Your internet speed dictates how quickly and efficiently you enjoy everything the internet has to offer. Whether you’re doing research, connecting with your friends and family, watching videos of cats, or playing games, how quickly you can connect to and download content dictates how engaging your experience is. No one enjoys watching a spinning wheel as your device slowly opens a web page, downloads your favorite movie, or launches your favorite video game.
To get the speed you need, you’re probably going to be paying an internet service provider a significant price. Even after a hefty fee, you don’t always get the speed you want or think you’re paying for. Before you commit to an internet service provider, pay attention to the broadband speed they’re quoting you. Your broadband speed is what determines how quickly you can move around the internet and download content.
Types of Internet Speeds and Why You Want Them Fast
Internet speed dictates how quickly you can do things online, like download movies, play multiplayer online games, and email large attachments. Broadband controls that speed, and if you’re not careful, you might accidentally sign up for a speed that can’t handle your needs.
Before you choose the wrong internet package, understand that there are two different types of internet speeds.
Download speed is how much data you can take from the server. You can download TV shows, images, music, email attachments and more. Different content that you try to download has diverse data requirements. Streaming Netflix in high definition requires a faster download speed than watching standard-definition movies.
Your upload speed is how quickly you can transmit data through the internet. Upload speeds are typically slower than download speeds because most people do more downloading than uploading in their day-to-day lives.
Just because an internet service provider advertises download speeds of 300Mbps does not mean you will always have those speeds. The provider means that you will get “up to” 300Mbps at any one time. Speeds will fluctuate depending on congestion in your network.
What About Bandwidth
Bandwidth is different than internet speed. Bandwidth speed equals your individual capacity for internet connection. During peak hours, when everyone is online at the same time, it is difficult to get enough bandwidth to meet your needs. However, during normal or low times, you likely have more than enough bandwidth for what you’re doing.
When multiple people are streaming the latest Netflix series in high definition at the same time, your internet will struggle to find enough bandwidth so that everyone can have the speed they want or need. This is when you experience buffering.
Types of Internet Connections and Which is the Best
If you recently moved and you need to sign a contract with an internet service provider, you might have only one choice. There may be a regional cable and internet provider, or you might have multiple choices, including cable, fiber, DSL, or satellite.
Cable provides internet to your home through coaxial wiring, which allows transmission of high-speed internet. If you sign up for a cable package, coaxial wiring also offers high definition cable TV channels. Most houses are already wired to accept a cable connection for the internet, making it a popular and typically easy option.
Fiber is currently the fastest connection available. Fiber delivers the internet through fiber-optic wires that allow for super-sonic internet transmission. If you have the option of a fiber connection where you live, it is the best choice you can make. The most significant barrier to widespread fiber adoption is that its availability is currently limited. Most homes around the US are not already set up to receive fiber internet.
DSL, or Digital Subscriber Line, is better than old fashioned dial-up, and uses wiring similar to phone lines to connect your home to the internet. DSL is much slower than fiber and cable but is still used to deliver broadband to many communities throughout the US.
Satellite is a decent option if you live in hard-to-reach geographical areas where other connections aren’t available or possible. Satellite internet can give you up to 25Mbps at a constant speed. Most households require more than 25Mbps, especially for movie watching and game playing.
Required Speeds for Gaming and Streaming
If you’re playing on a PC or Mac, you can get a better, more consistent speed using your Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi. There is more reliability through an Ethernet cable, which is what most gamers want. For PC games, you typically need at least 10Mbps for downloading and 2Mbps for uploading.
If you’re using gaming consoles like PS4 or Xbox, you want 15Mbps as a minimum. However, if you’re downloading and playing digital content, you’re better off going with the fastest internet you can afford.
If you’re less worried about gaming speeds and more interested in streaming Netflix all evening, you should pick the right speeds for the video quality you want. Standard definition videos (480p) require a minimum of 3Mbps. High definition videos (720p or 1080p) need up to 10Mbps. 4K videos, which are currently the highest quality, require more than 25Mbps.
All of the listed speeds, whether for gaming or streaming, are for one user. If there are multiple people gaming and streaming at one time, you need even faster speeds.
Best Speed for You
If you’re still not sure which speed is correct for your household, consider how you plan to use it. For households who are more about staying relevant on social media, online shopping, and sending emails, you can typically get away with 25Mbps.
If there is more than one person in your home who will plan to email, post on social media, and stream Netflix at the same time, consider investing in 50Mbps speeds.
Households that plan to have one or more people streaming in high definition, playing games, and downloading content should aim for 100Mbps or more.
Checking Your Speed and Fixing Slow Internet
There are a lot of options for checking your internet speed. On a smartphone, you can find tons of reputable apps that can test your speed. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use various websites on your PC to check the speed.
Speed isn’t what you thought you were paying for? Before you get angry and call your service provider, check whether you have outdated equipment that you can upgrade. Next, make sure that your router is in the optimal position for faster speeds and then reset the hardware.
Speed still isn’t there? Now is the time to call your internet service provider. Schedule an appointment for a technician to come to your home and inspect your set up and equipment to determine the problem. Your service provider will almost always have a fix.