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How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?

Like most things in life, there is no “one size fits all” Internet plan. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most important factors to consider in determining the best fit for your family.

What does Internet Speed Mean?

As our homes and families become more connected than ever with each passing year, our high speed Internet needs can increase as well. Chances are good that you’re reading this now because you’ve noticed some connectivity hiccups in your home, and while you know you need an upgrade, you aren’t sure just how much. With many top providers offering speeds of up to 1 Gig in select markets, many opt for the most robust plan available so that speed is never a concern. However, higher speeds do command a higher price tag, and finding that sweet spot for your needs can help you stream on without worry, while also keeping costs down.

How to Choose the Right Internet Plan

Choosing the right Internet plan can mean the difference between a fast connection or endless buffering. Learn how to choose the right Internet Speed for your family.
  1. Device Usage: Choosing the right Internet plan can be largely dependent upon how many devices are being used in your household, and how much bandwidth each of those devices commands to function at optimal levels. Are multiple devices often being used at the same time? Do these devices demand a large amount of bandwidth? Is it imperative that optimum speeds are realized even when your home is at peak device usage?
  2. Number of Users: Be sure to factor in the total number of users in your home, and how often they are utilizing devices, including WiFi-connected mobile phones. You will need to determine the peak usage to make sure you have enough bandwidth for your household to avoid latency issues.
  3. High-Bandwidth Usage Activities: Certain activities can use more bandwidth than others, with online gaming, streaming video, video calling, file sharing, and usage of cloud applications, to include many WiFi security cameras, being among the highest bandwidth users. You’ll also want to consider tasks that use lower bandwidth individually, as that can add up quickly across multiple household members. Common tasks that typically require lower bandwidth include Internet browsing, streaming music, and using smart home devices.

How Fast Should My Internet Be?

Recommended download speeds for the average consumer vary according to how many devices are being used and what activities are taking place. Below are some general guidelines to consider to help in determining your individual speed needs.
Internet Download Speeds – Estimated Minimum Requirements:
  • For simultaneously using 1-2 devices, look for plans with up to 25 Mbps. This is the minimum speed recommended for a single or two-person household with light Internet usage.
  • If you’ll be using 3-5 devices simultaneously, look for plans with up to 100 Mbps. This speed is recommended for a 1-2 person household with average Internet usage, to include a mix of browsing the Internet, sending emails, and streaming music, television, or movies.
  • If you regularly use 5-8 devices simultaneously, a plan offering speeds up to 200 Mbps should suit your needs. For frequent streamers and gamers, consider increasing to up to 400 Mbps to minimize chances of lag.
  • If you regularly use 9 or more devices simultaneously, including a mix of high-bandwidth tasks like streaming and gaming, aim for a plan that offers up to 400 Mbps or 600 Mbps.
  • If your household is very connected, with 9+ simultaneous tasks including frequent streaming, heavy gaming, and the use of Internet-enabled smart home devices and/or security systems, a 1 Gig Internet connection aims to ensure that speed is never an issue in your home. While this speed isn’t yet available from all providers, or in all markets, we expect to see its popularity and availability continue to grow. Major cable Internet providers currently offering 1 Gig download speeds include Spectrum, Xfinity, Breezeline, Armstrong, Suddenlink, COX, and GCI
Internet Speeds for Checking Email and Browsing the Web
If you are using a minimum number of devices for checking your email, or occasionally browsing the web, an entry level, basic Internet package should meet your needs at a budget-friendly price.
Internet Speeds for Gaming
While most of us focus on download speeds in determining our Internet speed needs, gamers should strongly consider upload speeds as well, as online gaming requires a faster upload speed than most other activities. This is because everything you do in online gaming has to be uploaded to a server for other online players to see and engage with.
Internet Speeds for Streaming
You don’t need to overload your system with bandwidth when light streaming is involved. However, when you stream in 4k resolution or use many devices at once, slow Internet speed can become a problem, resulting in spotty connectivity.

What is the difference between upload and download speed?

  • Download speed: This determines how quickly your Internet connection can get information from the Internet. (For example: loading web pages, playing videos, checking your social media feed, etc.)
  • Upload speed: This determines how quickly your Internet connection can send information from your devices to the Internet (For example: uploading videos to YouTube, sending emails, etc.)

Many basic plans start at up to 25 Mbps. Is that fast enough?

Internet speeds of up to 25 Mbps are on the low end, and we recommend only considering a 25 Mbps plan if you are a light-to-average Internet user. If possible, increase to a plan offering speeds up to 50 Mbps, which can help to ensure a smoother experience if you have company visiting, or are simultaneously running 2 high-bandwidth tasks. 50 Mbps is neither exceptionally slow nor fast, and may be “just right” for average Internet users in a single or two-person household.
25 – 50 Mbps should be fast enough for you if:
  • You have a small household (1-2 people)
  • You engage in light Internet use
  • You occasionally use basic streaming services like Netflix and YouTube
  • You primarily use the Internet to check email, scroll through your social media feed, or browse the web
  • No one in your home is online gaming at high resolution
That said, to account for other issues beyond your control – such as peak internet usage times in your neighborhood – SmartMove recommends looking for a plan with speeds up to 100 Mbps.

Mbps vs Gbps

  • Internet speed is most commonly measured in Megabits per second (Mbps)
  • Gbps means Gigabits per second, with 1 Gigabit being equal to 1000 Megabits. When you see “Gig speed” advertised, it is often the most robust plan available from a given provider, and may only be available in select areas.

What devices in your home actually use the Internet?

You may be surprised to know that most of the electronic devices in your home right now use the Internet to work properly. Most Internet-powered devices latch on to your WiFi signal, so it’s always important to understand how many devices you are currently using, and how many are quietly draining your bandwidth.
  • TV (anytime you use streaming programs like Netflix, Hulu, etc.)
  • Gaming consoles (Xbox, PS4, PC)
  • Security systems
  • Smart devices (Smart outlets, smart thermostats, etc.)
  • Cell phones (When you’re not using your data, you’re using WiFi)
  • Computers, tablets, laptops
Whether you’re looking for a good Internet speed for gaming, heavy streaming, or light everyday usage, top providers in your area are sure to have an Internet package that meets your needs perfectly! Just be sure to revisit your Internet speed needs if the number of users increases, or the bandwidth usage of the tasks you perform and devices you run changes. While many factors can influence the Internet speeds you realize, if you are regularly experiencing performance issues, it may be time to upgrade your plan.  

Disclaimer: The information is provided for general information and educational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice.

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