How much internet bandwidth do you REALLY need?
How much internet speed do you REALLY need? Does getting more bandwidth automatically mean you will have a much better online experience? Does more bandwidth guarantee a better gaming experience?
I have posted many videos on my YouTube channel and on this blog about getting faster internet. With each one of those videos and posts, I would typically get two opposing comments: “wow this is amazing” or “this doesn’t work.”
How is it possible that the same content, the same advice can have such radical differences? It’s no wonder that people are frustrated by their internet speed!
The reason is that there isn’t one answer for everyone.
4 factors to get the internet bandwidth you really need:
Factor 1: The Pipe.
When you buy internet access from your service provider it is typically divided into two parts, depending on your country and the ISP: You are buying speed and you are buying data.
The speed is capped at a rate eg. 10Mbps or 500Mbps. Usually, the data is unlimited but if you use too much, your ISP slows you down until the following month. Some ISPs in some countries also set a limit on how much data you get per month; if you run out, you need to top up.
So logically, you think that if buy more bandwidth, it must result in a faster connection.
Ehhh, Yes and also No.
Yes, you will get more data into the bandwidth pipe, but you need to remember the second factor: Upload vs Download.
Factor 2: Upload vs Download
While the ISP boasts about giving your 100Mbps, this is typically just the download speed. When it comes to uploading speed, this is vastly different.
Does this matter? Yes to some and No to others.
If your internet usage is the typical streaming YouTube and Netflix, web browsing, emails, social media, then download speed is more important then upload. You want the biggest bandwidth pipe you can get so you can get as much data traffic back to your computer as quickly as possible.
Your computer sends a command using a tiny bit of upload data and received a lot of data back. For eg. when you click on the Play button on a YouTube video, then the YouTube sends your computer all this info so you can watch this video.
However, if you are a gamer or a streamer, or you work with large files then the upload speed is a big factor. A live streamer sends huge bits of info constantly to be able to stream. Gamers need a fast upload so they can play online games.
So ideally you want a nice fast download and a nice fast upload from your ISP.
BUT just by getting a faster upload speed doesn’t mean your gaming will be any better.
This is because of one more factor which I mentioned earlier. Latency.
Factor 3: Latency
Latency is essentially the time it takes for your request to travel from you to the provider to process that request and you want that to be as quick as possible.
If latency is HIGH, it means that you will feel that with buffering, choppy audio and video. You also need to know about jitter. This is when there is a disruption in the data packets.
So think of your road that has 4 lanes, but if cars aren’t moving in the same direction or are changing lanes or making random u-turns, this causes a nightmare on the traffic. Same thing here.
Something goes wrong, there is no acknowledgment that the data arrived, so it needs to try again. The more disruptions there are, the more congestion the occurs, the slower your network becomes.
Factor 4: Need and Devices
In order to choose the right bandwidth package to get you the internet bandwidth you really need, taking the above into accounts, it boils down to these two questions: what do you ACTUALLY do online with how many devices?
Most people are web browsing, social media, Netflix, YouTube, email kind of people. Streaming services seem to agree that you need around 5Mbps to watch a movie at HD and 25Mbps to watch it in 4K.
However, remember that this is PER DEVICE. So two family members streaming Netflix and YouTube at the same time in HD will need 10Mbps (5Mbps each)
Now you need to account for all the other devices on your network such as computers, phones, tablets, smart home appliances, security cameras, gaming stations -- all sucking up bandwidth. The more devices you have, the more you data you are trying to squeeze into the pipe resulting in congestion.
So while you need 10Mbps for your movies, if your 100GB cloud backup kicks in, that will suck away bandwidth from your streaming pleasure.
For my online gamers, don’t rush and just upgrade to faster bandwidth as you need a service provider that is known for LOW latency. The more bandwidth you buy doesn’t mean you get low latency. This is where you reach out to your gaming community, ask which ISP they use, Google various ISPs in your area to find the one with the lowest latency ratings. Then add internet bandwidth you really need!