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What’s the Best Internet Speed? Plus Other Network Questions

Find Your Internet - Compare offers from the top Internet and TV providers in your area all in one place.

Lewis Packwood on July 2, 2020

Find Your Internet - What's the Best Internet Speed? Plus Other Network Questions

What’s the best internet speed for your household?

Can you get away with lower internet speeds?

Do you really need a fiber connection?

If you’ve got multiple people in your home using multiple devices, these questions are probably on your mind. Here’s what you need to know about internet speed to make the best choice for your household.

Speed vs. Bandwidth

Internet providers often throw around terms like “speed” and “bandwidth” seemingly interchangeably. But there are some important differences.

The speeds you see advertised by service providers aren’t always the internet speeds you’ll actually experience as a consumer. Those figures sometimes refer to bandwidth, or the maximum capacity of data that can be delivered down the wires to your home every second.

Confused? That’s OK!

Imagine the broadband network as a pipe carrying data. Bandwidth refers to the size of the pipe, which greatly impacts the amount of data it can carry at any given time. Speed, on the other hand, is the actual amount of data flowing through the pipe. And that flow can be affected by any number of things, including your modem, router, or WiFi signal speed, How-To Geek says. The number of devices trying to access the router in your home or neighborhood can also affect your internet speed.

Do you only have a laptop and a phone? If so, you can probably get away with just DSL. But if your household consists of several people, each with computers, consoles, phones, and various other internet-connected devices, you’ll definitely need faster broadband.

DSL, Cable, Fiber: What’s the Difference?

When you’re choosing your internet package, you’ll likely see a few different internet types offered. The slowest form of broadband is DSL, which stands for Digital Subscriber Line. This is a term for internet connections that piggyback on the regular landline telephone network. DSL speeds cap out at around 35 megabits per second (Mbps).

In comparison, cable internet can reach speeds of 500 Mbps—a huge step up from your DSL internet of old. Cable is a widely available option that uses the same wires as your TV signal to power up.

If you think cable’s fast, wait until you hear about fiber internet’s speed. Data can travel through fiber optic cables much more quickly than through copper cable wires, and because of that, fiber internet can provide speeds of up to around 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 Mbps! This speedy service isn’t available everywhere, though. Currently, it only covers around 25% of the U.S., BroadbandNow says.

Feel the Need for Internet Speed

So, which type of internet is right for you and your household? And how can you determine your speed needs?

First, think about how many devices you and your family use at one time. Do you only have a laptop and a phone? If so, you can probably get away with DSL. But if your household consists of several people, each with computers, consoles, phones, and various other internet-connected devices, you’ll definitely need faster broadband.

Second, what do you use your broadband for? If it’s just for browsing the internet and streaming TV shows in standard definition, then lower internet speeds will probably work just fine. But if you work from home, want to stream movies in 4K, download huge video games and other large files, host family or friends video conference calls, or play games online, then DSL will just slow you down.

Netflix recommends allotting 5 Mbps for high-definition streaming, for example. If you’re in the den working from home while your partner watches a movie on the TV in the living room and the kids stream their favorite cartoons in their playroom, that’s 15+ Mbps right there. When you add the data used to keep your phones, tablets, and computers running smoothly, you’ll be running out of bandwidth quickly. If this bustling household sounds like yours, it’s probably best to opt for cable or fiber internet.

You don’t need to understand the ins and outs of the internet to get the best speeds for your needs. Simply take stock of what devices you have connected around the house and choose the type of internet that will give you the most power.

Lewis Packwood

Find Your Internet - Compare offers from the top Internet and TV providers in your area all in one place.

Lewis Packwood is a freelance writer speclialising in content marketing, video games and technology. He has provided marketing content for clients including Skyscanner, the Victoria & Albert Museum, Tesco Bank, Editions Financial, GAME, IBM, Insight, Medtronic and Bouncepad, as well as writing video-game features for industry-leading publications like EDGE, PC Gamer, Eurogamer, Kotaku UK, Retro Gamer and Rock Paper Shotgun. He also co-hosts a regular movie podcast, 101 Films You Should Have Seen, which has had around 1 million downloads, and he’s behind the video-game websites A Most Agreeable Pastime and 101 Video Games That Made My Life Slightly Better, which between them have been viewed more than 400,000 times.

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