Understanding Bandwidth: 4 Tips for Choosing the Right Internet Speed for Your Needs

Slow internet speeds frustrate users. However, faster speeds cost more. As a result, consumers need to find the right balance between speed and cost to ensure the internet meets their needs in every way. How can one determine the right speed for their unique situation?

Understanding Bandwidth


1] What Exactly Is Bandwidth?

First and foremost, buyers need to understand what bandwidth is. This is nothing more than the maximum rate at which data can be downloaded from the internet to a device. The larger the bandwidth, the faster the data will be pulled.

Internet providers, such as, measure bandwidth in bits per second. Bits are not the same as bytes, which is how file sizes are measured. Eight bits is the equivalent of one byte, thus 8 megabits is equal to 1 megabyte (MB).

For those with a 1 megabit-per-second connection, downloading a file that is 1 MB in size will take approximately 8 seconds.

2] Calculating Bandwidth Needs

The total bandwidth allotted for a network is shared among all devices on the network. For this reason, every consumer needs to calculate their specific bandwidth needs. However, different tasks require more power.

For instance, a family that streams multiple programs simultaneously needs higher speeds than a family of online gamers. The time of day when downloads take place also needs to be taken into consideration.

Individuals who simply email, surf the web, or visit social networking sites often find they can get away with only 1 Mbps. Nevertheless, this assumes only one person is using the network at any given time. Each additional user will call for added bandwidth to meet everyone’s needs.

3] Estimated Bandwidth Requirements

  • General web usage, social media, email-1 Mbps.
  • Online gaming-1 to 3 Mbps.
  • Video conferencing-1 to 4 Mbps.
  • Video streaming-3 to 8 Mbps, depending on whether it is standard or high-def streaming.
  • Downloads of large files-Up to 50 Mbps.

Other factors likewise play a role in bandwidth usage requirements. For example, the hardware being used affects the speed at which the internet operates. However, when internet usage overall is reduced, consumers may find their download speeds actually increase.

Don’t overlook upload speeds either, especially those who record videos for streaming purposes. Internet service providers typically provide information about upload speeds after sharing numbers for download speeds. Often, upload speeds are slower than download speeds.

4] Finding the Correct Provider

Individuals in urban areas typically find they have a choice of internet service providers. Unfortunately, the same is not true for many living in rural areas.

Fiber optic lines provide the fastest service, while cable providers typically offer fast and reliable service. DSL providers offer comparable service at slightly slower speeds. Satellite internet service tends to be the slowest and unreliable.

Nevertheless, the average connection speed in the United States is 10 Mbps as reported by Akamai. While Idaho’s average speed is only 10.2 Mbps, this is enough to meet the needs of many users. Washington D.C., in contrast, comes with the fastest average speed, which is 24.3 Mbps.

Ask potential providers if the service can be tested and upload speeds upgraded as needed. Quite a few now allow for this to better serve their clients. It never hurts to ask.

What works for one family may not be appropriate for another. Keep this in mind as you go to select an internet service and download speed.

With the above information in hand, you’ll find it much easier to determine which speed is best for your family and your unique requirements, so you always have service when you want and need it most.

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About the author

Michael Austin

Michael Austin is a Internet Entrepreneur, Blogger, Day Dreamer, Business Guy, Fitness Freak and Digital Marketing Specialist. He also helps companies to grow their online businesses.