How much internet speed do you really need?

Reliable internet may be something you take for granted, but even the most basic plans can represent a financial hardship for low-income households.

Free internet service is available in some cases. A member of your household must meet specific financial criteria to qualify. Tap or click here to learn how you can get free internet. How do you know if you’re paying too much if you do pay for the internet?

Do you work from home? Is someone in your house a hardcore gamer? Do you stream high-definition content from multiple devices at the same time? Your answers to these questions can help you determine how much internet speed you need.

Check yourself

First of all, are you getting what you’re paying for? If your plan includes 500 Mbps download speeds, you should be getting it. You won’t always see the exact number, but it should generally be close. You can check your download and upload speeds at speedtest.net. If there’s a problem, contact your ISP.

If you’re getting the speed you’re paying for but are noticing slowdowns, it could be a result of several factors. These include the number of connected devices, how many are streaming 4K, simultaneous streams, gaming, livestreaming, security cameras, video conferencing and more. In that case, you may need to upgrade your plan.

Another thing to check is if your router is in a good place. Walls and appliances can interfere with the wireless signal and slow everything down. You want to place your router high up and away from other electronics. Tap or click here for more tips on finding the best spot for your router.

RELATED: Have you seen this latest Wi-Fi network naming trend?

Streaming service recommendations

Popular streaming services recommend internet download speeds to help you know what you’ll need to stream smoothly. Here are some examples:

  • Netflix recommends 1 Mbps for standard definition streaming, 3 Mbps for 720p HD, 5 Mbps for 1080p HD and 15 Mbps for 4K/UHD.
  • To stream YouTube videos, you should have 1.1 Mbps for standard 480p, 2.5 Mbps for 720p HD, 5 Mbps for 1080p HD and 20 Mbps for 4K.
  • Skype recommends 300 Kbps for standard video calls, 1.5 Mbps for HD video calls, 2 Mbps for group video calls of 3 people, and the numbers go up the more people you have in your session.
  • Pandora recommends a consistent 150 Kbps for standard music streaming and at least 300 Kbps for high-quality audio.

So how much internet speed do you really need?

Depending on how much you do at home, you may not require blazing internet speeds. You’ll be fine with lower speeds if you’re streaming content on one device and primarily checking email and social media from your phone. If your home is full of smart and connected devices, you’ll want the service to support all of them.

Here are some general guidelines to get started:

  • If you only have a few devices connected to your Wi-Fi and use your network primarily for web browsing, a plan with 10 Mbps should be enough.
  • If you watch many videos and download tons of media, 25 Mbps should be good for you.
  • If you participate in online gaming and/or want to stream content, you’ll need 100 Mbps or more.
  • For simultaneous streaming, online gaming and downloads on many devices, you’ll do well with 500 Mbps.  

Keep an eye on your data cap. Your ISP may throttle your speed or even charge you for exceeding the cap if you go over it.

Consumer reports created an internet speed calculator you can use to determine how many Mbps you need. It’s easy to use and can give you a rough estimate to get you started. Tap or click here for more information.

Once on the site, you’ll see a list of devices that need the internet to perform. It includes devices to check email, stream 4K content, group video calls and more.

Hit the + button for each device you use. For example, if you have two TVs that stream 4K content, hit the + button twice to represent those devices. Do that for each device that connects to your Wi-Fi and the tool will let you know how much internet speed you need.

If your options are limited

People in rural areas don’t have the luxury of choice compared to urban dwellers. Poor connection speeds are more common in sparsely populated areas, and in those cases, a satellite may be the best option.

Unlike cable, fiber or DSL internet, you can get satellite service almost anywhere. You can do all the same things, such as stream and game, but satellite prices are commonly higher while speeds are typically lower.

A reader wrote in earlier this year asking about satellite service. They also asked about extending their internet service on their property without getting a second service. We answered their questions and gave some product and service recommendations. Tap or click here to check it all out.

You may also like: Want faster satellite internet? The price of Starlink’s new tier is out of this world

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