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How much internet speed do you need?
Most people need an internet speed of at least 25 Mbps, while 100 Mbps is ideal for a mid-sized household. That’s enough to let four or five Wi-Fi users play online games, stream video in HD, and attend Zoom meetings with minimal slowdowns or buffering. Of course, different households can have drastically different internet needs. Someone who lives alone and uses the internet for only small things like social media and web browsing doesn’t need as much internet speed as a family of five streaming Netflix in every room. But a faster connection is often better, especially if you spend a lot of time on the internet or share Wi-Fi with multiple users (or both). No matter what your situation is, it’s important to have an adequate internet speed to meet your daily online needs—and the needs of everyone else using your Wi-Fi. Use our “How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?” tool to figure out what the best bandwidth is for you.
|Internet Speed||What you can do|
|0-5 Mbps||Send emails
Stream in HD on a single device
|5-40 Mbps||Stream in HD on a few devices
Play online games
Run 1–2 smart devices
|40-100 Mbps||Stream in 4K on 2–4 devices
Play online games with multiple players
Download big files quickly (500 MB to 2 GB)
Run 3–5 smart devices
|100-500 Mbps||Stream in 4K on 5+ devices
Download very big files very quickly (2–30 GB)
Run 5+ smart devices
|500-1000+ Mbps||Stream in 4K on 10+ devices
Download and upload gigabyte-plus–sized files at top speed
Run 10 or more smart-home devices in your abode
Do basically anything on lots of devices with no slowdowns
Speed requirements taken from HighSpeedInternet.com’s How Much Internet Speed Do I Need? guidelines.
What types of internet are there— and how fast are they?
There are several types of internet connections, and the type of connection you have plays a huge part in the speeds you can get.
Fiber internet is the fastest internet you can get. It uses bundled fiber-optic strands wrapped in a reflective case to transmit large amounts of data with light signals. Most fiber internet plans give you 1,000 Mbps speeds, although some providers can get you speeds of up to 2,000 Mbps or even 5,000 Mbps. Fiber is also the only type of internet that gives you symmetrical upload speeds—so your uploads will be just as fast as your downloads.
Cable internet uses the same coaxial copper cables that transmit cable TV services. It can reach gigabit speeds and is more widely available than fiber, making it an excellent option for most customers looking to have high-speed internet in their homes.2 You can usually get it through current or former cable TV providers where you live.
DSL, short for digital subscriber line, uses the same wiring as landline telephone networks. It’s relatively slow (maxing out at 100 Mbps) and is becoming somewhat obsolete, since most DSL providers also offer fiber and have focused more on expanding their fiber services in recent years.
5G home internet is a relatively new internet type that provides internet over a fixed wireless connection. This type’s speeds range from 100–1,000 Mbps. 5G networks are still in the process of coming together, so 5G home internet isn’t widely available yet. The technology works best in densely populated areas, so 5G is mostly available in towns and cities—for now at least.
Fixed wireless is a wireless, cellular–based type of internet connection. Most fixed wireless plans give you max speeds of 25–50 Mbps, making it a solid fallback option if you can’t find something faster or cheaper.
Satellite internet is available almost anywhere in the United States, but it’s the slowest kind of internet you can get. Most satellite customers live in rural areas where you can’t get any other type of internet connection.
How can you improve your internet speed?
You can improve your internet speed by upgrading to a faster plan, updating your equipment, or taking simpler measures like closing out apps and browser windows. Internet can be slow for all sorts of reasons—and not just because you have a slow plan. So read on for common solutions and home remedies to put some pep in your Wi-Fi’s step. You can find more detailed explanations in our 10-step guide to improving internet speeds.
Update your modem and router. Outdated equipment can impede your internet speed, keeping you from hitting the speeds you’re paying for. To stay up to date, get a modem and router that meet wireless standards for Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) or Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax). And if you have a cable gigabit plan, make sure you have a DOCSIS 3.1 gigabit modem.
Move your router to a better location. Your router dispatches a Wi-Fi signal to all the connected devices in your home, so make sure it’s in a centralized location (like your living room) and away from any obvious obstructions. Bulky furniture or electronic appliances like microwaves can block its signal.
Plug your computer directly into your router. Use an Ethernet cable to give your computer a more direct line to your home network. Wired connections improve your speeds and reduce the chance of signal interference.
Regulate other users’ online activity. If you have an important Zoom meeting, ask your kids to switch off the Xbox to free up more bandwidth. Some routers have Quality of Service (QoS) settings that let you put limits on certain users and online activities.
Close out unnecessary tabs and apps. Got two dozen tabs open on your browser? Clear the air by closing the ones you’re not using.
Upgrade your internet. If all else fails, you can always look into upgrading your internet speed. You may even consider switching providers if the service you have now just doesn’t cut it.
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What is broadband internet?
Broadband internet is a term that’s often used interchangeably with high-speed internet, referring to any type of internet connection except dial-up. According to the Federal Communications Commission, an internet service must deliver at least 25 Mbps download speed and at least 3 Mbps upload speed to qualify as broadband—although FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel has called for raising the baseline definition to much faster speeds.
This term broadband came about as internet connection technology improved in the 1990s. Since internet was gradually allowing the transmission of information over a much larger variety of frequencies, internet experts started using the word broadband to describe this wide (broad) range of frequencies (bands).
What is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi is wireless internet. On a technical level, Wi-Fi is a nickname for a set of technological protocols based on the IEEE 802.11 standards and upheld by the Wi-Fi Alliance. Industry leaders coined the term in the late 1990s to help market Wi-Fi products, since it was more catchy-sounding than IEEE 802.11.3 These days, the terms Wi-Fi and internet are often used interchangeably. Technically speaking, though, Wi-Fi is a technology standard to provide a wireless form of internet.