How Much Internet Speed Do You Need?

Find out what internet speeds are enough to handle your home’s daily activities.

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Last Updated: Jun 5, 2024
Abstract visual representing an interconnected society
Internet speed requirements have changed dramatically over the past five years as we find new ways to stay more connected than ever before.
  • Download speeds up to 25 Mbps are considered the bare minimum download speeds in the U.S., but we recommend aiming for 200 Mbps or above.
  • You typically get lower speeds in practice than you pay for, so you often need more than you’d think for a stable connection.
  • Factors like working from home, gaming, and streaming in 4K all influence the upload and download speeds you ultimately need.

No magic formula can tell you how much internet speed you need. However, several factors should be considered — especially for home offices and gaming, where upload capacity for files and reaction times are critical.

Along with upload speeds, latency, and your location, another factor to consider is your Wi-Fi network. The average Wi-Fi speed you experience around your home will generally be 20 – 50 percent below the advertised download speed due to wireless interference and will fade as you move farther from the router.

That said, it’s worth considering a speed slightly faster than you need to account for network slowdowns. Each household will have its own definition of a good internet speed based on their needs. To help you determine yours, we built the bandwidth calculator tool below:

Bandwidth Calculator

Bandwidth Calculator

How much bandwidth is right for you?

Check out our bandwidth calculator tool to understand what your household needs to run at its most optimal.

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If you already have Wi-Fi and are experiencing slower-than-normal speeds, try troubleshooting your Wi-Fi or consider learning how to extend your Wi-Fi network.

We’ll help you determine how much internet speed you need based on how many internet users are in your home and how they use the internet.

How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?

Here are some general download speed requirements based on everyday online activities:

  • Check email and browse the web: 2 – 5 Mbps minimum
  • Stream HD content: 15 – 25 Mbps minimum
  • Stream 4K content and play competitive online games: 40 – 100 Mbps minimum
  • Stream 4K content, play online games, and download large files: 200+ Mbps minimum

Remember that the above minimums don’t necessarily mean you’ll be getting the optimal experience. Sure, 5 Mbps will let you browse the web, but you’ll be extremely limited in what you can do, especially with more than one person trying to get online.

What’s a Good Internet Speed?

Visual representation of a contemporary home, with an overlay of circuit-like connections showing the network of devices
Every connected item in your home has the potential to eat up bandwidth, from smart TVs to connected thermostats, lighting, security systems, and more.

A connection in the 200 – 300 Mbps range is ideal for many modern households where multiple people rely on the internet daily. Americans agree — a shocking 81 percent of households now subscribe to a plan faster than 200 Mbps, according to data from OpenVault.

What’s considered “good” internet speed depends on several factors:

  • How many devices are connected and in use simultaneously?
  • How many people are streaming videos from Netflix, YouTube, or another service?
  • Are you using your home Wi-Fi for gaming?
  • Do you frequently need to send large files for work?
  • Do you stream 4K videos or mostly do simply send emails?
  • Do you get frustrated easily if your game lags or your webpage takes a while to load?

As you can see, good internet speed can mean something different for every household. For instance, if you use your home Wi-Fi for nothing but web browsing and email, you might feel that you have fast internet with only 25 Mbps.

On the other hand, someone who streams 4K video on multiple devices, plays video games online, and has smart home IoT (Internet of Things) devices may not be satisfied with even 200 Mbps.

The FCC currently defines a “broadband” connection as one that provides at least 25 Mbps for download speed and 3 Mbps for upload. In our view, this benchmark is vastly outdated, and depending on your usage habits, it’s probably no longer enough for most households.

It’s worth mentioning that the range of performance you can get is somewhat relative to your location. Rural areas in states like California and even New York often have much lower speeds (around 25 Mbps) and fewer options when compared to urban centers within the state, which typically have 100+ Mbps plans available, such as in Los Angeles, San Diego, or Brooklyn.

What’s Considered Fast Internet?

By most definitions, anything above 100 Mbps is considered “fast.” Once you reach 1 Gbps (1,000 Mbps) or above, the internet plan is called a “gigabit” service.

If you’re wondering why anyone would ever need a 1 Gbps or higher download or upload speed, the answer is pretty simple: Most of us don’t (though that may change in the near future). That said, these sorts of speeds may be worth it for techies, gamers, streamers, and large households.

What’s the Difference Between Upload and Download Speed?

If you don’t know the difference between upload and download speeds, here’s a simple breakdown:

  • Download speed (↓): how quickly your internet connection can retrieve data from the internet (webpages, streaming video, cat photos, etc.)
  • Upload speed (↑): how quickly your internet connection can send data from your devices up to the internet (uploading videos to YouTube, video conferencing on Zoom, etc.)

When you see the advertised speed of an internet plan, you’re usually looking at the download speed. Companies don’t typically advertise upload speeds. Download speed tends to be more relevant for the average user since you rely on it more often for basic tasks. However, this relationship is quickly changing with the rise of remote work and more demanding real-time applications.

It’s normal for your upload speed to be around one-tenth your download speed. However, fiber internet users often have symmetrical (or identical) download and upload speeds.

How Fast Is 25 Mbps?

For someone looking for the bare minimum to get online, a 25 Mbps plan is the Goldilocks of internet plans — it’s not too fast nor too slow. It’ll get the job done for a small household of light internet users, and you probably won’t suffer from frustrating lag or pay for bandwidth you don’t need.

Here are some things you can expect from 25 Mbps:

  • Stream Netflix and YouTube in HD on one or two devices without prolonged buffering
  • Play most casual online games without noticeable lag
  • Almost zero wait time for loading most webpages

So, is 25 Mbps fast?

In the not-so-distant past, 25 Mbps was considered more than sufficient for the average household. However, the digital landscape has evolved rapidly. Modern applications, with their high-resolution content, real-time interactivity, and data-intensive operations, are pushing the boundaries of what was once deemed “fast” internet.

The rise of 4K streaming, augmented and virtual reality applications, and the proliferation of IoT devices have all exponentially increased the demand for bandwidth. Moreover, with remote work and online education becoming the new norm, multiple users are simultaneously accessing data-heavy applications in a single household.

As a result, what was once a luxury in terms of speed is now becoming a necessity, and 25 Mbps may no longer suffice for the modern digital household.

Best Internet Speeds for Streaming

Image of a person holding a touch screen phone and watching a video.
While 5 Mbps is the minimum download speed for watching HD Netflix, you’ll often need more for a stable experience.

Basic streaming doesn’t actually require much from your connection. However, when you stream in 4K resolution or on many devices simultaneously, your bandwidth needs quickly rise.

Almost all streaming services have a dynamic resolution feature that will alter the quality of your content on the fly to try and accommodate your connection. As a result, the faster and more reliable your connection is, the better your overall experience will be.

How Much Internet Speed Do I Need for Netflix?

At a bare minimum, streaming videos on platforms like Netflix or YouTube TV requires a 3 – 5 Mbps download speed.

If you want to stream in 4K Ultra HD, you’ll need a minimum of 25 Mbps. However, streaming even one video in 4K HD may use up your available bandwidth. Therefore, if you like HD video and have more than one device connected at a time, we recommend a speed of 50 Mbps or higher.

For instance, say you have a 25 Mbps connection speed. If the total capacity of your internet connection was a pie, each device on the network gets a “slice.”

Your total potential speed splits across all devices connected to the network. So, a 25 Mbps plan may only provide 10 – 15 Mbps on Netflix — depending on how many devices take a “slice.”

Also, using Wi-Fi will always be slower than a hardwired connection. Trying to stream over Wi-Fi can produce less-than-stellar results.

Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to ensure that you’re maximizing your chances of a trouble-free streaming experience:

  • Connect your streaming devices to your router with an Ethernet cable whenever possible.
  • When streaming over Wi-Fi, position the streaming device as close to the router as possible, with no physical barriers like walls or furniture between them. This placement will help you achieve a more stable connection.

Use our bandwidth calculator tool to estimate the speed you need to stream on multiple devices at home.

Best Internet Speed for Gaming

Online gaming is one of the activities that genuinely benefits from a fast upload speed. This is because your actions in-game are uploaded to a server for other players to view and interact with.

How Much Internet Speed Do I Need for Gaming?

Minimum internet speed requirements for gaming are usually around 15+ Mbps, if nobody else in the house is using up your bandwidth. Unfortunately, slower internet plans such as these may not give you the upload speed you need for a consistently good experience.

If gaming is something you do a lot of, then you know how annoying it can be to wait hours to download the latest releases. Games have exploded in size in recent years, with many of the latest AAA games like “Call of Duty” and “Starfield” being hundreds of gigabytes in size. As a result, the best internet for gaming will often offer 100 Mbps or more in download speed (and ideally, upload speed).

However, speed isn’t the only thing that matters in gaming: Ping and latency also play a role.

Ping and Latency: Do They Matter?

Latency is a measurement of the amount of time it takes for data to be transmitted from one point to another. Ping is often used interchangeably to describe this, but in fact, a “ping” is simply the act of hailing a certain receiver. Under this definition, latency measures how quickly you can “ping” the server you are trying to reach.

So, is latency a genuine concern when picking your internet service provider (ISP)?

Honestly, the majority of users will likely not be impacted by latency. Latency is more of an issue for satellite internet users, as it takes longer for data to travel on a satellite internet connection. Satellite internet is also more susceptible to interference than wired internet connections (i.e., cable, DSL, and fiber).

Competitive gamers serious about getting the best connection will need to minimize their latency by upgrading to a cable or fiber internet connection, or by connecting their gaming device directly to their modem/router.

Mbps vs. Gbps: What’s the Difference?

Internet speeds are measured in “Megabits per second,” often abbreviated as “Mbps.” These commonly range anywhere from 1 Mbps up to 1,000 Mbps.

  • 1 Mbps: 1 megabit per second
  • 1 Gbps: 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second (1 Gbps is the maximum for many home internet plans, so you’ll often see fiber providers advertise “gigabit service” or “gig speed.”)

An average song download ranges from 3 – 5 MB, whereas a 4K movie or TV show can be several gigabytes, so it’s essential to gauge the types of speeds you’ll need accordingly.

Bits vs. Bytes

The amount of data you use is measured in bytes, while the speed you can move data is measured in bits. For example:

“The average cable internet plan has a download speed of 150 megabits per second (Mbps), and a data cap of 1,024 gigabytes (GB).”

MB vs. GB: What’s the difference?

Megabytes are smaller than gigabytes. To put it simply:

  • MB: megabyte (a million bytes of data)
  • GB: gigabyte (a billion bytes of data)

You’ll likely see the term GB used in conjunction with data caps, which some providers use to limit the amount of data you can consume. These can either be hard-capped (service is unavailable after exceeding the stated amount) or soft-capped, meaning you’ll experience slower speeds — and potentially, additional charges.

Why Does Internet Speed Vary by Location?

You may notice a particular company offering fast speeds in the subdivision adjacent to yours — only to search your internet options and find they can’t provide the same speed for your street. This division can be frustrating.

Regardless of what type of service you’re interested in, your physical connection has to go somewhere central before it can move on to the broader network that forms the backbone of the internet. For DSL and cable, this central location is the provider’s office or joining node, and for fiber, a central switch.

No matter the specifics, the physical distance between your home and these meeting points can impact the speed of service a particular company can offer. Remember, though — just because one provider can only provide a certain speed doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are limited in the same way.

If you live in an area with several services, check the speeds offered by other ISPs in your area before setting an install date.

How Can I Calculate My Upload and Download Speed?

Visualization of a broadband speed test result showing a slow speed
Use our speed test tool to check your upload, download, and other key internet performance metrics.

If you already have an existing service but aren’t sure how fast it is, you can find out using our speed test tool.

Essentially, this service works by sending test samples of data to various remote servers, the same way you would when browsing the web. We then display the average upload and download speeds of those individual pieces of data, allowing you to get a good idea of what you’re working with.

Users Have Spoken: 200+ Mbps Is the Standard for Modern Households

So how much speed do you need? If you don’t have time to dig into the details and want the cheapest possible internet, just make sure you get a plan with at least 50 Mbps download speed. For most people, this is “good enough.”

However, plans are constantly changing, sometimes offering faster speeds for lower prices. Aiming for a plan that offers 200+ Mbps download and higher upload speeds to match will give you the best experience.

In general, we recommend getting the fastest plan your preferred provider offers for under $100 per month — especially since it’s possible to get gigabit fiber internet for only $60 – $70 per month. In the end, the right speed for your household will depend on your activities, devices, users, location, and budget.