It’s something that many of us consider when shopping for internet service—how much internet speed do I need? This question became especially critical during the pandemic, when many households realized they needed greater capacity to handle multiple family members streaming simultaneously for work, school, and entertainment.
In a world of increasingly remote communications, speed, literally, is of the essence. But how fast is fast, and how much do we really need? To find out, let’s take a quick dive into all-things-broadband.
The need for speed
According to a 2021 survey by Deloitte, the average home now has a whopping 25 devices connected to broadband, more than double the number of devices in 2019. And now that more than half of all households have at least one person working from home, fast and reliable broadband isn’t just an amenity—it’s an absolute necessity.
All of these devices increase the amount of bandwidth we need for optimum speed. Streaming services alone recommend at least 25 Mbps per device for 4K video, and when you add in video conferencing and gaming (more on all three in the next section) bandwidth needs grow exponentially. As we add smartwatches, home security systems, smart speakers, and more, households may want more than the 100 Mbps that come in an average broadband starter plan.
Stepping it up for new technologies
So, what speed tier should you get from your broadband provider? It really depends on how you use the internet. For example, a computer used for occasional emails and web searches will not require the same speeds as one used to upload and download large files. And over the past few years, a surge of new technologies has introduced new ways to interact online, increasing the need for even greater bandwidth. Here are a few technologies that may give you a better idea on speed needs.
- Video conferencing: After two years of a pandemic, most of us have at least a passing familiarity with video conferencing systems such as Zoom, Webex, or Microsoft Teams. But with video conferences set to leap into the future, we can expect the need for bandwidth to grow as new capabilities are introduced, such as voice controls, automatic transcripts, and real-time language translation. And thanks to the integration of augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technology, your conferences will soon leave flat screens behind to interact through three-dimensional, holographic representations.
- Gaming: With the number of U.S. video gamers reaching nearly 227 million during the pandemic, it’s a safe bet that someone in your household is regularly logging on to play—whether on their smartphone, game console, VR headset, or personal computer. And that number is expected to only rise with the future of gaming, including things like augmented reality, touchscreen technology, and other technological advancements. Even if you don’t plan on competing with the pros, at-home gaming is enhanced by greater bandwidth.
- 4K Events: The new revolution in television is super-high-definition programming broadcast in 4K. With four times the amount of pixels compared to full HD, the 4K experience is about as close to real as you can get without being there. And while viewers were once hesitant about buying 4K TV sets due to the lack of content, nowadays marquee events like the Olympics, Wimbledon, the World Cup, and more and more movies, TV shows, channels, and streaming services are broadcast on it. Add to that the existence of 4K Blu-ray players, cameras, and smartphones, and you have a true revolution on your hands. But—you guessed it—4K requires sufficient bandwidth to give you the full, uninterrupted experience.
Price and performance
Ultimately, the answer to “How much internet speed do I need?” is a personal choice. Many standard speed tiers today are already starting at 100 Mbps: enough to stream in 4K, game with multiple players, download large files, and run up to five or so smart devices. But for many of the future technologies we have mentioned, speeds of 500-1,000 Mbps will soon become the norm. In all cases, it’s important to balance price with performance and consider what range works for you. To find out more about the revolution in smart homes, which will also require greater bandwidth to function, check out this related blog post.