Put simply, bandwidth works like this: the larger the bandwidth the more data you can pull within a given time. Higher bandwidth = faster speed.
Here is an easy visual way to understand the calculation. Bandwidth is measure using bits per second. Bytes are used to measure the file size. As a reference consider the conversion below:
1 byte = 8 bits
1 megabyte (MB) = 8 megabits
Using a 1 megabit/second connection, it will then take a 1MB file 8 seconds to load.
On the same 1Mbps connection, let's make a real life example.An MP3 file measures on average about 6MB, it will take (6MB * 8 megabits = 48 seconds) to download. A 7 gigabyte movie (7000 MB) will take about 15.5 hours to download.
The answer to "how much internet speed do I need" comes down to your type of activities, usage frequency and length, number of devices and the number of people connected to the same bandwidth. The latter includes both the number of employees or the number of people using the internet at your residence. On top of that, the number of customers using the same bandwidth network will factor in depending on the type of broadband service you will sign up for.
So those factors are all linearly proportional meaning as one augments, the speed needs also increase. The more users, devices and people connected at the same time the higher the bandwidth needs to keep everyone happy.
Since the recent tendency is online streaming, and that is what usually consumes the most bandwidth, let's look at Netflix. Netflix recommends a 3 Mbps connection for one standard-quality stream and 5 Mbps for a high-definition stream. Two simultaneous HD quality streams would need around 10 Mbps.
Online gaming doesn't require much bandwidth to play online, but if you are looking to download a game, then the size of the files would require lots of it.
If you use the internet just for general web surfing, emailing and social media you won't need much more than 1 Mbps.
The values below are estimates of bandwidth internet speed needs depending on the type of activities. Do not forget to account for multiple devices or connected users. If there are more people than you have to multiply that number.
|General Web Surfing||1Mbps|
|HD Video Streaming||5-8 Mbps|
|Recurrent Large File Downloading||50Mbps and up|
You will not always get the speed that is promised. In some instance, if there is less internet traffic on the network you are connected to, your internet will be faster (even faster than your internet plan agrees to) - and the opposite is also true.
Internet speeds also will be affected by your type of hardware. Make sure your computer is clean of any viruses and other malware that would affect the speed.
Users are usually more concerned with the download speed rather than the upload speed. Upload speed will be listed as the second number on your internet plan. For example: 5Mbps/1Mbps. The upload speed is usually smaller than the download bandwidth.
As reference, the United States has an everage connection speed of 10 Mbps. Washington has the fastest average speed with 24.3 Mbps.
Satellite and DSL technology will be the slower connections. Cable and fiber optic broadband installations will be much faster in most cases. The down sides of the two first technologies is that satellites are affected by weather conditions and DSL uses telephone connection which limits the amount of data that can be transmitted at the same time.
Cable is one of the fastest high-speed internet connections, but depending on the number of users that are connected to the same node (network) it can slow down the performance. Fiber optic is the golden standard if you are looking for the best performing and fastest internet technology. Some fiber networks will be able to grant speeds of 1GB (1000 Mbps) or even more.