Internet Speed: Which is Right for Your Home?

Having an Internet connection that allows you to browse online, download files quickly, and stream content makes life easier and more pleasant. If you work from home, you have even more of a need for a fast and reliable Internet connection. The fastest Internet speeds can be expensive, but you don't want to shortchange yourself by setting up a connection that's too slow, either.

What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the top rate at which you can download data to your computer. The larger your bandwidth, the more data you can download in a specific period of time. Bandwidth is measured as bits per second with one byte equaling eight bits and one megabyte equaling eight megabits. A bandwidth connection of one megabit per second will result in a one megabyte file taking eight seconds to download from the Internet.

Typical Bandwidth Needs

The bandwidth provided by an Internet service provider will be divided among all devices using a connection. Thus, the bandwidth needed depends on how you use the Internet and how many devices share the connection. Heavy users who stream videos and music, video chat, and download large files will need sufficient bandwidth to maintain this usage. More moderate users who just perform general Internet surfing and emailing won't need excessive bandwidth. Online gaming, streaming video, uploading and downloading large files, and the need for lightning fast connectivity are also important factors that determine speed needs.

Recommended Internet Speeds

Internet speeds between 100 and 200 Mbps are considered fast and are appropriate for those who need sufficient bandwidth for heavy usage. Mbps stands for megabits per second, and this is the standard measure of bandwidth for home Internet connections. Households with five or more users might need Internet speeds above 200 Mbps and up to 1,000 Mbps. Households with just a few users who perform just regular or minimal Internet usage likely won't need Internet speeds more than 100 Mbps. Regular streaming from a video streaming platform requires 5 Mbps for streaming in standard resolution. Streaming in 4K Ultra HD will require at least 25 Mbps, but 50 Mbps is recommended. Online gaming requires fast upload speeds while playing. Thus, the minimum speed requirements for successful gaming range between 4 and 8 Mbps if no other devices are using bandwidth at the same time. If other devices use bandwidth simultaneously, 25 Mbps would be better.

Upload Speed and Download Speed

Internet service providers typically advertise download speeds only, which denotes the speed users can receive data from the Internet. Downloading data from the Internet is more common than uploading, so service providers tend to give customers faster download speeds than upload speeds. The typical ratio is 1 Mbps of upload bandwidth for 10 Mbps of download bandwidth. Those who must upload large amounts of data to a private server or to the cloud should consider upload speeds carefully. Some Internet service providers give symmetrical bandwidth, which means that both upload and download speeds are the same.

Different Types of Internet Connections and Speeds

The average Internet speed in the United States is 42.86 Mbps. Fiber Internet is the best type of connection for a fast speed, but this type of connection may not be available in smaller communities. Cable Internet is similar in speed to fiber Internet, but too many subscribers might slow connections. DSL Internet is slower than both fiber and cable, but network congestion isn't usually an issue with DSL. Satellite Internet is comparable to DSL, but disruptions are common due to equipment failures and the weather. Fixed wireless Internet is similar to satellite Internet, but the weather doesn't usually disrupt this type of connection. Dial-up Internet is the slowest type of connection, connecting via a landline phone line.

Troubleshooting a Slow Internet Speed

If an Internet connection is slow, it may be due to the type of service or connection. Outdated equipment may contribute to a slow connection. An outdated router or modem that is usually using or as its IP address will slow down a connection, even if you subscribe to a high-speed Internet service. Replace old equipment with a device equipped to handle purchased Internet speeds. Upgrading a service plan may also help improve connection speeds. You might also free up some bandwidth if you reduce heavy Internet usage such as gaming or video streaming.