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What Internet Speed Do You Need?

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

The decision of what to do with your internet service when moving is one that many grapple with. Should you migrate your service to your new house or start fresh with a new contract? Many people switch internet providers or upgrade their existing plans during their move, and given how often internet service promotions and offers change, that’s no surprise. 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 exactly is “fast” internet? What internet speed do I actually need? Will my internet be able to do everything I need it to do? Do I really need to pay an extra $20 per month for that extra 100 Mbps? And how fast is 100 Mbps, and what does Mbps even mean?

We’re here to help you understand the confusing landscape of internet speeds and uncover exactly what speed is necessary for the way you use the web. If you’re shopping for a new internet service provider, MYMOVE’s easy-to-understand guide can help you determine which ISP plan is right for you.

What to look for when choosing an internet speed

You can think about internet speed like water pressure. It’s all about how much is coming out of the faucet at any given time. The more water coming out of your pipes, the higher the pressure.

It’s the same with the 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. Again, pointing back to the water pressure example.

When it comes to internet speed, the more bits, the faster the transfer. Here’s a breakdown of what the most common internet speed abbreviations mean:

  • “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. Using 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 to your channel. 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?

Given the FCC minimum, 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. So how fast is 3 Mbps? Fast enough to meet most internet users’ needs.

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, Mediacom 1-Gig,  Optimum, Spectrum, Suddenlink, Verizon Fios, Xfinity, and Windstream.

Internet Company Plan Name Highest Speed
AT&T Fiber Internet 1000 Up to 1,000 Mbps
CenturyLink CenturyLink Fiber Internet Up to 940 Mbps
Cox  Cox Gigablast Up to 940 Mbps
Frontier FiOS FiOS 100/100 Up to 100 Mbps
Mediacom Internet 1GIG Up to 1,000 Mbps
Spectrum Spectrum Internet GIG Up to 940 Mbps
Optimum Optimum Internet 400 Up to 400 Mbps
Suddenlink Internet 1000 Up to 1,000 Mbps
Verizon Fios Fios Gigabit Connection Up to 940 Mbps
Xfinity  Gigabit Up to 1,000 Mbps
Windstream Kinetic Gig Up to 1,000 Mbps

According to Allconnect, many of these providers offer speeds up to 1,000 Mbps in select areas.

How much 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? Understandably so.

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 like Netflix or YouTube TV to watch TV?

How fast is 3 Mbps?

If you’re wondering if you can get by with just 3 Mbps of basic internet speed, here’s what you need to know. With 3 Mbps, you’ll be able to send and receive basic emails, browse the web, watch videos that are 480p (referring to the video display resolution) or lower, and play games with a high ping time (also known as the reaction time of your connection), which is needed for online video games. An internet speed of 3 Mbps is not able to live stream video or play videos in high definition. For some internet users, this is enough, but for video calls or streaming Netflix, it’s not. Netflix requires at least 5 Mbps for HD quality.

How fast is 10 Mbps?

In addition to offering everything that a 3 Mbps internet speed can, an internet speed of 10 Mbps also makes for a consistent and smooth music streaming and online gaming experience. With 10 Mbps of internet speed, you can stream most 1080p videos with minimal issues. But you’ll probably get faster load times with 720p videos, which are of lower resolution. This speed is still not ideal for streaming very high-resolution 4k videos.

How fast is 25 Mbps?

An internet speed of 25 Mbps accommodates one to two devices for basic web surfing, email, social networking, and video streaming with no issues. It’s also the minimum internet speed required to stream from most video platforms in standard definition, or any video in 4k. However, if you have multiple people in the house streaming or gaming at the same time or if you plan to stream the majority of your videos in 4k, you’ll probably get better results with slightly faster internet speed.

How fast is 50 Mbps?

While it’s possible to go all the way up to 1 Gbps of internet speed, 50 Mbps should meet most residential needs. At 50 Mbps, three to five devices should comfortably have enough bandwidth to play video games online with multiple players, share large files, and stream video in quality as great as 4k without any issues.

Below are some basic guidelines provided by the FCC 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, Zoom 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-enough (25 Mbps or more) internet speed and redirect some money in your budget.

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.

Have a need for speed? Take advantage of special internet deals for movers

Are you about to move into your new home and wonder if your internet provider offers service in your new area? Maybe you’re thinking that moving is the perfect time to try a new provider or upgrade your internet speed. Regardless of the reason, this guide is intended to help you determine exactly what internet speed you need.

According to Allconnect.com, people living in major U.S. cities usually have at least three internet service provider options, and unless you live in a very remote location, you likely have at least two. Most providers offer several internet packages, each capable of delivering a different level of bandwidth.

Since the propensity to switch plans is at an all-time high during a move, many of the most popular providers offer great deals on internet plans for movers. Create a MYMOVE account to find internet (and TV) offers available in your new ZIP code.

This post was originally published on August 6, 2019. Updated on May 12, 2020. 


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