How much internet speed do you need?

We’ve all been there: you grab your big bowl of popcorn, sink into the cozy couch with the family, then press “select” on the remote to fire up your on-demand movie. Unfortunately for many, what happens next is straight out of a horror flick. 

The only thing you see on your screen is the “loading” bar which has barely moved, agonizingly taunting you. As dismay turns into boredom, you’re left sitting in silence except for the sound of footsteps exiting the room. It’s then you realize that (sigh!) family fun night is just not going to happen.

tv-family

A quick look at bandwidth and network speeds.

Slow internet speeds can be more than an inconvenience. In today’s connected world, a slow down in internet service can literally create a buffering traffic jam and affect your everyday life (and Netflix should never have to wait). Let’s take a closer look at some of the factors that can have an effect on your internet connection speed and how you can improve internet performance. 

One major consideration for internet speed is your network bandwidth. We all know the term but what is it exactly? We like Nerd Wallet’s take: “Generally speaking, bandwidth is the maximum rate at which you can download data from the internet to your computer. Think about bandwidth like a water hose. Say you need to fill a 100-gallon tank. If your garden hose puts out only 5 gallons of water per minute, you’ll be waiting 20 minutes to fill the tank. But a huge firehose that puts out a gallon of water every second will fill the tank in less than two minutes. Bandwidth is like the size of the hose. The larger it is, the more data you can pull down in a given time.”1

Speaking of managing data, when it comes to internet service, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends broadband internet speeds of 12 to 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for a household with multiple internet users or for frequent online streaming.2

You should consider, however, that these bandwidth and megabit numbers do not always guarantee a true measure of internet connection speed and what you’ll be able to do with it. Factors such as congestion (too many users for one network) and latency (simply put, a lag time between a signal being sent and a satellite delivering it)  can come into play and have negative effects.3

Also, it is important to remember that high internet connection speed capacities are necessary when multiple people in your household are watching 4K UHD video, and doing other things like streaming audio files, and participating in multi-player interactive gaming. When you factor in these scenarios, the suggested FCC numbers seem low. 

Faster Internet Speeds

The ups and downs of download and upload speeds.

In addition to internet speed, It’s also important to think about download and upload speeds. Download speed is a measure of how quickly your connection can retrieve data from the internet (think web pages, videos, and those adorable photos of Aunt Gertude’s cat in a little Halloween costume). Upload speeds are an indicator of how quickly your internet connection can send data from your devices up to the internet (think uploading a video to YouTube and sending attachments through email, such as a thank-you message to Aunt Gertie). Typically, unless you are dealing with extra large files, upload speeds are not as important as download speeds. 

So how much internet speed is enough? And how can you make sure you always have what you need? The simple answer is it depends on how you’re using it. Let’s take a look at some of the things you do online and how you can make those experiences more productive and enjoyable. 

Ping! Ready to get in the game?

It’s a craze that looks like it’s here to stay, and for over 200 million Americans, it’s crazy fun. Yep, that the number of people across the country who are online gaming on at least one type of device, with more than half of those who online game, playing on multiple platforms.

Three key internet connection factors will affect your online gaming experience relating to internet speed: upload and download speeds (which we’ve discussed) and ping rate, which refers to the span of time from when a message is sent from one location on the internet to another and back.

For one player, a download speed of at least 3 Mbps, an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps, and a ping rate of under 150 ms (milliseconds) should suffice. Here’s the catch: if you have more than one player on the connection, you’ll need to multiply your capacity need. For example, three players would require 9 Mbps of download speed and 3 Mbps of upload speed. Again, having a little more WiFi capacity than you think necessary means you’ll never miss out on the fun. 

From working from home to homework.

Unless you are in a specialized industry that requires handling extremely large data files, working from a home office typically doesn’t require exceptional bandwidth capacity and internet speed.

For example, some common work functions (and their related Mbps requirements) include:<sup>3</sup>

Email with attachment – 1.15 Mbps

File sharing – 0.5 Mbps

Social media - 0.2 Mbps

Messaging – 0.5 Mbps

Streaming webinar – 1.5 Mbps

Video calls (Skype) – 4Mbps

You get the idea. And these numbers apply to your kids’ schoolwork, too. If you are ever in doubt about your bandwidth capacity and internet speed however, you can have a speed test run on your system by your internet service provider (isp) to determine its true capacity. 

In tune – and touch – with technology.

Streaming your favorite music on sites like Pandora, Radio Paradise, TIDAL, and Spotify require about 3 Mbps for high-quality sound. If you are watching a streaming video site such as YouTube, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu, videos in HD video quality require a minimum of 5 to 6 Mbps of connection speed, but the faster the better. Again, these speeds are based on single-person usage on an internet connection. 

So, can home movie night be saved?

Let’s go back to the scenario we started with. How can we make sure there are no more WiFi download or streaming snafus with movie night? Well, Netflix recommends that you have at least a 5 Mbps download speed for standard HD video, and a 25 Mbps download speed for 4K (Ultra HD) content. Sounds simple enough, right? 

But, as we have discussed, you should also take into account how many people are using your WiFi connection at one time. If Johnny is upstairs with his gaming buddies saving the universe on his WiFi connected smartphone with the latest interactive video game and other online activities, this means more users on – and more bandwidth used – on your WiFi connection. To be safe, it’s always better to have bandwidth, upload and download capabilities that well exceed your anticipated needs and that way you’ll never be disappointed. 

In fact, many broadband experts agree that to be sure you can always download and stream 4K UHD, large music files, and play interactive multi-player games, a minimum of 100 Mbps is good, 200+ Mbps is better5, and 1 Gbps (gigabits per second) means you are prepared for virtually anything you would need to do on the internet both now and in the near future.6

Suddenlink to the rescue.

So are all of the Mbps facts and figures and talk of isps starting to feel a little overwhelming? We get it. You shouldn’t have to worry about internet speeds and the way you use your internet on an everyday basis – that’s the point of technology, right? 

Thankfully there’s an affordable high-speed Suddenlink internet plan that’s perfect for your fiber-optic needs and every digital lifestyle. You and your family will enjoy all of your movies, games, music and more without missing a beat thanks to our superior bandwidth and fiber optics capabilities and outstanding customer service. 

Leave the technology to us and we’ll seamlessly supply you with everything you need with the best internet connection to make the most of the things you love. Oh, and movie night? It’s back on!

1 https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/utilities/how-to-decide-what-internet-speed-you-need/

2 https://www.fcc.gov/reports-research/guides/broadband-speed-guide

3 https://searchnetworking.techtarget.com/definition/Mbps

4 https://help.netflix.com/en/node/306

5 https://broadbandnow.com/guides/how-much-internet-speed-do-i-need

6 https://www.tomsguide.com/us/gig-speed-internet,review-5134.html