A Guide To Internet Speeds

By Staff Reporter , Updated May 21, 2021 09:15 AM EDT
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A Guide To Internet Speeds
(Photo: Pexels)

When it comes to shopping for new internet service, your internet speeds will be one of the most important factors you'll need to consider before choosing your next internet provider. It'll not only determine how quickly you can do what you love online, but it will also determine whether you over or underpay for service. But how do you know what internet speeds you need? In this guide to internet speeds, we'll go over all the details you need to make an informed decision on your next internet plan.

Types Of Internet & What That Means For Your Speeds

Your internet speeds are largely determined by two things, where you live and what type of internet connection you have. The most popular internet connections include cable, fiber optic, DSL and satellite internet. However, not all internet types are made equally when it comes to internet speeds and price. Here are the types of internet you can find and how these types will affect your internet speeds:

●       Cable: is an internet connection that is delivered through coaxial copper TV lines found in urban and suburban areas. Cable internet typically has internet speeds ranging from 10 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps  and costs from $20 a month to $150 a month depending on where you live.

●       Dial Up: is an outdated internet connection that is delivered through telephone lines. Users will need to dial in to use it and you cannot use your home phone line unless you pay for more than one line. Internet speeds you can expect from dial up is extraordinarily slow and average from 40 Kbps to 70 Kbps and costs from free to $15 a month. Dial up is only used as a last resort in rural and remote areas.

●       DSL: is an abbreviation for digital subscriber line and is available to nearly anyone with a telephone line. This type of internet connection is also delivered over copper telephone lines, but has faster internet speeds. DSL internet has internet speeds ranging from 3 Mbps to 115 Mbps for about $20 a month to $70 a month depending on where you live.

●       Fiber Optic: is an internet connection that is delivered through small glass strands that are bundled into larger cables mostly found in urban areas. Fiber optic internet has internet speeds from 50 Mbps to 2,000 Mbps depending on where you live and internet provider.

●       Fixed Wireless: is an internet connection that is delivered from a main access point to individual receivers wirelessly that are installed on top of businesses and homes within the area. Fixed wireless is most popular in rural and remote areas, but its use is slowly spreading to more populated areas. Users must have a clear line of site and live or work within 10 miles of the access point. You can expect fixed wireless to be as fast as 10 Mbps to 50 Mbps and cost from $40 a month to $60 a month.

●       Mobile Broadband: is an internet connection that is delivered from local cell phone towers. Users typically have a portable modem, USB wireless mobile or have it embedded into their tablet, smartphone or laptop. You can expect mobile broadband internet speeds to be as fast as 3G to 5G for $20 a month to $80 a month depending on what provider and plan you choose.

●       Satellite: is an internet connection that uses satellites on your property and in the sky to beam wireless internet to its users available in rural areas with a clear view of the sky. Satellite internet is as fast as 12 Mbps to 100 Mbps for as low as $40 a month to $150 a month.

Other Internet Terminology You'll Need To Know

To fully understand internet speeds, you'll need to know common internet terminology and their definitions. Knowing the lingo will help you make an informed decision when shopping internet plans and providers. Here's some internet terms you'll need to know:

●       Bandwidth: is how much data can be transferred at one time from one place to another over the internet. There's only so much bandwidth to go around in a single household and your entire internet provider's network. Online activities like streaming and downloading large files take up a lot of bandwidth and most users experience slower internet speeds down during peak times due to network congestion.

●       Broadband: according to the FCC broadband internet is an internet connection with minimum download speeds as fast as 25 Mbps and upload speeds as fast as 3 Mbps. Any speeds lower than that are not considered broadband internet or high speed internet by the FCC.

●       Download Speeds: is how many megabits per second it takes to receive information online like photos, music, and videos.

●       ISP: a popular abbreviation for internet service provider.

●       Latency: is the time it takes for information to be sent to its desired destination and back. Measured in milliseconds and the lower your latency is, the better. Casual and serious online gamers are the most concerned with latency. A high latency connection can make most multiplayer online games unplayable.

●       Mbps: an abbreviation for megabits per second used to measure internet speeds.

●       Modem: a piece of equipment that converts your internet connection to something you can use. Most people will either connect their devices directly via an ethernet cable or connect a router and opt for wireless internet.

●       Router: a piece of equipment that makes your internet connection wireless for internet enabled devices you do not wish to directly plug into your connection. You can purchase your router or lease it from your internet provider. Purchasing your router will cost you anywhere from $30 to $400 depending on the quality of the device. If you decide to lease your router, it can cost you between $8 to $20 a month as a recurring fee on your monthly statement.

●       Upload Speeds: is how many megabits per second it takes to send information online like photos, online video games and video calls.

●       Wi-Fi: a popular abbreviation that refers to wireless internet. To get wireless internet you'd need an internet subscription, modem and router to make your internet connection wireless.

What Internet Speeds Do I Need?

While shopping for internet service, you'll likely find out that you have a few internet plans to choose from. But what plan should you choose and what internet speeds does your family really need? Unfortunately, the answer isn't as simple as you might think because the answer is different for everyone. What your family's internet needs are might be drastically different than what your neighbors and parents' internet needs are.

To find out what internet speeds you need, you'll need to consider what activities your family likes to do online and how many devices you think could be running simultaneously. Here are the most popular internet activities and what internet speeds they need for the best experience online:

Popular Online Activities

Recommended Download Speeds

Web browsing

10 Mbps

Searching on Google, Bing or Yahoo!

5 Mbps

Sending and checking emails

10 Mbps

Streaming SD video

25 Mbps

Streaming music

25 Mbps

Streaming podcasts

25 Mbps

Video calling with Zoom, Skype or Facetime

25 Mbps

Single player online gaming

50 Mbps

Scrolling through social media

25 Mbps

Streaming HD video

25 Mbps

Multiplayer online gaming

100 Mbps

Downloading large files like games or apps

50 Mbps

System maintenance updates

25 Mbps

Working From Home

100 Mbps

Learning Remotely

100 Mbps

Streaming UHD 4K video

50 Mbps

Smart devices

100 Mbps

Testing Your Internet Speeds

Did you know you can test your internet speeds for free? Utilize the free tools out there like the Ookla speed test, Fast by Netflix or the speed test provided by your internet provider. Before you think you don't need to test your internet speeds, here's five reasons why you should start testing them today:

  1. Make sure you're truly getting the internet speeds you're paying for
  2. To find Wi-Fi dead spots and readjust your equipment accordingly
  3. Help you troubleshoot connectivity problems
  4. Testing your speeds only takes a few minutes of your time
  5. Get a honest baseline of your internet provider's performance at all times of day
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