A good internet speed is one that allows you to seamlessly engage in your typical online activities without constant buffering, lag, or other disruptions. For streaming videos in high definition, internet speeds of at least 8-25 Mbps are recommended according to Federal Communications Commission data. But internet speeds vary widely based on your connection type, number of devices, time of use and other factors. This comprehensive guide examines what constitutes good internet speeds and how fast your connection really needs to be for streaming and everyday internet use.
What Speeds Are Considered Good for Streaming?
Internet service providers often advertise "blazing fast" speeds, but what matters is whether your connection provides the bandwidth needed for your usage. Here are some general guidelines for good internet speeds based on activity:
For standard definition video streaming from sites like Netflix or Hulu, a download speed of at least 3-6 Mbps is recommended. At this speed, you should be able to stream smoothly without constant buffering.
For high definition (720p) streaming, you‘ll want a faster connection of 8-10 Mbps to stream without interruptions.
For ultra high definition 4K streaming, an even faster download speed of 25 Mbps or higher is recommended for uninterrupted streaming.
For online gaming, a minimum download speed of 4-6 Mbps is required, but speeds of up to 25 Mbps may improve the gaming experience and allow for multiplayer gaming.
For video conferencing and video calls, upload speeds become important. You‘ll need 1-2 Mbps for smooth video calls according to Cisco.
Of course, these are just rough guidelines – your experience depends on other factors covered next. But for a good streaming experience, download speeds of 8-25 Mbps are ideal while 3-6 Mbps is passable. Choosing an internet plan that consistently provides speeds in this range is recommended.
Key Factors That Impact Internet Speeds
Your internet service provider often advertises the maximum or "up to" speeds. But many technical factors affect your real-world speeds. Being aware of these bottlenecks is key to diagnosing speed issues:
Type of Internet Connection
The type of broadband connection you use has a major impact on speed:
Fiber optic internet provides the fastest and most consistent speeds for home users. Speeds of 500 Mbps to 1 Gbps are common with fiber since it uses light signals through glass cables rather than copper wires. This makes it less susceptible to electromagnetic interference that can slow other connection types.
Cable internet delivers good speeds by using existing cable TV infrastructure, but since the bandwidth is shared with neighbors, your speeds may fluctuate during peak usage times. Average cable internet speeds range from 50 to 200 Mbps.
DSL uses telephone lines for connectivity and tends to be slower, with average speeds of 10-100 Mbps. Furthermore, DSL speeds are impacted by distance from the provider‘s central hub, and usually decline the further you are located.
Satellite internet enables access in rural areas outside the reach of cable or DSL, but inconsistencies in speed are common. Data traveling to geosynchronous satellites in space introduces latency. Inclement weather can also interrupt the satellite signal causing temporary outages.
Fixed wireless uses radio signals to connect homes and businesses. While speeds are improving, coverage gaps and latency issues still occur, especially at longer distances. Expect average speeds in the 25-100 Mbps range.
Network Equipment and Infrastructure
Outdated networking equipment, weak WiFi signals, inferior cables and ports, and constrained broadband capacity can all limit your speeds:
Old routers and modems can‘t deliver the full bandwidth available from your ISP. Replace equipment older than 3-5 years to support faster speeds.
Weak WiFi router placement or signal strength results in slower speeds. Relocate the router to a central area or install range extenders. Connect devices directly to router ports when possible.
Low quality Ethernet cables (Cat5/5e) constrain speeds over wired connections. Upgrade to Cat6 or Cat7 cables to transmit data faster without losses.
Your home network infrastructure like cabling, splitters, filters and interior wiring can create bottlenecks. Contact your ISP to inspect and upgrade if needed.
Number of Connected Devices
With 51% of Americans accessing the internet on three or more devices, having multiple computers, phones, TVs and other gadgets connected puts more demand on your home network and router:
Each additional device consumes part of your available bandwidth, slowing down your whole network.
Newer devices supporting faster WiFi standards like 802.11ac/ax share bandwidth more efficiently than older 802.11n/g/b devices. Upgrade old equipment.
Consider managing high bandwidth activities like streaming on different devices to minimize congestion. Or schedule large downloads when fewer devices are connected.
Peak Usage Times
Your neighborhood‘s internet usage patterns impact speeds:
In the evenings between 7-11pm local time, more people are streaming video, gaming, video chatting and working from home. This results in slower speeds during these peak hours as capacity becomes constrained.
Off-peak times like early mornings tend to have much faster speeds with less congestion according to Opensignal data. Transfer large files or stream high resolution video during off-peak hours if possible.
Physical Location and Distance
Your proximity to the ISP‘s equipment affects connection quality:
Customers located further from the service provider’s central office/hub will experience reduced DSL speeds due to distance limitations.
With cable internet, your shared connection may become congested during peak hours if many neighbors are online simultaneously. Contact your provider about bandwidth usage in your area if speeds are consistently slow.
Using a VPN adds virtual distance as your traffic is routed through remote VPN servers. This can increase latency. Connect to VPN servers geographically closer to you.
Equipment and Hardware
Old networking gear, computers, cables or WiFi adapters can limit your speeds:
Computers and phones with outdated wireless network adapters may not support faster WiFi standards like 802.11ac that give better WiFi range and performance.
Low-end routers or other equipment can create bottlenecks even if you pay for fast internet. Always use high quality, modern networking gear optimized for speed.
Damaged Ethernet cables or loose connections result in data loss and reduced speeds. Inspect cables and secure all connections.
Internet Speed Requirements for Streaming and Other Activities
To stream and use the internet smoothly, certain minimum download and upload speeds are recommended for specific activities:
For Video Streaming
|Video Quality||Minimum Download Speed|
|Standard definition 480p||3-6 Mbps|
|High definition 720p||8-10 Mbps|
|Full HD 1080p||12-15 Mbps|
|4K UHD||25 Mbps or higher|
*Minimum speeds based on FCC and industry data for smooth, uninterrupted streaming. Faster speeds may be needed for multiple streams.
For Online Gaming
|Game Quality||Minimum Download Speed|
|Casual single player gaming||4-6 Mbps|
|Competitive online multiplayer gaming||10-25 Mbps|
|HD cloud gaming||25 Mbps|
*Latency below 20 ms also required for competitive fast-twitch gaming.
For HD Video Calling and Conferencing
|Video Call Type||Minimum Upload Speed|
|One-on-one video calls||0.5 – 1.5 Mbps|
|Group video calls (up to 4 people)||1.5 – 3 Mbps|
|HD video conferencing||6+ Mbps|
*For screen sharing during calls, more upload bandwidth is required.
Estimated Download Times by File Size
Your internet speeds determine how long downloads take. With faster connections, large files and movies require less time to download.
|Download Speed||5GB Movie Download||20GB Game Download|
|10 Mbps||1 hour 20 minutes||5 hours 20 minutes|
|25 Mbps||35 minutes||1 hour 20 minutes|
|50 Mbps||17 minutes||40 minutes|
|100 Mbps||8 minutes||20 minutes|
*Download times estimated for single download with no other traffic. Faster speeds enable quicker large file downloads.
As this data shows, high-speed internet is vital for streaming HD or 4K video, gaming smoothly online, and joining video calls or conferences without freezing and pixelation. A good internet connection provides the reliable bandwidth you need for simultaneous activities across multiple devices in your household.
How to Test Your Actual Internet Speeds
All these recommendations for good internet speeds depend on consistently getting the speeds you pay for. Here are some tips on measuring your actual internet speeds:
Use a trusted online speed test from your provider or a third party site to test both download and upload speeds from your devices connected via WiFi and wired networks.
Run tests during both peak hours (evenings) and off-peak hours like early mornings to check for consistency.
Test speeds on multiple devices like phones, laptops, smart TVs to check for differences in speed over WiFi.
If your speeds are much lower than what your ISP advertises, contact them to investigate or send a technician. Slow speeds could indicate connection issues, outages or infrastructure problems.
Consider upgrading to a higher tier package if your current plan can‘t provide sufficient speeds during peak times to support smooth streaming and other activities.
How to Choose the Right Internet Plan
When picking an internet service plan, consider your household‘s needs:
Are you frequently streaming HD or 4K video content? Fast download speeds of 25+ Mbps are recommended.
Do you play competitive online multiplayer games? Lower latency is key, along with 10+ Mbps speeds.
Does your family connect multiple devices like phones, laptops and TVs simultaneously? More bandwidth helps minimize congestion.
Do you need to upload large files for work? Faster upload speeds will enable better performance.
Discuss your current and future internet requirements with providers to select the right plan. Here are some important questions to ask:
What download and upload speeds do you offer with each plan? Make sure they align with your bandwidth needs.
What is the latency and ping times for your connection? This impacts gaming and video calls.
What is my monthly data allowance? Higher caps are better for heavy streaming households.
Are speeds guaranteed or ‘up to‘ advertised rates? ‘Up to‘ speeds aren‘t always achievable.
Stay aware of promotions so you can upgrade for faster speeds when discounts are offered. Getting the right internet speeds for your household is key to buffer-free streaming and internet usage across multiple devices.