Have you noticed your internet isn’t running as fast as you want it to? Webpages and apps that take forever to load, video streams that barely trickle and that pesky circle icon constantly telling you to “Please Wait” could all be the byproducts of an inadequate internet connection.
If you’ve been gradually increasing usage and the number of connected devices in your home, the internet speeds you signed up for a few years ago might not be enough anymore. To find out if your problem is a subpar internet connection, start by determining your current speed. Check the plan from your provider to find your maximum available speed, then use a tool to test your actual internet speed.
Now that you have those numbers, continue reading to find out what speed is right for your household. If it’s higher than what you have now, it’s time to start looking for a new internet plan.
Before we dive into what speed is right for you, let’s start by going over what exactly we’re measuring. Internet speeds can refer to a couple of different metrics:
Since we’re talking about home internet usage, we’ll mainly focus on download speeds.
Another way to refer to internet speed is “bandwidth” – the maximum speed you can download data from the internet. Bandwidth is measured by how many bits you can download per second, with eight bits equaling one byte. Since most internet providers can transmit millions of bits per second, the standard measurement is megabits per second (Mbps).
Most data files are measured in megabytes (MB). So, if you have 1.0 Mbps internet connection, it will take roughly eight seconds to download a 1MB file. However, since bandwidth is shared among all the internet users in your home, if someone else is using the internet at the same time, it may take substantially longer to download that file.
Think of internet speed like water pressure in an older house. If you take a shower when no one else is running any water, you’ll probably have plenty of pressure. But, if you turn on the shower while someone is doing a load of laundry, running the dishwasher or showering in another bathroom, you’re probably not going to get much flow.
Home internet connections work kind of like that. If you’re the only one using the internet, you’ll enjoy all the available bandwidth. But, if you start watching a movie on Netflix while scrolling through Facebook on your phone as your kids play online video games in the next room and your husband surfs the web on his laptop, the stream might not go as smoothly.
To make sure your internet plan has plenty of bandwidth for your entire household, you’ll need to consider a variety of factors including:
More devices and appliances are coming online every day, from the obvious devices like phones, computers and tablets, to smart home appliances like refrigerators, thermostats and washing machines. The more internet-connected devices in your home, the more bandwidth you’ll need.
Chances are, the more people you have in your home, the more internet-connected devices you have. A household of two people with eight or so devices who regularly stream audio and HD video can probably get away with about 20 Mbps. A household with four people using more than 10 devices to stream audio and HD video and play online video games would need about double that, in the 35-40 Mbps range.
Playing into this factor is your household’s pattern of usage. If everyone spreads out their internet usage, you might be able to get away with a lower speed. But, if everyone is using the internet at the same time, you’ll need more bandwidth.
The third major factor is what activities members of your household conduct on the internet. For basic web surfing, emailing and social media checking, you won’t need much bandwidth (5.0 Mbps might do the trick for a single user). But, if you’re using the internet for activities like online gaming or video conferencing, you’ll probably need twice that speed. And, if you regularly download large files, you might need up to 50 Mbps internet speeds.
Streaming video is one of the most taxing activities in terms of bandwidth, and one of the most common. To help you determine what speeds you’ll need based on your viewing habits, here are the requirements for a few of the major streaming services.
Remember, the more people and devices you have using any of these streaming services or using the internet in other ways at the same time, the more bandwidth you’ll need.
Need help finding the right internet package for your home? Stop by your local AT&T store and ask our associates about our latest internet and cable packages.