Internet Speeds Explained | What Data And Measurements to Consider


Apart from price, internet speed is an essential factor that consumers consider when shopping for internet providers. While the price is straightforward, download speed isn’t so here we wanted to offer this easy-to-follow article about internet speeds explained. The download and upload speeds goes beyond knowing the monthly charges and fitting it into your budget for your target high speed internet plan. With all the talks surrounding gigabit, broadband, fiber, and megabits, it is easy to be overwhelmed. Sometimes 100 Mbps of download speed is fast enough, while in other cases, it is regarded as slow internet speeds (see 'Is a 100 Mbps Fast Internet?' and 'Is 200 mbps Fast'). Throttled internet is a thing that's often overlooked with internet providers.

 We have created this piece to give you a clear understanding of what internet speed entails. The review covers the meaning of internet speed, which is considered fast internet, and how to determine the right rate for you. So, what is a good internet speed and also, what is the fastest internet speed? Let’s dig in!

 

What Is Internet Speed, and Why Does it Matter? 

two internet speed tests

Internet speed is a lot like water pressure; it’s about the volume of moving water at a given time. A computer that is connected to the internet receives information from another through electronic packets. A packet refers to a unit of data. When many packs are delivering data at the moment, the volume of data will be high, and so the internet speed will be fast.  

Consider the analogy of a showerhead. When only a little water is trickling out, it may take you forever to rinse out the shampoo. On the other hand, water that is coming out with high pressure makes it easy to clean your hair. Internet speed works in the same way. Slow speed means that you won’t stream a video without buffering. Nobody wants that, which is why the demand for faster WiFi speed is high because it ensures a smooth internet experience. 

 How to Measure Internet Speed

In the simplest terms, internet speeds are measured by how quickly you can download or upload content in a second and the most used term is megabits per second (mbps). For many people, download speed (see 'How to Improve Upload Speed') matters more than the upload rate. That is because you download a lot of things like music, streaming shows, browsing online and online gaming. Upload speed comes in when you send or upload large files or hold video conferencing or video calls. In addition, follow this link if you need upload for gaming mostly.

Both upload and download rates are measured in bits per second. Due to the nature of large upload files, we tend to stick to prefixes like G, M, and K to tell how many thousands of megabits that one is referring to. The most used designation is mbps because  is more relevant to what many people use the internet for. Internet speed could also fall into the ranges of kbps, but those are what we know to be slow internet connections.  Gbps refers to ultra-fast speed, which is rare but is slowly becoming more prevalent than in the past. 

You can use free testing tools such as speedtest.net to measure your internet speed or how much internet speed you are getting from your internet provider.

 Is broadband the “National Speed Limit”?

Regulations on internet speeds are relatively new, but many governments are choosing to regulate the internet too. Some recommend that the minimum download should be 25Mbps with a minimum upload speed of 3Mbps. That is a fair baseline to determine fast and slow speeds. Those that a have faster internet connection than the standard broadband are considered fast internet, while those below the bandwidth are deemed slow. Besides what the broadband providers offer, other factors affect the actual performance, and factors affect internet speeds. Using the connection speeds for demanding tasks like downloading HD video or streaming in 4K can strain even the highest rates. 

 Types of Internet and How They Affect the Speed 

 1. Fiber  

Reasonable mbps for fiber - 5 to 10 Mbps

It is the fastest internet technology available today. To transfer data, it utilizes fiber-optic cables that can transmit large amounts of information fast. Although it is quick, fiber is not as accessible in most parts of the world compared to other technologies. The biggest hindrance to its development is the high cost of building the required infrastructure. You can find fiber broadband availability in your area here.

 2. Satellite

satelite internet over earth

Reasonable mbps for satellite - 12 to 100 Mbps

How does satellite internet work? Consumers access the internet wirelessly from the receiver. However, they must involve wires to transport the signal from the receiver to various locations in the building. Since it is wireless, satellite internet is widely available. Its bandwidth is closer to that of DSL but is often has slower speeds because of dormancy. 

 3. Cable 

Reasonable mbps for cable – 10 Mbps to 1,000 Mbps

Here, the internet is transported through similar cables to those that are used to transmit TV services. Cable internet has a high broadband capacity to attain high speeds. Its speeds are often faster than DSL. 

 4. DSL 

Reasonable mbps for DSL - 3 Mbps to 115 Mbps

It stands for Digital Subscriber Line. The connection is similar to a regular phone line, but it has advanced wiring that enables broadband transmission. Therefore, DSL is faster than dial-up. Most telephone companies, both current and former, usually offer internet services using this technology and are available in many service areas. 

 5. Dial-up

earth and computer showing dial up

Reasonable mbps for dial-up - 56 Kbps

It is the slowest connection technology since it can’t support broadband. Therefore, dial-up often has limited bandwidth. Because of these shortcomings, it is  outdated and doesn't exist in most first world countries. It's the first internet connection that was popularized and would often be interrupted by phone calls. 

 What Affects my Internet Speed?

report of internet speed test

  • Traffic congestion – Sadly enough, your internet might also encounter congestion. Picture how busy a freeway gets on a regular evening. The more the data transfer you request at a time, the more the bandwidth that is required, and consequently, the slower the download or upload speeds. Congestion usually occurs during peak time, such as when everyone has just gotten home from work or during the weekends. 
  • Your location – if you reside in a busy city or town, you are likely to have internet access to a variety of internet types. People living in cities usually have higher broadband speeds than those in rural areas. 
  • Connection type – connections determine the speed of your internet. Some bandwidths are fixed and thus cannot be increased while you can widen others. 
  • Inadequate/old equipment, connections or wires - If you have outdated equipment, you wouldn’t expect it to measure up to current technology. Also, ensure that all your connections are appropriately configured. And if you need a more detailed read on this subject, go to our 'Why does my internet speed fluctuate?' post.

 What Speed is Required in a Household?

17Mbps 

  • It is perfect for light browsing and downloading in small households
  • You can use it to stream TV
  • Good for several internet users
  • It takes 30 minutes to download an HD movie

 38Mbps

  • Ideal for multi-use
  • Best for families with several devices
  • It takes 15 minutes to download an HD film
  • Easy to stream TV

76Mbps

  • It is excellent for multi-user and most internet users streaming and download
  • Ideal for households that value faster speeds
  • It takes 8 minutes to download an HD movie
  • Suitable for streaming online TV

FAQs

1. What is a good internet speed?

What is considered a high-speed internet connection? An excellent internet connection speed is at least 25 Mbps. However, fast internet speeds, often in the 100+ Mbps upload and download speeds range, are frequently preferable, particularly if your internet service will concurrently accommodate numerous devices and users.

2. What is more important upload or download speed?

For the ordinary internet user, faster download speeds are far more significant than upload speeds, as the majority of online activity is dependent on them. Download speeds, for example, are used while streaming video. Faster upload speeds are important for users that post huge files to the internet, such as videos (think YouTubers), but everyone needs some level of fast upload speed.

3. What is a good home Internet speed?

According to the FCC, the best Internet service provider for households with two or more connected devices and moderate to heavy internet use should offer download speeds of at least 12 Mbps. 25 Mbps are suggested to be the best internet speeds for four or multiple devices. Homes with four or more users and four or more connected devices will undoubtedly require maximum download speeds of at least 25 Mbps.

4. Who has the fastest home Internet speed?

In the United States, Google Fiber offers the fastest average internet speeds, closely followed by Verizon Fios. These two fiber internet service providers offer remarkable download, upload, and ping speeds. RCN, MetroNet, and Xfinity all offer respectable speeds on an average basis.

5. What is the Fastest Internet Ever?

178 terabytes of data per second.

Researchers in London have developed the world's fastest internet, capable of speeds of up to 178 terabits per second, or 178,000 gigabits per second. The speed is double that of any other system now in use on the planet and a fifth quicker than the previous world record of 150 Tbps held by a team in Japan.

About Lawrence Jung

Lawrence graduated cum laude from Boston University with a B.S. in Journalism. He then started working with The New York Times for 3 years as an editor. Upon their acquisition of online review website the Wire Cutter he became exposed to the digital world of review-style articles and digital content. He was a writer for many tech review products where he developed his expertise in the electronic and PC peripheral space. He quickly got promoted to managing a writing team where he was responsible for training and managing a team of over a dozen writers. After being there for another 3.5 years, Lawrence left in late 2019 to help Dusan create VSS Monitoring, where he could help design and contribute to the site’s content and website’s architecture to develop what he wants to become THE top tech resource online.

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