Internet Speeds Explained: How Much do you Really Need?


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If your Internet is slowing you down in everyday life, bad for your work from home life. In the technology-driven 21st Century, you can’t afford to be held back by a buffering jam in your WiFi. So how does Internet speed work, and how do terms like Internet bandwidth and Internet capacity factor into the equation? Let’s take a quick look at some of the reasons you may be experiencing slow Internet speeds and help determine how much Internet speed you really need.

What is Bandwidth?

To understand the factors that control Internet speed (or lack of it), let’s start with bandwidth. Simply put, bandwidth refers to the total amount of data that can be supported by a network connection or interface. A greater capacity typically leads to better performance.

This high-capacity, high-performance Internet speed is often referred to as “broadband”—, distinguishing it from slower Internet connection speeds. So, how is bandwidth measured? For the most part, it’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps).

To put this in perspective, as of February 2020, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines broadband to be connections rated at least 25Mbps for downloads and at least 3 Mbps for uploads. These numbers reflected a sharp increase from the FCC's previous minimums of 4Mbps for uploads and 1Mbps for downloads.

With the continually accelerating advancements in technology, however, these numbers are beginning to seem a little out of date. Newer developments like 4K UHD (ultra-high definition) video, HD streaming video and audio files, streaming video games, and bandwidth-draining multi-player online gaming will quickly gobble up that bandwidth. 25Mbps is a good Internet speed for one or two people, but for more intensive tasks you’ll want more.

Yes, bandwidth is a major consideration in slow internet speeds, but it is not the only factor.

What is Latency?

Latency is the time it takes for data to transmit from your computer to a server and back. This process is typically called a ping rate, especially when running an Internet speed test. For example, when you input a command into a multiplayer game, that command is sent by a signal through your Internet router, through cables to an Internet server. There, it is processed then forwarded to another server and so on and so on, until it is beamed to a satellite and bounced to another number of servers until that signal is forwarded to your competitor’s home Internet router and into their gaming system.

All of this happens in the blink of an eye. In fact, it happens in milliseconds (ms). A good ping is under 10ms. One over 100ms can sometimes cause slowdown issues (referred to as “lag”), especially when you are gaming or streaming a Netflix movie online. Interested in learning more? Here’s our extensive guide on latency.

What Else Can Cause Slow Internet Speeds?

When your Internet speed is running slow, there could be a number of common culprits, including:

  • Your WiFi connection – Check to make sure that your router is plugged in and hooked up properly. Also, some routers can be affected by outside interference. You might need to move closer to the router (or move the router closer to you!).
  • Plugins and apps – Broadband-sucking plugins and apps running in the background of your computers, tablets and smartphones can cause slow Internet operating speeds. Make sure these are all blocked when using your devices to maximize Internet speed.
  • Large downloads – Are any of your devices consistently downloading large files you aren’t aware of? These can take up a lot of memory on your devices and cause slow Internet speeds.
  • Internet user overload – If you have multiple Internet users in your household playing games, to downloading movies or streaming videos on Netflix and Hulu, your Internet speed can be affected.

If you check all of these things and your Internet is still slow, consider trying an internet speed test. There are many online Internet speed test apps that you can access to test your Internet and make sure you are getting all of the Internet performance you are paying for. If this still does not help you come to a conclusive answer, it’s time to call your Internet service provider (ISP) for assistance.

What Slows Down Internet Speed?

Typically, a single user with 100Mbps Internet speed should be able to easily do things like stream Netflix, YouTube, Hulu and more. It’s also enough for online gaming and doing things like searching the Internet and downloading and uploading large files.

However, when multiple users are online streaming 4K videos, playing online games, and downloading large files, you’re going to need more. A speed of 200 Mbps or greater is the sweet spot, so you’ll always have everything you need, with no frustrating Internet slowdowns.

Recommended Internet speeds

  • Browse the internet, check email, listen to music - 1Mbps minimum, 5Mps preferred
  • Stream HD video, play online games - 25Mbps
  • Stream 4k video, stream games - 100Mbps
  • Download large files, stream 4k videos, stream or play online games with multiple people - 200Mbps+

Get Fast Internet From Optimum

Need high-speed Internet? Optimum is here to help. We have’ve got reliable high- speed Internet plans with speeds of up to one gigabit. It’s all the speed you need and then some.

Go ahead, stream your 4K movies, listen to music your online music, chat away on video calls, play online games, search on Google, buy on Amazon, download those large files, and more. Optimum offers the best Internet with high-performance fiber-optic broadband speeds ready to take on whatever you can imagine.

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