High-speed internet is essential. But how many Mbps do you really need? What’s considered high-speed internet?
It seems like almost every commercial these days is promising you the fastest internet speed. But what exactly is “fast” and how many mbps is it? With a head-spinning number of options to choose from, it can be overwhelming deciding what internet speed you really need, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the lingo. Check out the FAQ below for some helpful tips on finding the fastest internet speed and how many mbps your household needs, plus the differences between fiber internet, DSL, satellite and 5G.
Internet speed is often defined in Mbps, which stands for megabits per second. Knowing your mbps, your file upload and download speeds, can help you determine whether your home internet is fast enough to do everyday things like stream movies or download large files.
Mbps represents the amount of traffic your internet can handle. While Netflix will say that you only need 5 mbps to stream a high-definition video, you’ll need more if you plan to do anything else at the same time (like check your email on your phone). You’d be surprised how many devices are quietly using your Internet bandwidth in the background. Smart home devices like Google Home or Amazon Echo, laptops and PCs in sleep mode, your security system, and even your sprinkler system can all be using your internet, which will affect your internet speed unless you have enough Mbps.
Consider this: In the last few years Americans have more than doubled the number of smartphones, tablets and gaming devices connected to our Wi-Fi networks. In fact, according to a Deloitte survey, the average household has 25 connected devices. Each of those devices uses some of your internet bandwidth. So while 5 Mbps may be enough to stream a movie by itself, if you have more than 5 devices connected to your internet, a download speed of 150 or higher works better. If your household has more than one person, or you’re streaming 4K video, gaming, video conference calling or using smart home devices, you’ll want an internet speed of 200 or higher according to Tom’s Guide. Make sure you take into consideration your future needs as well.
Things change rapidly in the communications field. Verizon, for example, is rolling out 5G around the country. (5G Ultra Wideband currently is available in 1,700+ cities. See if 5G or high-speed fiber-optic internet is available in your area now.) The internet service that worked for you last year might not be the best fit for you now. If you have a choice of internet providers, it’s smart to keep an eye on what technologies they’re offering — and to understand how those new technologies redefine what is considered slow internet vs high speed internet. .
The FCC currently defines broadband internet as any high-speed internet access with a minimum of 25 Mbps download speed/3 Mbps upload speed. However the weighted average of available speeds in the FCC’s 2021 “Measuring Fixed Broadband” report was 146.1 Mbps.
You might think that dial-up disappeared with car phones and beepers after the 90s. But dial-up is still a form of internet for some rural homes and businesses, even with its limitations. With speeds of approximately 56 kilobits per second (Kbps), it can take hours to download files, and it’s too slow to qualify as broadband.
Satellite technology is one option for broadband internet access that’s often used in remote areas. Although traditionally slow, in recent years speeds have improved due to technological advances. Some satellite service is even available now at broadband speeds. However, when lag and latency issues exist, real-time activities like online gaming may become more difficult.
Two other services that offer fast internet speeds are DSL and cable. DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Lines and uses twisted copper technology and a modem to provide a broadband connection. However, speeds vary widely based on the internet service provider, equipment used and the quality of the phone lines leading to your home or business.
Cable connections also offer high-speed internet services with fast download speeds, but they may not always attain the upload speeds of fiber-optic connections. That can mean more lag time during online gaming and slower photo and video uploads.
Between DSL, cable and fiber, fiber-optic internet speeds are the fastest available today, according to a June 2020 article from Broadband Now, an independent website which helps consumers find and compare internet services. Services like Fios 2 Gigabit Connection deliver blazing-fast, ultra-reliable internet speeds averaging between 1.5 Gbps and 2.3 Gbps for both upload and download. Unlike other providers who may offer gig plans using partial fiber or copper/fiber hybrid networks, Verizon Fios is powered by a 100% fiber-optic network.
Without a doubt, though, the biggest news in the high-speed internet world these days has to be the introduction of 5G networks. Up to 10x faster than today’s 4G networks,* Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network is expected to revolutionize the way people connect at home and on the go with ultra-high speeds and bandwidth. In fact, services such as Verizon 5G Home Internet, which is powered by 5G Ultra Wideband, already deliver wireless internet that provides ultra-fast speeds of 300 Mbps and, depending on location, max speeds of up to 1 Gbps. And new cities are coming online all the time. Stay tuned as the world discovers the full potential of 5G.
First, check your current internet speed. To help you decide the “best” speed is for your household, consider how many people and devices will be using the connection at once and how it will be used. One generally accepted rule of thumb is that anything above 100 Mbps is considered “fast” internet because it can connect multiple devices at once.
On the other hand, if several people in your house will be using a lot of bandwidth for activities like streaming movies,sending large files for work or gaming, you’ll probably want an internet speed plan with 200 Mbps or more.
This depends on what you’re using the devices for, but generally speaking 25 Mbps supports up to 5 devices. If you’re a single-person household who only needs to browse the web and check email, you might be satisfied with 25 Mbps. When factoring your needs, remember to include any IOT devices like sprinkler or security systems, smart appliances, medical and fitness devices.
Has all this talk about fast and slow internet made you curious about your current internet speed? Why not check it now using our speed test page? If it’s no longer fast enough to support all your usage and connected devices, you can always upgrade to a new plan. Whichever route you go, taking the time to do some homework now can help you get the most out of your internet connection.
*Comparison is to median Verizon 4G LTE speeds.
Reviewed by the Verizon Networking Team 2022.