mbps in bandwidth.

Scenario 2: You crave top-speed connectivity for working from home

If you’ve been working from home remotely during the Covid-19 pandemic, and you’d like to keep doing so moving forward, you’re in great company. In a recent study by Pew Research Center (PRC), for example, most workers whose responsibilities can mainly be done from home said that they rarely or never teleworked prior to the pandemic. Only one in five had worked from home “all or most of the time.

As of October of 2021, though, 71% of those workers were performing their job from home either all or most of the time. What’s more, over half told researchers they want to go on working from home even after the pandemic subsides.

While it might not be best suited for everyone, work-from-home (WFH) offers perksthat include flexible hours and the ability to save both time and money by skipping the commute to work, experts say.
Gigabit Internet provides practicallythe maximum amount of speed you can get in the US for working from home just as you would over a corporate network. You can efficiently surf the web and do group collaboration over Teams or Slack, even while performingmore bandwidth-intensive tasks like data analysis, computer programming, or videoconferencing.

Scenario 3: You or your kids (or parents) are Zooming

Of course, videoconferencing has surged hugely in popularity since the start of the pandemic, another trend expected to continue into the future. People are using Zoom, Skype, WebEx, and other videoconferencing platforms not just for work from home (WFH), but for staying in touch with far flung friends and family members. If your children engaged in distance learning during the pandemic due to school closures, too, they’re already well accustomed to video calling.

Videoconferencing is one application that benefits in particular from Gigabit Internet. An important reason is that a high-speed connection helps to reduce latency, or the amount of time it takes to send a packet of data over the Internet link. High latency results in lag. In lag, the slow delivery of a data packet can cause a brief delay in the reactions of everyone taking part in a video or audio call.

Sometimes packets of data can even get lost completely due to network congestion on a slow Internet link, causing an issue called packet loss.  When packet loss happens, the video or audio can cut out entirely for a little while.

It can also be challenging to maintain a smooth connection on a slow link if you’re using bandwidth-intensive HD or 4K video, allowing a lot of people on the call, doing screen sharing, or running other apps in the background.

Don’t forget, too, that you’re sharing the amount of bandwidth you get from your provider with other household members. With Gigabit Internet, it’s a lot more practical to perform Zoom calls with work colleagues if your kids are doing e-learning online elsewhere in the house and your spouse likes to use the
Internet, too, to play his favorite game during a day off from the job. 

Scenario 4: There’s a hard core gamer in the house

Gamers also need to avoid high latency and packet loss. In gaming, lag shows up as a delay between player input and the response of the game. Yet serious gamers can’t afford a delay of even one second.

Effects can include low frame rates, game stuttering, and overall bad performance. In fact, the whole game can crash. Packet loss of more than one or two percent can also interfere with real-time gaming. Often, overloading of Internet connections is the culprit. But Gigabit Internet will give you plenty of bandwidth in your Internet connection. 

Internet will give you plenty of bandwidth in your Internet connection. 


What devices support Gigabit Internet?

Devices in the home need to be connected to a WiFi 6 network to get the full benefit of Gigabit Internet. Despite the growing abundance of IoT devices, desktop and laptop PCs will gain the most right now, because of the higher bandwidth requirements of their software applications as well as the fact that they’re mostly like to be attached to WiFi.

Smartphones have lower bandwidth needs and are able to connect to the Internet through a choice of cellular or WiFi. Many tablets offer both connectivity options, too.

Meanwhile, IoT devices like lightbulbs have fewer bandwidth requirements than even smartphones, of course. Also, many of today’s IoT devices can connect to the Internet independently of WiFi, cable, or fiber connections. Some smart TVs, for instance, connect directly through a satellite dish. Other devices, such as home alarm systems, are able to use cellular connectivity.

However, new WiFi-6-compatible Gigabit Internet gateways now being issued by carriers to consumers also include radios for both Bluetooth LTE and Zigbee. What's Zigbee? It's an emerging standard for short-range low-rate wireless data transfer to low power IoT “thingies” like light switches and home energy monitors. 

So it looks like there will be an explosion of IoT devices running off of Gigabit Internet via WiFi 6 in the near future. Whether or not a specific device needs all that much speed, your household can gain the convenience of fewer types of Internet connections to look after.

Who offers Gigabit Internet in the US? 

Right now, Gigabit Internet is offered in the US in two ways: cable broadband and fiber optic technology. Theoretically, the emerging wireless technology of 5G cellular can also offer Gigabit connectivity, but in practice, 5G speeds don’t come close yet to meeting that level.

Fiber offers two major advantages over cable. First, upload and download speeds are the same. Second, upload and download speeds each amount to a full 1Gbps.

In contrast, download speeds for cable are generally a tad less than a full 1Gbps, while above 900 Mbps. More importantly, upload speeds for cable are much slower than that, typically amounting to well under 100Mbps. Yet upload speeds ordinarily come into play only for a few types of uses, such as gaming and uploading videos to Youtube or elsewhere on the web.

Meanwhile, Gigabit Internet cable connections are much more widely available in the US than those for fiber. Here’s a list of 11 top cable providers of Gigabit Internet, along with their geographic coverage areas. Please note, though, that just because a provider offers services in a state, that doesn’t mean those services are available in the entire state. Also, the Internet speeds available from providers vary according to where you live. To find out whether you can subscribe to Gigabit Internet, contact your local cable provider and provide your home address.

Gigabit Internet Offers from the Major Cable Providers

Provider Provider Options
Xfinity is the largest residential cable provider in the US, available to about 112.4 million people, according to Internet research site Broadbandnow. Coverage is offered in 39 states, but its biggest coverage areas are California, Illinois, and Florida. Xfinity Gigabit Internet is the company’s 1Gbps cable service. Xfinity is also the only provider to offer a fiber package with up to 2Gbps of bandwidth both ways, but this Internet Gigabit Pro package is very limited in availability. Learn More
Spectrum is the second biggest US residential cable provider, available to approximately 102.7 million people. Spectrum operates in portions of 44 states, with major coverage areas in California, New York State, and Texas. You can add Spectrum TV to any of its Internet packages, including Internet Gig. Learn More
The third largest US residential provider, Cox, offers availability to an estimated 20.9 million people across 18 states, with the biggest coverage areas in California, Virginia, and Arizona. Cox Gigablast can be purchased on a standalone basis or bundled with TV and Cox Homelife, a smart home service. Learn More
Optimum ranks fourth in the US by coverage area. Availability of Optimum cable amounts to roughly 11.9 million people, located only in the states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. The company’s gigabit cable service is called 1 Gig Internet. Optimum also runs a residential fiber optic Gigabit service available to about 1.6 million people. Learn More
Available in 22 states, Mediacom is located throughout the MidWest and across the country. Mediacom maintains that its Xtream 1 GIG Internet service offers download speeds up to 1,000 Mbps and upload speeds at a relatively high rate of up to 50Mbps. Learn More
Sparklight is available across 22 states, but you’ll find its services most prevalent in Texas, Idaho, and Mississippi. Sparklight’s gigabit cable service is dubbed GigaOne Plus. Learn More
GCI, for its part, is dedicated to the state of Alaska. GCI’s GIG red service is currently available in about 15 cities there, and the company plans to upgrade customers in other cities from lower bandwidth connections to Gigabit Internet when the service arrives where they reside. Learn More
You’ll come across Fidelity in five states, particularly Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. However, Fidelity’s 1 GIG service is initially available only to residential customers in West Plains, Missouri. Learn More
Enjoy a better Internet experience with Armstrong Zoom’s advanced security features. Learn More
Sign up for coverage for your whole home with MCTV’s strong and reliable Internet service. Learn More
Changing Internet providers doesn't have to result in a temporary loss of service. We'll help you identify your new Hargray provider and get you connected - so that "down time" is only a phrase for relaxing on the couch. Learn More
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