How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?
To put it briefly, Internet speeds in the 100–200 Mbps range are ideal for most households since they can handle common uses like streaming and video chat for 2–5 users at once. However, there are a number of factors that should also be considered — especially for use cases like home offices and gaming, where upload capacity for files and reaction time for user actions is particularly important.
Along with upload speeds, latency, and your location, another factor to consider is your WiFi network. The average WiFi speed you experience around your home will generally be anywhere from 20–50% below the advertised download speed, due to wireless interference and fade as you move further from the router. With that being said, it’s important to choose a speed slightly faster than what you need to account for network slowdowns.
While each household will have their own definition of what a good internet speed is based on their needs, here are a few simple guidelines on different speeds and what they can handle:
|Internet Speed||Users Supported||Speed Summary|
|500 Mbps||5+||Very Fast|
To get a quick recommendation based on the number of users and devices in your home, take a look at our bandwidth calculation tool. If you already have WiFi and are having slower than normal speeds, try troubleshooting your WiFi ,or consider learning how to extend your WiFi network.
In this article, we will help you to determine how much internet speed you need based on how many internet users are in your home and how they use the internet.
Mbps stands for “Megabits per second.” This is the standard measure of “speed” or “bandwidth” on home internet connections. It measures how many bits (units of digital information) can be transferred each second. You’ll normally see speeds ranging from 10–1,000 Mbps advertised for home internet plans.
How Much Speed Do I Really Need?
Here are some general download speed requirements based on everyday online activities:
- Check email and browse the web: 1-5 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 very large files: 200+ Mbps minimum
What is a Good Internet Speed?
Any internet connection above 25 Mbps is a good internet speed. The FCC currently defines a “broadband” internet connection as one that provides at least 25 Mbps for download speed and 3 Mbps for upload. This is a decent benchmark for the average family of three; however, larger households of 3-5 people should consider speeds closer to the 100–200 Mbps range.
In order to be a “good” internet speed, the connection has to meet the needs of the household, which will vary based on number of devices connected and how many people use the connection at once.
The experience using an internet connection depends on several factors:
- How many devices are connected and in use simultaneously?
- How many people are streaming video from Netflix, YouTube, or another service?
- Are you using your home WiFi for competitive online gaming?
- Do you frequently need to send large files for work?
- Do you regularly stream 4k video, or do you mostly stick to simple online tasks?
- 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 are using your home WiFi for nothing but web browsing and email, you might feel that you have fast internet with only 10 Mbps.
On the other hand, someone who streams 4k video on multiple devices, plays video games online, and has smart home IoT devices, may not be satisfied with even 100 Mbps. They should look at fiber options like those offered by AT&T Fiber or Frontier FiberOptic which offers higher uploads speeds than other common connections like cable and DSL.
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 Los Angeles, San Diego, or Brooklyn.
What is a Fast Internet Speed?
By most definitions, anything above 100 Mbps is considered “fast.” Once you start getting close to 1000 Mbps, the internet plan is called a “gigabit” service.
If you’re wondering why anyone would ever need a 1000+ Mbps download or upload speed, the answer is pretty simple: most of us don’t (though that may change in the future). That said, these sorts of speeds may be worth it for techies, gamers, streamers, and large households.
What Is the Difference Between Upload and Download Speed?
If you don’t know the difference between upload and download speeds, here is a simple breakdown:
- Download speed: how quickly your Internet connection can retrieve data from the Internet (web pages, video, cat photos, etc.)
- Upload speed: how quickly your Internet connection can send data from your devices up to the Internet (uploading video to YouTube, sending documents via email, etc.)
When you see the advertised speed of an internet plan, what you usually see is the download speed. Frequently, the upload speed isn’t visible at first, or it appears in a much smaller size at the bottom.
Download speed is much more important for the average user, since you only notice upload speed when trying to share large files. It is 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?
A 25 Mbps plan can be referred to as the “Goldilocks” of internet plans. It is neither too fast or too slow. For a small household of light internet users, you won’t suffer from frustrating lag or be paying for bandwidth that you don’t need.
Here are some things you can expect from 25 Mbps:
- Stream Netflix and YouTube at 1080p on one or two devices without buffering
- Play most online games without lag
- Almost zero wait time for loading most webpages
So, is 25 Mbps fast?
For a small household that isn’t doing intense streaming on multiple devices or gaming at high-resolution, 25 Mbps is relatively fast. For larger households or for internet users that need 4k resolution, 25 Mbps may still not be enough. The biggest factor here will be the number of devices being used at a time. Almost any household can get away with 25 Mbps as long as the number of users/devices online at a time is limited. For example, 3-4 people could stream in HD with a 25 Mbps connection, but anyone else trying to get online will likely experience a slow connection.
Best Internet Speeds For Streaming
Basic streaming does not require very much bandwidth. However, when you start to stream in 4k resolution or stream on many devices at once, you will need a much larger internet package.
How Much Internet Speed Do I Need for Netflix?
In general, streaming video on platforms such as Netflix or YouTube TV requires 3-5 Mbps to stream in HD.
If you want to stream in 4k Ultra HD, you will need a minimum of 25 Mbps. However, streaming even one video in 4k HD may use up all of your available bandwidth. For that reason, if you like high-definition video and you have more than one device connected at a time, we recommend a speed of 50 Mbps or more.
For instance, say you have a 25 Mbps down 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 is split across all of the devices connected to the network. So, a 25 Mbps plan may only be providing 10-15 Mbps to Netflix — depending on how many devices are taking a “slice.”
Also, using WiFi will always be slower than a hardwired connection. Trying to stream over WiFi 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 the router with an ethernet cable whenever possible.
- When streaming over WiFi, position the streaming device as close to the router as possible, with no physical barriers like walls or furniture between them. This will help you achieve a more stable connection.
Use our bandwidth calculator to get an estimate of the speed you actually need to stream on multiple devices at home.
Best Internet Speed for Gaming
Online gaming is one of the few activities that require a fast upload speed. This is because the actions that you perform 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 4-8 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 you are the only one at home, a 25 Mbps internet plan is recommended for smooth gaming. However, speed isn’t the only thing that matters in gaming: ping and latency play a role as well.
Ping and Latency: Does It 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 is a measurement of how quickly you can “ping” the server you are trying to reach.
So, is latency a real concern when deciding which service provider to choose from?
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 and is more susceptible to interference than wired internet connections (i.e. cable, DSL, and fiber). Competitive gamers serious about getting the best connection will definitely want to look into minimizing this number by either upgrading to a cable or fiber internet connection or 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 1000+ Mbps.
- One Mbps: one Megabit per second
- One Gbps: one Gigabit per second, or one thousand Megabits. (1 Gbps is the maximum for most home Internet plans, so you will often see fiber providers advertise “gigabit service” or “gig speed.”)
An average mp3 song in your iTunes ranges from 3 to 5 megabytes, whereas a 4K movie or tv show can be several gigabytes, so it’s important 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 1024 GigaBytes (GB).”
MB vs GB: What’s the Difference?
This is confusing for non-techies, but to put it simply:
- MB: MegaByte (a million bytes of data)
- GB: = GigaByte (a billion bytes of data)
You will 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 not available after exceeding the stated amount) or soft-capped, meaning you will simply experience slower speeds — and potentially, additional charges.
Why Does Internet Speed Vary Per Location?
You may notice a certain company offering fast speeds in the subdivision adjacent yours…
…only to search your internet options and find they can’t provide the same speed for your street.
This can be frustrating.
Regardless of which type of service you are interested in, your physical connection has to go somewhere central before it can move on to the wider 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 have an impact on the speed of service a particular company is able to offer. Remember, though — just because one provider can only offer a certain speed, that doesn’t necessarily mean all of them are limited in the same way.
If you live in an area where there are several services to choose from, check the speeds offered by other ISPs in your area before setting an install date.
How Can I Calculate My Upload and Download Speed?
If you already have existing service but aren’t sure how fast it actually 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.
The Bottom Line: 25 Mbps Is the Minimum Speed for Modern Households
So how much speed do you need? If you don’t have time to dig into the details, just make sure you get a plan with at least 25 Mbps download speed. For most people, this is “good enough.”
However, plans are constantly changing, sometimes offering faster speeds for lower prices. We recommend getting the fastest plan your preferred provider offers under $100/month — especially since it’s possible to get gigabit fiber internet for only $60-$70/month.
For more detailed recommendations based on your specific household size and number of devices, visit our Internet speed calculator.