You are planning to Netflix and Chill with your friends. Or you want to organize an online gaming marathon. In either case, you need a good internet connection with decent speed. But how much internet speed do I need? Is 100Mbps sufficient or do I need to upgrade my plan? What’s better: Fiber or Cable? Can I stream on multiple devices simultaneously? These questions (and other similar ones) are very common now-a-days. In this guide, let us take a closer look at different types of Internet Connections. We will draw an Internet Speed Comparison Chart. Finally, see how much internet speed you need for your home needs.
Internet Speed and Its Measurement
We live in a World connected by the Internet. A guy sitting in a basement in Chicago can play an online game with another guy in Tokyo. A dad who is in Sydney for work can video call his daughter in London. Modern high-speed internet is making such things possible.
But what exactly is this Internet Speed? How do we measure it? Before answering these questions, you need to understand the basic layout of the internet. Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) gives you a wire to connect to the internet. It can be fiber, ethernet or coaxial cable.
This wire goes from your house to the ISP and connects to a local server. This local server serves users like you in your region/area. There will be another server for another area. All these local servers connect to a regional server.
Multiple such regional servers interlink together to form a bigger national server. Similarly, we can expand higher tiers of servers on a country level as well as the entire World. This is an over simplification of the architecture of Internet. But if you get the idea, then well and good.
Units of Measurement
Now, coming back to Internet Speeds, it is the rate at which you can transmit data to the server (your local server). As all the communication is digital, we only talk about bits and bytes. We measure internet speed by the number of bit or bytes we transfer in a specific period (one second).
Bit is the basic digital data unit. It has only two possible values: 1 and 0. A group of 8-bits becomes a Byte. As internet is capable of transferring multiple hundreds and thousands of bits in a second, we scaled up the numbers into Kilo (a thousand), Mega (a million) and Giga (a billion).
Important Point: In Digital Communication, we represent ‘b’ as bits and ‘B’ as bytes.
If we transfer a thousand bits in a second, we call it a kilobits per second or Kbps. We have similar numbers for others as well.
- 1 Kbps = 1,000 bits per second – read as one kilobit per second
- 1 Mbps = 1,000,000 bits per second – read as one megabit per second
- 1 Gbps = 1,000,000,000 bits per second – read as one gigabit per second
NOTE: Megabits per second or Mbps is a very common unit to measure internet speed. Most ISPs mention the speed of the plan in Mbps. For example, AT&T provides 300Mbps for about $60 per month. If you need 500Mbps, then you need to pay $70 per month.
Importance of Internet Speed
Now that we have seen a little bit about internet and its speeds, let us see the importance of internet speed.
If you have a fast internet connectivity, it means you can transfer a lot of data in a given amount of time. High Speed and Low Speed Internet are subjective. But with a relatively faster internet speed, you can download things quickly. Loading times become faster. There will be no issues of buffering while watching online videos. Video calls won’t stutter.
For instance, you need internet just for editing online documents (in Google Docs for example). Then a slower internet speed such as 25Mbps is sufficient.
But if want to watch YouTube videos on your 4K TV, then you need a 100Mbps connection. Similarly, if you stream 4K content (Netflix, Disney+, etc.) on multiple devices, then a 300 to 500Mbps speed should do it.
Different Types of Internet
To draw an Internet speed comparison chart, you first need to know different types internet. So, let us have a quick look at that. When we different types of Internet, we mean different types of media or services that provide internet.
- DSL: It is short for Digital Subscriber Line. DSL provides internet connectivity over landline telephone lines. DSL caps out at 100Mbps.
- Cable: One of the most popular means for internet connectivity is using cable TV’s coaxial cables. You can enjoy cables TV and high-speed internet at the same time. Cable offers a maximum internet speed of 1Gbps or 1,000Mbps.
- Fiber: The fastest of all. Fiber connection is based on optical fiber cables that uses light to transmit data. 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) is now the norm for decent fiber connection. You can get even faster internet speeds up to 5Gbps (5,000Mbps) using fiber.
- Fixed Wireless: It is a type of cellular internet connection. Providers install a special equipment at our premises. It connects to mobile cellular network and provides internet. You can get up to 50Mbps with this type.
- Satellite: It is very useful for rural and remote areas. As the name suggests, it uses direct satellite connection (just like satellite TV) to provide internet access. You need clear sky to get proper internet connectivity.
- 4G LTE: Your phone uses 4G LTE connectivity for making calls as well as connecting to the internet. It offers a huge improvement in terms of network speeds when we compare o previous 3G networks. There are tiny devices that connect to 4G LTE network and provide internet over Wi-Fi. Very useful for remote locations.
- 5G: If 4G is faster than 3G, then wait till proper roll-out of 5G. It is a relatively new mobile network technology. Smartphones will be the first devices to get this connectivity. But in no time, we could see “4G” like device just for internet connection.
Internet Speed Comparison Chart
It’s time to compare the internet speeds of all the popular types of internet services. The following table lists out a simple Internet Speed Comparison Chart. It represents different types of Internet Provides along with their typical transfer speeds.
|Type of Internet||Maximum Internet Speed||Medium||Cost per month||Popular Service Providers|
|DSL||100Mbps||Telephone Line||$40 to $60||EarthLink, Frontier, CenturyLink, Kinetic|
|Cable||1,000Mbps||Coaxial Cable||$20 to $150||COX, Spectrum, Xfinity, Optimum, Sparklight|
|Fiber||5,000Mbps||Optical Fiber Cable||$30 to $300||Verizon, AT&T, Google Fiber, Frontier, CenturyLink, Optimum|
|Fixed Wireless||50Mbps||Radio Waves||$30 to $150||AT&T, Rise Broadband, Verizon, T-Mobile|
|Satellite||500Mbps||Direct Satellite (Radio Waves)||$110 to $500||Starlink, HughesNet, Viasat|
|4G LTE||100Mbps||Radio Waves||$30 to $150||Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T|
|5G||1,000Mbps||Radio Waves||$30 to $150||Verizon, T-Mobile, Ultra|
How Much Speed You Need? It is Small Number
Let us come back to the main question: How much internet speed do you need? The simple answer is: it depends on your use case. But we can do a rough calculation based on some common internet related tasks.
|Tasks||Internet Speed it Needs||Recommended Internet Type|
|Edit online docs, send / read emails, watch low resolution content on one device
|10Mbps||DSL, 4G LTE|
|Watch 1080P videos on multiple devices, play online games, video conferencing||50Mbps||4G LTE, Cable, Fiber|
|Stream 4K content on 4K TV and couple more devices, watch 1080P videos on phones, tablets, download files quickly||100Mbps||Cable, Fiber|
|Watch 4K videos on more than 5 devices, download large files, run multiple smart devices||300Mbps – 500Mbps||Cable, Fiber|
|Do everything 4K on all the devices without any buffering, Download or Upload gigabytes of files, run more than 10 smart home devices||500Mbps – 1,000Mbps||Fiber|
These numbers represent the peak usage scenario. But in reality, you don’t need very high-speed internet speeds. If you take a look at the internet speed recommendations by Netflix, they are as follows:
- 1 Mbps – SD Quality
- 3 Mbps – 720P HD
- 5 Mbps – 1080P HD
- 15Mbps – 4K UHD
Choose internet plans wisely based on your requirements, plans and pricing.
How Much Internet Speed Do I Need? It is an age-old question that keeps popping up very frequently. Internet Speed determines how fast you can download a file. It also decides how many devices can stream high-definition videos on multiple devices. In this guide, we saw different types of internet providers. We also drew an internet speed comparison chart for popular internet media.