Internet Bandwidth: How Much Do You Need?
By Nick Anderson 5 minutes
Internet speed is paramount to the online browsing experience. The faster the internet connection, the less time it takes to get things done. The number of devices per household has seen rapid growth over the past decade. As smartphones become more capable each year, users are doing more with their phones than ever before. Movie streaming was something that was reserved for desktop computers, laptops, and televisions. But now, smartphones are one of the leading platforms for the consumption of digital streaming services such as Netflix.
With so many devices running under one roof, and their demands for rich entertainment, there is a growing need for more bandwidth and good internet speed to meet the demands. But it’s not as simple as paying for a better internet package; several factors affect internet speed. Keep on reading.
Factors That Affect Internet Speed
Internet speed can be thought of as the performance of the internet connection. It is time data takes to travel to a destination and back. It’s quite common to confuse internet speed with bandwidth, and vice-versa.
In computing, bandwidth refers to the amount of data that be transferred between devices. Think of it as a highway; the wider the highway, the more cars that can pass through. Whereas, internet speed is the quality of the roads in that analogy. A highway with bumpy roads will experience traffic moving slower than its potential. A smooth tarmac will ensure that traffic moves optimally. So, as we explained above, it’s not as simple subscribing to a better speed package. We need to eliminate factors that are choking the internet speed.
Wireless networks work best when you are close to them. Signals become weak as the distance grows, which can be mitigated by investing in better routers that have a stronger signal range. Dual-band routers support 2.4GHz and 5Ghz frequencies; the latter delivers more bandwidth but has a shorter range. The 5GHz frequency is beneficial for video streaming and online streaming.
If you have a wireless router at a long distance or have several walls in-between, then either sit close to the router or invest in a second router that serves as an extension. A wired connection is always preferred over a wireless connection.
You can learn about how to keep Wi-Fi secure in our blog here.
More devices mean congestion on the network if there isn’t enough bandwidth to satisfy. Something like a 10Mbps connection will choke easily if you have more than 4 devices running simultaneously. It depends entirely on the usage, but it’s expected that at least two devices would have fairly high bandwidth-heavy uses, such as streaming or online gaming.
Quality of the Connection
Fiber optic connection delivers the best performance. If you are using cable internet, then switch over to fiber optics for better internet speed. Your ISP may ask for installation charges and packages may be higher, but it will be worth it in the long run.
How Much Bandwidth Do You Need?
Bandwidth is measured in Mega-Bits Per Second (Mbps) or Giga-Bits Per Second (Gbps) for internet connection. Download speed is measured in Mega-Bytes Per Second (MBps). So, if you have a 20Mbps connection, it does not mean that you will download at the rate of 20MB/s. One byte consists of 8 bits.
So, the actual download speed of an internet connection is always: Connection speed in Mbps divided by 8.
Now that you have the math right, you need to consider how many devices are in the household and their usecases. Mobile phones have lower data consumption than desktops. Websites deliver a mobile-optimized version that is less demanding. Most smartphone screens are limited to 1080p resolution, which means that YouTube and digital streaming services will not step beyond that boundary.
Secondly, internet prices vary from country to country, and even cities. Settling on a package that offers affordability while also satisfying your requirement will play important factors in deciding for an Internet Service Provider. Make it a point to subscribe to internet plans that offer unlimited downloads. Regardless of how little your data consumption may be, unlimited downloads/no cap plans provide the best peace of mind.
A good point of reference is Netflix. A 1080p stream requires 4Mbps, and 4K requires about 10Mbps. If you expect multiple screens to run Netflix in the home, then double the bandwidth. Online gaming is also a major data hog. Although online multiplayer depends more on latency than bandwidth, the latter is still very crucial for a smooth experience. A 12Mbps-15Mbps connection is usually recommended for online gaming.
In a nutshell, a 50Mbps usually more than satisfies the bandwidth requirement of a typical household. But it’s not definitive, and you may do just fine with a 25Mbps connection.
A good way to know how much bandwidth is required is by experience. If everything’s working optimally, but the internet experience is less than optimal, you likely need to upgrade to higher bandwidth. Price is proportional – so striking a balance between bandwidth requirement and monthly cost will resonate with most internet users.