Have you heard about gigabit internet but aren‘t sure exactly how fast it really is? Or maybe you want to know what gigabit speed could do for your home or business.
This in-depth guide will explain everything you need to know about gigabit broadband. I‘ll cover what a gigabit connection is, why you might need all that speed, and help you decide if it‘s worth the upgrade.
By the end, you‘ll be a gigabit expert!
Here‘s what we‘ll cover:
- What is gigabit internet?
- How fast is a gigabit in real-world use?
- 5 reasons to get gigabit internet
- What you need to get gigabit speeds
- Internet uses gigabit excels at
- Where you can get gigabit service
- How much does gigabit internet cost?
- Is gigabit worth the upgrade?
- FAQs about gigabit internet
Let‘s start with the basics…
What is Gigabit Internet?
Gigabit internet is a type of broadband connection that provides blazing fast speeds up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbps).
That equates to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps). To give you perspective:
The average internet speed in the U.S. is just 146 Mbps as of Q1 2022.
Most broadband plans still max out at around 100 Mbps.
So with speeds up to 1 Gbps, gigabit internet is nearly 10 times faster than regular broadband service!
Gigabit speeds first arrived for U.S. consumers around 2016 through new fiber optic internet providers like Google Fiber and municipal networks.
Since then, availability has expanded quickly, with 48% of Americans now having access to gigabit.
So what makes gigabit internet so fast? It all comes down to how data is transmitted:
Gigabit internet uses fiber optic cables that transmit data as light. This allows for nearly unlimited bandwidth and warp speed delivery.
That‘s opposed to traditional copper coaxial and DSL lines which have physical speed limitations.
The result is an internet connection capable of incredible speeds up to 1 Gbps, with crystal clear video, seamless streaming, and ultra-fast downloads.
Now let‘s look at some real-world examples to understand just how fast a gigabit really is!
How Fast is a Gigabit in Everyday Use?
To appreciate what a gigabit connection feels like, it helps to look at specific use cases:
At 1 Gbps, you can download a:
- 5 GB HD movie in 40 seconds.
- 50 GB game in 6.5 minutes.
- 1 TB data backup in 1.5 hours.
Compare that to a standard 100 Mbps connection where downloads take 10X longer!
Uploading huge files is painfully slow on cable and DSL. With 1 Gbps upload, you can transfer massive amounts of data in no time:
- 100 GB video project in 1.5 minutes
- 1,000 photos totaling 10 GB in 10 seconds
- Entire computer backup of 500 GB in 7 minutes
You won‘t notice much speedup browsing websites and social media day-to-day.
But gigabit helps avoid peak-time slowdowns from neighborhood congestion. Pages load instantly even at busy hours.
You can stream multiple 4K videos across all your devices and still have bandwidth to spare. No more pixelation or buffering, even at ultra HD quality.
Gigabit supports crystal clear video conferencing on services like Zoom, Teams, and FaceTime. No choppy audio or video, even on huge conference calls.
Gigabit can handle 50+ connected smart devices without any lag or reliability issues. With an average home having over 10 smart gadgets now, faster speeds provide essential capacity.
You‘ll achieve incredibly low ping and latency for competitive online gaming and cloud gaming services like PlayStation Now. Game with barely any lag against opponents worldwide.
In real-world use, a gigabit connection delivers a buttery smooth internet experience free of wait times and lag.
Now that you have a sense of how fast gigabit really is, let‘s look at 5 great reasons to upgrade…
5 Benefits of Gigabit Internet
Here are 5 ways getting gigabit internet can be a gamechanger:
1. Stream 4K and 8K Video
According to Akamai, over 25% of web traffic is now 4K video streaming. Problem is, Ultra HD demands 5-10X the bandwidth of HD video.
Most internet plans still can‘t deliver reliable 4K streaming, leading to endless buffering.
But with speeds up to 1 Gbps, gigabit fiber offers more than enough bandwidth for stutter-free 4K streaming across all your family‘s devices.
And as 8K viewing goes mainstream in the coming years, gigabit will be ready to handle those enormous bandwidth needs too.
2. Connect 50+ Smart Devices
The average U.S. home now has over 10 connected smart devices, according to Deloitte. As smart home tech keeps advancing, that number will only climb.
All those security cameras, smart lights, and appliances take a toll on your available bandwidth. WiFi dead spots, lag, and outages become increasingly common.
By providing virtually unlimited capacity, a gigabit connection can reliably support large smart home networks with 50+ devices.
3. Compete in Multiplayer Gaming
Ask any serious gamer, and they‘ll tell you fast internet is essential for competitive multiplayer and first-person shooters.
Slow speeds lead to high ping and latency, causing annoying lag during matches. You end up at a huge disadvantage against players with faster connections.
With gigabit fiber, you can achieve incredibly low ping for real-time gameplay. It makes a night and day difference when every millisecond counts.
4. Video Conference Without Lag
Choppy video calls are the bane of hybrid and remote work. But they‘ve become unavoidable for many home office workers and students on slower broadband.
Multiple family members conferencing simultaneously can cripple an underpowered internet connection.
By allowing crystal clear HD video on services like Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime, gigabit internet makes working from home infinitely less frustrating.
Whether it‘s sending big work presentations or sharing videos with friends, slow upload speeds turn even small transfers into a serious time sink.
With 1 Gbps upload, gigabit fiber makes easy work of even massive 100 GB files. Waiting around for uploads to finish becomes a thing of the past.
For households and offices pushing their internet connection to the limits with video, smart homes, and remote work, upgrading to gigabit starts to seem like a necessity.
Next, let‘s look at how you can get connected…
What You Need to Get Gigabit Internet
Here are 3 requirements for getting gigabit speeds in your home:
1. Check for Gigabit Fiber Service
The first step is verifying gigabit broadband is available in your area.
To achieve full 1 Gbps speeds, you‘ll need fiber optic internet service, which uses fiber cables instead of copper.
Major providers offering fiber include AT&T, Verizon FiOS, CenturyLink, Xfinity, and Google Fiber.
Enter your address on their websites to see if gigabit fiber has reached your neighborhood yet.
2. Upgrade to a Gigabit Plan
Once fiber is available, you‘ll need to upgrade your internet plan to a gigabit option.
Most fiber providers offer tiers like:
- Gigabit – 300-1000 Mbps speeds for $65-$100/month
- Multi-Gig – 2-5 Gbps for $100-$300/month
Pay attention to any fees like equipment charges and activation costs too.
3. Get a Gigabit Router
Lastly, you‘ll need an advanced router capable of multi-gigabit WiFi speeds.
Consider routers like:
- Netgear Nighthawk AX8 – $200 for speeds up to 1 Gbps
- Netgear Nighthawk AX12 – $350 for speeds up to 6 Gbps
A newer WiFi 6 (802.11ax) router is recommended to take full advantage of fast fiber connections.
You may also need Cat 6 or higher ethernet cables and a 5Ghz WiFi network setup for optimal gigabit performance.
Once fiber service is available, upgrading your plan and router are the final steps to achieve smoking fast gigabit.
Next, when does gigabit really make sense for your home?
When to Upgrade to Gigabit Internet
Paying $80-$150 monthly for gigabit internet is a big investment compared to more basic plans.
While gigabit sounds enticing, you may not actually need ultra-fast speeds for:
- Light web browsing
- Social media
- Music streaming
- SD/HD video
Gigabit shines if your household needs to power advanced applications like:
- Streaming 4K/8K video
- 50+ smart home devices
- Multiplayer gaming
- Video editing and file transfers
- Frequent video conferencing
For moderate broadband uses, 100 Mbps may still be plenty fast and cost half the price.
But the average home internet needs are rising quickly. The smart move is planning ahead and future-proofing with gigabit.
Where Can You Get Gigabit Internet Service?
Gigabit availability is still limited but growing nationwide:
- 22 states now have over 50% gigabit coverage.
- The Southwest U.S. leads adoption with over 60% of residents now having access to gigabit plans.
Here are some of the top national and regional gigabit providers:
|Max Gigabit Speed
|Starting Monthly Price
|Max Gigabit Speed
|Starting Monthly Price
|Select metro areas
Enter your address on providers‘ websites to see if gigabit service is available in your area yet.
Availability remains limited in rural areas, but steady fiber network expansion aims to improve that.
How Much Does Gigabit Internet Cost?
The monthly cost for gigabit service ranges from $65 to $150, but averages around $100 for 1 Gbps.
That‘s about two to three times more expensive than basic 25-100 Mbps plans.
Here‘s a full breakdown of gigabit pricing:
- Monthly fee: $80-$150
- Equipment rental: $10-$20
- Activation fee: $100-$200 one-time
- Early termination fee: $50-$200 if cancelling before contract ends
The initial cost your first 1-2 months ends up $250-$500 after equipment and fees.
But long term you‘re looking at around $100 per month. Deals are often available too.
While pricier, remember you’re future-proofing your internet at 10-100X faster speeds.
Is Gigabit Worth the Added Cost?
At nearly 3X the monthly price of basic broadband, gigabit comes at a premium.
But if you need genuine gigabit speeds, fiber is by far the most reliable and affordable way to get them.
Unlike cable plans that advertise "gigabit" but slow to a crawl at peak times, fiber consistently delivers max speeds.
The question is whether you can justify paying $100+ monthly for a premium service.
For moderate use, 100 Mbps cable may still be plenty fast for half the price.
But as 4K video and smart homes become standard, gigabit seems like an increasingly wise investment to stay future-proofed.
How to Test Gigabit Connection Speeds
Once your new gigabit internet is up and running, verifying you‘re getting the advertised speeds is important.
Follow these steps to test your gigabit connection:
Use a wired connection and disconnect other devices to get max speeds.
Run a speed test at a site like Speedtest.net or Fast.com.
Look for download speeds around 900-1000 Mbps and upload around 900 Mbps.
Try testing at different times as speed can vary by time of day.
If speeds fall significantly below 900 Mbps, contact your provider about optimizing your connection.
Consider upgrading your router or network cables if you consistently get slower than expected speeds.
Don‘t settle for less than the gigabit speeds you‘re paying for!
FAQs about Gigabit Internet
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about gigabit internet service:
Is gigabit worth it for gaming?
Yes, a gigabit connection provides extremely low ping and latency, which drastically improves gaming performance. Multiplayer games become incredibly responsive. For serious gamers, it‘s well worth upgrading.
Does gigabit help with lag and buffering?
Absolutely. By providing essentially unlimited bandwidth, a gigabit connection handles high-demand activities like 4K streaming flawlessly without lag, stuttering, or endless buffering.
What‘s the best gigabit router?
Some top routers for gigabit include the Netgear Nighthawk AX8, ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000, and TP-Link Archer AX11000. Look for an advanced WiFi 6 router with strong QoS for optimal performance.
Does gigabit internet have data caps?
Most fiber providers do not impose restrictive data caps like some cable ISPs. You can use as much data as you want without risk of overage fees.
Can I get gigabit without fiber?
You may see "gigabit" cable plans, but they use copper lines that can‘t deliver true symmetrical gigabit speeds. For reliable 1 Gbps, fiber optic service is strongly recommended.
The Bottom Line
Gigabit internet represents an enormous speed upgrade – like going from dial-up to broadband back in the 90s!
While not essential for basic use, gigabit unlocks incredible new applications like lag-free gaming, 8K streaming, and 50+ device smart homes.
If you can get fiber service where you live, upgrading to gigabit is the perfect way to future-proof your home or office with lightning fast speeds.
Just be sure to consider whether you can justify the $100+ monthly price over more affordable plans.
Hopefully this guide gave you a complete overview of how fast gigabit really is and whether it could be the right internet option for your needs!