Slow internet is horrible. That is something we can all agree on. It is excruciatingly painful trying to browse or stream using a slow internet connection. But on the other hand, a faster internet can be a huge drain on your pocket. You need to find the perfect midpoint between Buffering and Wait, how much do Spectrum internet packages cost again? In other words, the fastest internet possible at the lowest cost possible. But first, you need to understand how the internet works.
What is Bandwidth?
In layman terms, the maximum rate at which data can be downloaded to your computer from the internet is called bandwidth. Generally, the more bandwidth you have, the more data you can download in a given time period. The unit of measurement for bandwidth is bits per second. This is not to be confused with bytes, which is a measure of file size. 8 bits make up 1 byte, making 1 megabyte (MB) equivalent to 8 megabits. To put things in perspective, a 1 megabit per second connection will download a file of size 1MB in 8 seconds. On the same connection, a 6MB mp3 file will download in 48 seconds. Downloading a 5GB movie using the same connection will take 11 hours.
So how much do we need?
How much bandwidth you require depends on your specific internet usage. If you have an internet connection for your home, the bandwidth gets divided between all the devices connected to it. Say you are streaming a movie, your wife is refreshing her Instagram and your son is downloading a video game. You need enough bandwidth to keep all three of you happy.
The biggest consumer of the internet is usually video streaming. So, if your household has several people who stream on Netflix, Hulu or elsewhere, you may need to get more bandwidth. Netflix suggests a 3Mbps connection for standard quality streaming on one screen. It recommends 5Mbps for HD streaming. Two screens simultaneously streaming in HD would require 10Mbps and so forth.
Online Video Games
Typically, online games do not require significant bandwidth. However, downloading games is just like downloading huge files. This will take up a huge amount of bandwidth, so if you’re simultaneously downloading and playing, you need significant bandwidth. All online games require more upload speed than download speed, so that’s mostly what you need to focus on.
Frequent File Sharing
There is one easy fix for frequent file sharers. You can easily schedule your downloads for times when more bandwidth is free and network demand is low. This is usually late at night. However, frequent file sharers will most probably have to opt for a higher speed.
If the bulk of your internet usage is checking social media, emails and general surfing, then you don’t need a significant amount of bandwidth. Even a 1Mbps connection will serve sufficiently well.
Breaking it Down
The internet speed you require is based on your needs. Here are some of the most common needs and the internet speeds they require:
- General/minimal surfing only requires about 1Mbps
- Online Gaming would require between 1 to 3Mbps
- Video Conferencing would require good upload speeds, a connection between 1 to 4Mbps should suffice
- Standard-quality video streaming on one screen needs around 3 to 4Mbps
- HD video streaming for one screen needs 5 to 8Mbps connection
- Frequent large files being shared or downloaded require 50Mbps and above
- Your own available bandwidth will determine what speed is divided between all the connected devices in your household.
- Network demands from other households during a given time influence the availability of network bandwidth. Households roughly follow the same internet usage pattern across the country, and periods of high demand do happen often. High network demand means slower speeds for you. It is entirely possible for you to get more than the advertised speeds. This usually happens when there is low network demand from other subscribers to your provider.
- Incompatible hardware, outdated routers can choke your available speed. It's best to use more contemporary 802.11g routers that connect at speeds up to 54Mbps. Even with poor reception, they make your speeds faster than outdated routers.
- The infrastructure quality of your service provider matters a lot. Providers with a larger network spread tend to be more cognizant of problems with their speeds.