What mạng internet speed vị you need? Here"s what you should pay for, and what you shouldn"t.

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What internet speed vì I need? You probably ask yourself this question every time it"s time khổng lồ renew your mạng internet plan, if not every time you pay your bill. Knowing which plan is right for you and your household isn"t the simplest question to answer. The last year has put more demand on trang chủ networks than ever, with your trang chủ broadband plan having khổng lồ serve as work resource and school service on đứng top of the usual streaming và gaming. Here"s how to know if you"re paying too much, or if you"re really getting the service you need.

Internet connectivity is something of a moving target. The number of connected devices & users in our homes is growing quickly, và those devices are on more & more. Sometimes, you enjoy blazing speeds on your laptop, phone or tablet, và other times, you wonder why your connection is so slow. Maybe your trò chơi stalls when someone else in the house starts streaming music. Or maybe your Roku keeps buffering just as you"re getting lớn the best part of that movie on Netflix.

Tom"s Guide contacted broadband experts và some folks who work at mạng internet service providers (ISPs) lớn see if you really need to lớn pay extra for faster connectivity. Here"s what we found.

What internet speed bởi I need? Quick tips

Netflix says you need 5 Mbps lớn stream full HD content và 25 Mbps for 4K Ultra HD content, but you"ll want faster speeds if you plan to connect several devices at once. The same holds true for other streaming services và game streaming services lượt thích Twitch.Multiple devices demand more bandwidth. If you"re planning to lớn stream 4K video content and have multiple devices connecting khổng lồ your network simultaneously, seriously consider investing in faster download speeds, like 200 Mbps, which should work for most households.

There is such a thing as too much speed

I know, I know — all the ISPs are telling you to get a faster plan. But you may be paying more than you need to.

"To select the best services or package for your usage, you must understand your bandwidth needs," said Lincoln Lavoie, a senior engineer of broadband technologies at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory.

"This depends more on the applications being used (streaming is largely a downstream application), but as users start doing more things like đoạn phim calls & movie sharing, upload also becomes very important," Lavoie told Tom"s Guide. "Similarly, upload speeds are critical for people working remotely from home, as upload speeds would impact things like screen sharing & online conference calls."

After a year of lockdowns, where people have handled everything from work to lớn school right from home, having sufficient bandwidth for the whole family is more important than ever.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Another senior engineer, who works at a well-known ISP và spoke to Tom"s Guide on condition of anonymity, echoed that point, saying internet speeds ultimately depend on what the customer is doing with his or her mạng internet connection. The person added that the "average family" shouldn"t pay for "anything beyond trăng tròn x 5." Companies like Spectrum, however, are offering 100Mbps tải về speeds as a baseline, so that should work exceedingly well for most.

How many Mbps vị you really need?

Number of devicesUse CasesRecommended download Speed
1-2Web surfing, email, social networking, moderate videoUp to lớn 25 Mbps
3-5Online multiplayer gaming, 4K streaming50 - 100 Mbps
More than 5All of the above plus sharing large files and live streaming video.150 to 200 Mbps

Another broadband expert told Tom"s Guide that the more bandwidth you have, the better, up to lớn a point. Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, said this will ensure you have enough bandwidth when you really need it — for example, if you have a big file to upload or you"re doing sophisticated work on your network.

Gigabit tốc độ offers 1,000 Mbps, an exponential increase over the 20 to 200 Mbps plans that are generally considered high-speed broadband. See our article What is Gig-Speed Internet? for a full exploration of what gigabit mạng internet plans offer, what they cost and what they allow you lớn do.

However, "anything over 10 Gbps to lớn a home user is pretty likely overkill," Mitchell said. "Only a few networks in the U.S. Vì 10 Gbps. A gig everywhere should be a goal — not because people will max it out, but because it will ensure everyone can vì chưng what they want without worrying about the network being the bottleneck.”

As more people shift to streaming for their TV & movie watching needs, bandwidth requirements become a bigger issue. If you want lớn stream 4K content to get the best picture for your 4K smart TV, you"ll need a connection of at least 25 Mbps. Lower resolution content is less demanding, but even streaming 1080p HD video clip will require a 10 Mbps plan for smooth performance.

And that"s all assuming you only stream to lớn one device at a time. If there"s more than one TV in your home, or you want to lớn watch in the living room while someone else watches on a máy tính in the kitchen, the bandwidth needs grow accordingly.

Smart trang chủ devices also bring new demand for bandwidth. It only takes a few devices, lượt thích a smart thermostat, a smart speaker & a smart lock, lớn start having an impact on your home"s connectivity speeds, so don"t forget to lớn factor those into your thinking when you consider how many devices are in use in your home. Most experts recommend adding an extra 5 Mbps to lớn your plan for every 10 smart devices, though some products, like cameras, will require much more.

The cost of connectivity

Though there"s debate over how much mạng internet speed you need, it"s clear that ISPs benefit from your desire for faster mạng internet speeds. But they can also provide some insight into how much speed you really need by listing how many devices can connect lớn the network at any given time.

According khổng lồ a report by the The Internet & Television Association, the average American household pays $61 per month for internet service, but your costs will vary based on your plan and usage.

Comcast Xfinity, a prominent ISP in the U.S., has varying prices based on speed. If you listen lớn the above engineer, you can probably get away with the company"s cheapest package, which offers tải về speeds of up lớn 100 Mbps. The plan is available for new customers at $40 per month and, according to Xfinity, should be able lớn accommodate up to lớn five devices simultaneously connecting khổng lồ the internet.

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Xfinity also delivers a connection with up khổng lồ 200-Mbps download speeds for $55 per month. According lớn the company, that should be enough to accommodate up to lớn eight devices simultaneously connecting lớn the internet.

Xfinity offers a 2Gbps connection for $300 per month with a two-year agreement. "Unlimited devices" should be able lớn connect khổng lồ the website at that speed, the company says. But if you want more speed and a little less cost, consider Xfinity"s 1Gbps option that starts at $80 per month.

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Beware of these pitfalls

In many cases, choosing your mạng internet connection tốc độ means weighing how much you"re hoping to lớn get versus how much you"re willing to pay. But you need lớn be ready for the possibility that you won"t get what you want.

Most ISPs offer mạng internet packages with an important caveat: "up to." In other words, for the average residential mạng internet customer, ISPs aren"t guaranteeing a certain tải về or upload speed. So, if you"re paying for a 25-Mbps package, you may get that speed (if not more) at times. But it"s also possible that you"ll get less.

But even if your ISP is delivering the speeds you want, the number of devices simultaneously connecting khổng lồ your network could give you some trouble that could ultimately slow down your connection. With everything from laptops và smartphones to lớn TVs & connected appliances relying on a steady stream of data, it"s easy lớn underestimate your needs.

"Internet connections serve households or businesses that have multiple users that each have multiple devices (sometimes more than 10 per person, ultimately)," Mitchell said. "They create congestion in unexpected ways — you may not need a 100-Mbps connection most of the day, but when you need it, you want it there. Much lượt thích a car can go 100 mph, but we rarely drive it that way."

So, how can you tell if your network needs a boost? Lavoie said to lớn look for "quality of experience" metrics, including load times, the number of connectivity glitches và connection drop-outs. It"s also important khổng lồ use online speed-check tools, like the aforementioned Fast.com or others, to see at what tốc độ you start lớn experience problems.

What about online gaming?

If you"re an avid gamer, playing online with friends might be one of the things you enjoy most. And having faster mạng internet is really important for that.

Over on its tư vấn forums, Microsoft offers a handy reference document to lớn help you know how fast your internet speeds should be khổng lồ accommodate online play. According khổng lồ the document, you"ll want a download speed of 3 Mbps or better & an upload tốc độ of 0.5 Mbps or better. Your ping rate (a measure of lag your mạng internet connection causes in online gaming) should also be less than 150 milliseconds.

Sony & Nintendo recommend the same speeds.

Twitch & game streaming

When it"s time khổng lồ stream games between friends on Twitch, you"ll need faster connectivity, according to lớn Microsoft and other game companies. According to lớn Twitch"s broadcasting guidelines, you"ll need a bit rate of at least 2.5 to 4 Mbps to lớn play at720p và 30 frames per second. It then goes up khổng lồ 3.5 to lớn 5 Mbps for 720p at 60 fps.

If you want to stream at 1080p và 30 fps, you need 3.5 khổng lồ 5 Mbps as well, và 1080p at 60 fps demands 4.5 khổng lồ 6 Mbps.

Are speeds changing?

The good news is that internet speeds are improving. A 2020 study from mạng internet speed-test company Ookla found that the average download speed increased by 19.6% for fixed home broadband connections between 2019 & 2020.

Gigabit speed connections, once limited to lớn specific neighborhoods in only the largest cities, is now more widely available than ever. According khổng lồ the The Internet và Television Association, gigabit service is available to lớn more than 80% of households in the United States, with gigabit speed connections offered in more than 40 states. (See our guide to lớn learn what is gigabit Internet.)

How much speed vị I have?

Before you can make an informed decision about your mạng internet speed, it’s important that you find out how much tốc độ you’re actually getting right now. Và there are plenty of places lớn find that out.

Popular tools for measuring mạng internet speed include Ookla Speedtest và Netflix’s Fast.com, which you can pull up on your máy vi tính in any web browser for free. Even better, you can also get dedicated smartphone apps for those same tools, with không tính phí apps for both Ookla Speedtest (Android / iOS) and Fast.com (Android / iOS).

There are also similar tools provided by various broadband companies, if you want to use a tool that"s specific to lớn your internet service provider:

Regularly checking your connection speeds will not only give you a good idea of whether you"re getting the services you pay for, but also how well-suited your connection is lớn uses like streaming in 4K or online gaming.

What"s going on with 5G?

Wireless carriers — including Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — have already introduced 5G connectivity across their networks, & coverage has spread to major cities & markets. Once 5G speeds come to lớn your area, the mobile giải pháp công nghệ could give your current ISP a run for its money. As 5G wireless công nghệ starts khổng lồ roll out across the country, there is a push to lớn use the faster speeds of 5G for in-home broadband, as well as di động connectivity.

The potential speeds promised by 5G are an incredible jump forward, with tải về speeds ranging from from 150 Mbps khổng lồ more than 1 Gbps in some tests. That"s an enormous improvement over 4G, which ranges from 30-60 Mbps. That"s also fast enough that you could conceivably use a 5G connection to meet all of your home internet needs instead of traditional wired broadband.

However, there"s still a way khổng lồ go before 5G in the home becomes a viable option. First, 5G service needs to lớn roll out to more of the country. It"s offered in some cities, but rural coverage isn"t wide spread, and networks are still being built out và refined.

The hardware for in-home use is a little different, with exterior 5G antennas khổng lồ pull in the signal, và 5G-friendly routers then divvying up the connection throughout the home. These products are still in the early days, so don"t count on ditching your cable just yet.

There"s also the question of price, as most data plans from carriers are still mobile-oriented, and come with data caps & restrictions that aren"t as flexible as current fixed broadband. For now, we recommend waiting on switching your whole trang chủ to 5G.

Bottom line

Ultimately, deciding on the internet speeds you need isn"t as simple as it looks — or as simple as ISPs want you lớn believe. According lớn the experts, you need lớn think about the number of devices that will simultaneously connect to lớn your network and exactly what you want to vì with your connection. If it"s just streaming and web surfing you"re after, you likely won"t need much. But if you"re looking to stream 4K video, play online games & connect multiple devices, you"ll need more bandwidth, for which you"ll have to lớn pay more.

And what you pay for may not be what you get. You should periodically analyze your network speeds khổng lồ see what"s happening during slowdown or connectivity loss, as well as regular usage. If you aren"t seeing the speeds you"re paying for, it may be time to call your service provider.