When it comes to internet speed, most people would agree that faster is better. But how much do you really need for your average household use? For light internet users, paying for gigabit speed might make as much financial sense as renting a hypersonic jet to pick up groceries.
On the other hand, packages that offer more speed and bandwidth can greatly enhance online experiences. If you love streaming video, online gaming, and using multiple connected devices simultaneously, higher speeds mean smoother streaming, better response time, and more bandwidth for everyone.
When you’re shopping for a plan, evaluate how you expect to use the internet and choose a plan with enough speed and bandwidth for your needs. Note that as maximum download speeds increase, so do maximum upload speeds, monthly bandwidth allowances, and plan prices.
As an example, let’s look at downloading a 50 GB file. Using a 10 Mbps connection, it would take 11 hours or longer to download. With a 1 Gig connection, the same file could be downloaded in about 8 minutes. Some commonly downloaded file types, such as high-definition videos and video games, can be huge, and your internet speed will affect how quickly they can be delivered.
Upload speed is also important, especially if you host streaming channels or upload videos. The 10 Mbps speed from the previous example was for downloads but uploads with this plan will transfer at a speed of up to 1 Mbps. While you might not ever need to upload a 50 GB file, doing so would take approximately 5 days to upload one at 1 Mbps. A 1 Gig internet plan that includes upload speeds of up to 40 Mbps and could get the job done in about 3 hours.
Not sure what kind of internet speed is right for your home? Here are some general guidelines based on Blue Ridge’s internet plans.
Number of Users
Think of your internet data flowing like water in your home. Have you ever had a satisfying shower drop to a weak sprinkle because someone in the house turned on a sink or started a load of wash? Like water pressure, your internet speed can decrease with every additional device that’s using data. At a certain point, too many devices on a network can cause problems like video buffering, input lag during online gaming, and slow web browsing.
3-5 Average Users, up to 10 Devices
5+ Heavy Users, 10+ Devices
When you're in it to win it, internet speed makes all the difference. Today's fast action, high resolution games tend to eat up broadband networks. Faster internet speeds will improve download rates, and more importantly, will reduce your game's "ping rate." This is the delay between your action and the game's response, which is crucial during multi-player games where microseconds count.
Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime video, and many more are continuing to be mainstays in every house. Part of this continuing to be possible is because internet speeds are keeping pace with the ever-increasing visual quality of shows and movies – while also supporting multiple devices doing this on home networks. Most streaming services have also started rolling out native 4k content, which makes fast download speeds more important than ever to enjoy that level of fidelity.
Working from home has become common lately, thanks largely to the popularization of video conferencing and online meeting services like Zoom and Teams. Internet speed is a vital commodity because there's nothing more conspicuous than your voice lagging mid-conversation or being dropped from a meeting altogether. When your career is on the line, you're not going to mess around with internet speed deficiencies.
Bear in mind that these examples are based on getting a quality experience. You can use as many devices as you want and attempt all of these activities with any plan, but you may not have the best experience if your internet isn’t fast enough. Even if you have enough patience to wait hours for downloads to complete or can deal with frequent buffering during HD video streams, exceeding the monthly bandwidth allowance of some plans may result in overage charges.
Your internet speed needs ultimately come down to how your household plans to use it. The more users and devices your network needs to support, the more important speed and bandwidth become. Unless you spend very little time online, consider trying the fastest plan that fits within your monthly budget, because no one ever complains that their internet is too fast.