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If you’re shopping for a new internet service provider, you may be wondering what internet speed you need or how many megabits per second (Mbps) you need? It is important to choose the best Mbps amount for your internet speed needs. The wrong choice can get you into trouble when you don’t have enough speed and spinning wheels from “charging” become the norm, or when you’re too fast and pay way more than you need to.
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According to MLab testing from October 2022 to March 2023, the average download speed in the United States is 132.7 Mbps.
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Currently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends a download speed of at least 25 Mbps, so you can check email, surf the web, and watch videos on one device at a time.
Most of us have Internet needs beyond the basics, such as video conferencing, working and studying from home, and online gaming, with multiple users in our homes trying to access all of this content simultaneously on multiple devices.
As our Internet usage grows and we rely on it to perform more functions, the FCC is considering raising the minimum definition of “fast” Internet to at least 100 Mbps.
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So what speed is right for you? The download and upload speeds that work best for you depend on how you use the internet at home. Over 90% of our internet speed test readers watch TV every day, and over 25% watch UHD TV every day, meaning their internet speeds are close to 100Mbps.
If you have a family of four, you’ll most likely be able to get away with a 100Mbps plan. However, keep in mind that depending on what the four of you are accessing online at the same time, this may cause some lag in your children’s video conferencing or online games.
For some households, it might be worth paying for a 200 to 400 Mbps monthly data plan, just for the peace of mind that you won’t get stuck in an important meeting with your boss or lose all your progress on the latest game.
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Also note that offering a 100Mbps plan for an average-sized home, while feasible, may cause some problems during the provider’s peak periods. When your neighbors are all online, your kids and your partner are streaming and playing games, and you’re trying to hold a video conference, you’re at a loss.
Once you’ve signed up for a plan, do occasional speed tests to make sure you’re getting the speeds you need.
You can measure your current internet speed by running an internet speed test on a computer connected to your home network. Many internet speed tests will also tell you your ping time and differentiate between the upload and download speeds of your connection.
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Try these helpful tips to increase your internet speed. Or, if you just want a better deal, check out nearby providers for faster pricing. Either way, we’ll help you find what you need.
Pro tip: For best results, connect your router or modem directly to the device using an Ethernet cable before running the test.
The internet speed required for streaming can vary depending on the specific type of activity you want to do. For example, streaming Spotify music requires a lower speed than streaming videos or shows. In general, to play most videos in SD, you need a download speed of at least 3 Mbps. Streaming 4K video on a computer or UHD-capable device requires at least 25 Mbps.
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For Netflix, the minimum recommended internet speed for streaming is 3 Mbps, but recommended speeds vary depending on the quality you want to watch.
By comparison, for optimal video quality, Hulu recommends 3 Mbps for on-demand viewing and 8 Mbps for live TV viewing.
To stream live TV with DIRECTV Stream, the minimum internet speed you need is 2.5 Mbps, however, we recommend that you consider higher speeds depending on your device. According to DIRECTV:
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YouTube TV recommends a minimum internet speed of 3 Mbps, but the recommended speed you need may vary depending on the video quality.
Online gaming requires a minimum speed of 4-8 Mbps, but for a consistently good gaming experience, 10-25 Mbps is often optimal. When looking for the best internet for gaming, remember that download speed isn’t the only factor for a good gaming experience.
Speed is important because it determines how fast your device can transfer information from the game server. However, ping times and latency are also important.
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For gaming, ping time (or latency) is more important than internet download speed. A ping time of 20ms or less is good and 20-100ms will give you a good gaming experience.
In general, higher speed plans have lower latency because it takes less time to transfer data. The FCC reported in its most recent fixed broadband report that “average measured latencies ranged from 8 milliseconds to 28 milliseconds” among the ISPs they studied. These include Frontier, Windstream, Optimum, Comcast, Cox and more.
Ping times will improve depending on download and upload speeds. However, factors such as local connections and internet latency affect ping times more than internet speed.
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But how do you find their ping time? Are there ways you can improve it that you can control? To determine your ping time, run a simple internet speed test like the one above. Among the results, you’ll find download and upload speeds, ping, jitter and dropout. If your ping is higher than optimal, you can take the following steps to reduce your ping:
The best internet for gaming is usually cable internet or fiber optic internet as both offer low latency internet connections which means shorter ping times.
Even with fast download speeds, satellite internet tends to have high latency because the internet signal has to travel a long distance between its source (the satellite) and its final destination (your device).
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Fixed wireless internet has lower latency than satellite because fixed wireless internet signals do not propagate through the atmosphere. Instead, they transmit from local towers directly to your home antenna. Fixed wireless Internet also offers speeds comparable to cable and DSL Internet. AT&T is a popular fixed wireless Internet service provider in rural areas, offering speeds of 10 to 25 Mbps.
Satellite Internet is not suitable for sports games or shooters because it requires fast data response times. Other online games, such as online card games, role-playing games, strategy games, or puzzle games, tend to work well over satellite internet.
Since many people around the world play both sports and first-person shooter games, these types of games can prevent satellite internet users from playing these games. They block satellite users to prevent people from using lag to gain an advantage and harm the gaming experience of other players
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To make your home internet faster, you can boost your Wi-Fi signal to reduce latency. Resetting or moving your router can strengthen and stabilize your signal. You can also add a Wi-Fi repeater or extender to improve the Internet signal for gaming devices that are far from the router.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed many of us to work from home, making us even more dependent on our internet connections to adapt to our new lifestyles.
Two years into the pandemic, some employees are back in the office, or at least in hybrid roles, but not all of us. In fact, a February 2022 article by the Pew Research Center stated that “six in 10 U.S. workers (59%) who say jobs can mostly be done from home working from home all or most of the time”.
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The good news is that you probably don’t need to upgrade your internet connection to start working from home. Most work activities have relatively low bandwidth requirements.
The best internet speed for working from home depends on the type of job you have. If you regularly download and upload large files and participate in video conferences, we recommend download speeds of at least 25 Mbps for households where only one person works from home at a time. Here are the internet speeds required for some of the most common work applications:
A caveat: These numbers may seem incredibly low compared to the 25 Mbps we recommend for working from home, but apps often underestimate the speeds you need to successfully use their products.
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Researchers at San Francisco State University found that “speeds below 5 Mbps are insufficient for two-way interaction” on Zoom. For smooth video conferencing, they recommend a download speed of at least 20 Mbps and an upload speed of 3 Mbps. If you have other devices connected to Wi-Fi while you’re in a Zoom meeting, you’ll need more.
If you’re not sure how much speed you need – or even the speeds you’re currently getting – you can use the speed tests and quizzes above to measure
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