You Need More Internet Bandwidth Than You Think

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Most of us don’t know much about our internet connections. There are a lot of options (cable, fiber, satellite) at different price-points and with different bandwidth offerings. But how do you know how much you need? Well, you probably don’t. In fact, you probably need more internet bandwidth than you think.

Think of all the things we do online all day, everyday, on multiple devices. Scrolling through social media, watching Netflix, Zoom-ing for work, gaming with friends…it adds up, and your basic 5 Mbps plan doesn’t cut it. Here’s how to figure out how much bandwidth you really need.

Bandwidth Is Dictated By Users, Frequency, and Online Habits

The very first aspect that will determine how much bandwidth you need is the number of internet users in your household. It makes sense that one person will have different needs than a 4-person household, but the other thing you should be looking at is what kind of user you are.

What are your household’s usage habits? Are you the kind of person who has Netflix on all the time in the background while you’re downloading something on your computer and Facetiming a friend on your phone? Are all the users in your household like that? Or do you only use the internet for work purposes? The amount of internet bandwidth you need will be very different depending on the amount of users and whether they’re light users or heavy users.

There’s also the matter of frequency of use. Someone who’s online everyday needs more bandwidth than someone who uses the internet once a week. It may feel like you’re not online a lot, but when you think about it, a lot of your everyday activities are probably online, whether it’s paying bills, or sending memes on a group chat.

You Don’t Get As Much As Advertised

One thing most people aren’t aware of is that you don’t actually get the speed that’s advertised in the package you’re paying for. What they’re selling you is a maximum potential speed, but in reality, expect to enjoy way less bandwidth. Your top speed will also be impacted by the capabilities of your equipment.

That means that you need to adjust your expectations and your internet package accordingly. Figuring out your current internet speed is a great start. That’ll give you an idea of what you’re paying for, what you’re actually getting, and how much you might actually need.

What Do You Use The Internet For?

What you use the internet for is the most important determining factor in choosing how much bandwidth you need. How much do you use for each activity? Probably more than you think. Let’s look at some common online activities and how much you need for each.

Light use: 10-15Mbps – Browsing social media, emailing, online shopping

Most internet users fall into this category of light use, typically on mobile devices. You scroll through Facebook, send emails for work, order stuff from Amazon from time to time, and generally spend time reading blogs and websites and looking up various things.

For this level of usage, for one person, you need around 5 Mbps. If there are more users in your household, you probably need to bump your plan up to 10 or 15 Mbps, just to make sure everyone is covered.

Light-moderate use: 15-25 Mbps – Video conferencing

With the changes over the past year, it’s safe to say that most people have upgraded their user status and their bandwidth plans. Video conferences have become a mainstay in most households, whether for work purposes, school, or personal use.

For crystal clear video conferencing, you need a stable connection, and 5 Mbps may suffice. But if there are other users online at the same time, or if you’re also emailing or doing other work, you might want to up that to 10 or even 20 Mbps, depending on how many users are active and what they’re doing.

If conferencing is part of your everyday work schedule, the last thing you want is lagging or screen freezes, so it’s worth upping the bandwidth.

Moderate use: 10-40 Mbps – Streaming

Ever since YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and other video streaming websites have essentially replaced television, the number of streaming users has skyrocketed. That means their internet bandwidth needs also went up.

To stream effectively, you need a stable connection and constant speed. Bandwidth recommendations will differ from one provider to another, but you’re looking at 4-5 Mbps and up for a stable stream with no lagging at the lowest quality, for one screen.

If you add more viewers into the mix, and you’re looking for high-definition streaming, then bump that up to 10, 20, and even up to 40 Mbps for a seamless viewing experience across the board.

Heavy use: 50+ Mbps – Downloading

If you’re going to be downloading frequently, then your bandwidth needs go up even more. Large files demand a lot of bandwidth and they can cause lagging in every device in your household if your current plan doesn’t match your bandwidth needs.

For regular downloading while also being able to sustain other online activities, you’re looking at a bandwidth plan of 50+ Mbps. This exceeds most people’s current contracts, but a growing number of users – particularly younger ones – are heavy users.

Bottom line

As you can see, determining your bandwidth needs is a little more complicated than just picking out the cheapest internet plan. Bandwidth requirements are dictated by the number of users, frequency of use, and most importantly, online activity. Light users can get away with around 10 Mbps, but if you’re one of the growing number of remote workers who rely on your online connection to video conference, or you’re an avid Netflix user, then your needs will be significantly higher.

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