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What is Good Internet Speed? Everything You Need to Know

Young woman using tablet to access internet service in her new apartment.
Grady Reese / Getty Images

MYMOVE data tells us that 39% of people switch internet providers or upgrade their existing plans during their move. We also know that, next to the price, internet speed is one of the main decision drivers to consider when shopping for a new internet plan.

However, unlike price (a data point you can look at and easily understand its impact on your monthly budget), internet speed can be a trickier data point for people to decipher.

You might ask, what is good internet speed? What exactly is “fast” internet? What internet speed do I actually need? Do I really need to pay an extra $20/month for those extra 100 Mbps? What does Mbps even mean?

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you break through all of the internet speed mumbo jumbo.

For the many people shopping around for a new internet service provider, here’s MYMOVE’s easy-to-understand resource to help determine which plan is best for you.

What to Look for When Choosing an Internet Speed

John Dilley with highspeedinternet.com says to think of internet speed like water pressure.

“It’s all about how much volume is moving in a given amount of time,” Dilley writes. So, the more water moving through your pipes per second, the higher the water pressure when you take a hot shower.

It’s the same with internet. The volume of data (measured in bits) transferred through an internet connection every second is the internet speed. That’s why internet speeds are generally displayed as bits per second (bps).

When shopping around for new internet plans, you’ll notice that speeds are usually displayed with the prefixes k, M, and G (listed from slowest to fastest). Those prefixes are used to explain exactly how many thousands of bits are being transferred over that internet connection per second.

The more bits, the faster the transfer. Here’s a break-down:

  • “k” = 1,000 bits
  • “M” = 1,000k (or, one million bps)
  • “G” = 1,000M (or, one billion bps)

You’ll likely find that most providers offer speeds in the Mbps range, due to current consumer internet needs. Kbps speeds fall under the FCC minimum speeds. For that reason, most providers don’t offer kbps speeds. Gbps speeds fall in the ultra-fast range, and those offerings are still rare.

When thinking through new internet plans to upgrade speed, know that speed increments, such as 15 to 25 Mbps, likely won’t result in a noticeable difference in performance. But larger jumps, like 10 to 100 Mbps, can give you a totally different experience.

Related Content: How to Choose an Internet Service Provider for Your New Home

Upload Speed vs. Download Speed

When you shop around for new plans, you’ll likely see two different speeds listed in the description — a “download speed” and an “upload speed.” Don’t get overwhelmed by the different numbers, but do understand the difference. Here’s what you need to know:

Download Speed

How quickly your connection can retrieve data from the internet (web pages, videos, photos, etc.). For example, if you use your computer to watch YouTube videos, it’s the speed at which your computer loads the video.

Upload Speed

How quickly your connection can send data from your devices to the internet. To use the YouTube example again, upload speed would measure the time it would take for you to post that adorable video of your dog howling the Star-Spangled Banner. Yep, Fido is sure to go viral.

Download speed is much more important for the average user since you only notice upload speed when trying to share large files. It’s normal for your upload speed to be around one-tenth of your download speed.

Going back to those government regulations, the FCC has set a minimum download speed of 25 Mbps and a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps. The FCC says this is the minimum broadband needed for common internet usage.

What is a “Good” Internet Speed?

With the FCC minimum in mind, most speeds at or above 25 Mbps could be considered “good.” According to Allconnect.com, these speeds will support most online activities, such as HD streaming, online gaming, web browsing, and downloading music.

That said, fast internet speeds — those in the 100+ Mbps range — are often better, especially if you want your internet connection to support multiple devices and users at once.

An upload speed of 3 Mbps should satisfy the needs of almost anyone nowadays, provided that it is a good quality connection with little or no interruptions.

What is a “Fast” Internet Speed?

Internet download speeds of 100 Mbps or higher are often considered fast internet because they can handle multiple online activities for multiple users at once without major interruptions in service. Upload speeds of 10 Mbps or higher are generally considered fast because they can easily handle the common upload activities of the average user.

Allconnect says cable and fiber-optic internet services are your best bet for fast internet speeds. Fiber-optic is also the most consistent, according to Allconnect, as it is less likely to slow down at times of peak usage.

Popular cable or fiber-optic internet providers include AT&T, CenturyLink, Cox, Frontier FiOS, Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios, XFINITY, and Windstream.

According to Allconnect, many of these providers offer speeds up to 940-1,000 Mbps in select areas. XFINITY is currently the only provider with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps.

What type of internet has the fastest speeds?

Cable and fiber-optic internet have the fastest speeds. Between these two types of internet service, fiber-optic internet is said to be the most consistent with its fast speeds. Cable internet can be impacted during peak times while fiber-optic internet speeds are maintained during these periods. 

Internet speed ranges of common service types

Internet typeSpeed range
CableUp to 100 Mbps
Dial-upUp to 56 Kbps
DSLUp to 200 Mbps
Fiber-opticUp to 2,000 Mbps
Fixed wirelessUp to 100 Mbps
SatelliteUp to 100 Mbps

*Note: These speed ranges are estimations. Can vary by provider. 

What internet speed do I need?

All of these definitions are good to know, but you may be thinking: How fast does the internet at my new place have to be? You’re seeing all of these speed ranges and price points and thinking, how do I choose?

Here are some things to consider when thinking about your internet speed:

Number of Internet Users

How many possible users could be on the internet at one time? This is a crucial thing to think through, especially during peak usage times — like in the morning before work or when you get home. If it’s just you, no worries. But you may want to splurge for the plan with 100+ Mbps if you have a house full of people clambering to connect.

Types of Internet Activities

Different online activities eat up different amounts of bandwidth. Do people in your house mainly use the internet for social media browsing and emails? Or, have you cut the cable cord and now rely on video streaming services to watch TV.

Highspeedinternet.com has some basic guidelines on internet activities and the speeds they require:

  • Video streaming: 3 Mbps for standard definition, 5 Mbps for HD, and 25 Mbps for Ultra HD
  • Music streaming: 2 Mbps
  • Gaming: 2-10 Mbps
  • Video calls: 0.5 Mbps for standard definition and 1.5 Mbps for HD
  • Downloading large files: 5 Mbps for a slow download and 50 Mbps for a large one
  • Email and social media browsing: 0.5 – 5 Mbps

So, when is splurging for the fast 100+ Mbps worth it? The higher price pays off when you have a house full of video streaming, Skype using, video gaming, work-from-home conference callers.

If you live by yourself or don’t do many of the above internet activities, you can keep the good (25 Mbps or more) internet speed and redirect some money in your budget.

Figure out the speed you need using this test.

Test Your Current Internet Speed

If you’re struggling with your current internet speed or are just curious to know if your speed matches the provider’s promise, you can check it at any time.

To check your speed, run a diagnostic on your computer. Use the network diagnostic tool below to see what internet speeds you’re working with.

The bottom line

So, what is good internet speed? Speeds of 25 Mbps or higher are generally good, but you have to keep in mind the number of devices being accessed, the number of users accessing these devices, and the types of internet activities. A faster speed can easily be considered slow if these three factors are not considered when you select your internet speed. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q:

How many Mbps is a GB?

A:

One GB, or gigabyte, is equal to 1,024 Mbps, or megabytes.

Q:

How many Mbps do I need?

A:

The Mbps you will need depends on the type of internet activities, number of devices and number of users. For simple activities, such as checking emailing and browsing social media, a minimum of 0.5 to 5 Mbps is recommended.

Q:

How many GB do I need for home internet?

A:

Your home internet will require a certain amount of GBs depending on how much data you send and receive over your network. Your internet provider may be able to measure your current data usage to help to determine how much is needed.

Q:

Is 40 Mbps fast internet?

A:

Internet speeds of 100 Mbps or higher are considered fast. A speed of 40 Mbps is good, but it is not fast.

Q:

Is 300 Mbps good for working from home?

A:

An internet speed of 300 Mbps is good for working from home. This is because it allows users to check emails, download large files, make and receive video calls, and browse the internet, which are all common activities for people who work from home.

Q:

Is 500 Mbps good for gaming?

A:

Gaming generally requires between 2 and 10 Mbps, so a speed of 500 Mbps is good for gaming.

Q:

Is 1000 Mbps fast?

A:

Yes, internet speeds of 100 Mbps or higher are considered fast.

Q:

How fast is my Wi-Fi speed?

A:

To determine your Wi-Fi speed, you can complete an internet speed test.


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