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Tips & Tricks

How Many Mbps Does My Family Need?

Slow internet connections may be the result of having a plan without enough Mbps to support all your devices and users. Learn what speed you need in our blog.

Over the last decade, average internet speeds in the US have gone from 5 Mbps to nearly 100 Mbps. But in today’s connected world, that 100 Mbps connection could seem slower than the 5 Mbps connection did ten years ago.


There are lots of things that affect how much internet speed you need. Let’s look at how to choose the right Mbps for your family.


What Does Mbps Mean?


Mbps means megabits per second. This measures how much information your internet connection can transfer per second. A 100 Mbps connection transfers information ten times faster than a 10 Mbps connection.


One “bit” is the smallest measure of data stored on a computer. Transfer speeds get measured in megabits, which is 1,024 bits.


Some high-speed internet services also offer plans measured in gigabits per second, or Gbps. One gigabit is equal to 1,024 megabits, so a 1 Gbps connection is ten times faster than a 100 Mbps connection.


Factors That Affect Your Internet Performance


When you sign up for high-speed internet, the plan shows the maximum bandwidth or transfer speed of the service. Higher-speed plans provide more bandwidth, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Several other factors will impact the speed you actually see.


The Number of Devices Connected at the Same Time


The thing that has the biggest impact on your internet speed is how many devices you have connected at the same time. The plan’s Mbps rating is the top speed it can deliver, but when several devices are accessing the internet at the same time, it gets split between them.


For example, if you and your spouse are both working from home and on video conferences at the same time, you’ll only get half the maximum speed of your plan. And if you’ve got kids who are gaming or watching online video, that splits the bandwidth even more.


WiFi vs. Wired Connections


You’ve got two options when connecting computers and other devices to your home internet service — wireless (WiFi) and wired (ethernet). Wireless technology is much faster than it used to be, but a wired ethernet connection can still transfer information at higher speeds.


Of course, a wired connection is more limiting since you have to be close to the physical plug. And some devices like smartphones and tablets don’t offer a wired option at all. It is usually recommended to use both the wired connection, with wall-to-wall WiFi coverage in your home for optimum performance.


How Much Speed Do You Really Need?


It seems logical that more Mbps is better, but that’s not always the case. Depending on how you use the internet, there could be a point beyond which you won’t notice any benefit.


A higher Mbps connection would still be faster, but if the difference is measured in fractions of a second, you’re not likely to see it.


What Types of Applications Do You Use?


The biggest factor in figuring out how much Mbps your family needs is the types of things you do on the internet.


Do you use it for things like browsing the web, social networking, and checking email? None of those are bandwidth-intensive, so a lower speed plan is enough even if there are 2 or 3 people in your household.


Do you watch streaming video services like Netflix and Disney+ at 4K resolution or play multiplayer online games? Those use a lot more bandwidth, so you’ll need a higher-speed plan if you don’t want to run into issues with stuttering video or jumpy games.


The number of people in your household also has a bearing on this. If you have 4 or 5 people, you’ll want a higher Mbps even if they each have relatively basic requirements.


You can use an Mbps calculator to figure out exactly what you need, but the following are some general guidelines to follow:


  • Mbps for web surfing, email, and social networking - 25 to 50 Mbps per device
  • Mbps for streaming music and video conferencing - 50 to 100 Mbps per device
  • Mbps for gaming and 4K video streaming - 100 to 200 Mbps per device


Think about how many of those devices will get used at the same time. You might have 3 or 4 people in your household, but if they all use the internet at different times, it’s no different than one person using it.


Upload vs. Download Speeds


When you see an Mbps rating, most internet services show the download speed, but they don’t always list the upload speed.


Downloading means the data that you are pulling down from the internet. Uploading means data that you’re sending.


For most people, download speed is the most important. Typical internet users don’t upload very much information relative to what they download. There are a few use cases where upload speed is important though, including the following:


  • Video streaming
  • Data transfers such as online backups
  • File sharing


If anyone in your household does something that uploads a lot of information, such as gamers streaming their gameplay or working from home, make sure your internet package offers high-speed uploads as well as downloads.


Your WiFi Router Might Limit Your Mbps


Another factor that can limit your internet speed is your WiFi router. There are several versions of WiFi, and older versions have lower top WiFi speeds. This can restrict your internet speed even if you sign up for a high-speed package.


For example, if you’re using a 1 Gbps internet service but your WiFi router tops out at 300 Mbps, you’ll only get the fastest speed if you use a wired connection.


Most internet providers include a wireless router with the service, but make sure it supports the full speed you’re paying for. And if you’re using your own WiFi gear, make sure it’s new enough to support the Mbps of your internet connection.


Where to Get the Best High-Speed Internet


Hopefully, this article has helped you figure out what Mbps you need for your family’s internet. If you’ve determined you need a faster connection, fiber optic internet speed is hard to beat.


Glo Fiber offers packages ranging from 300 Mbps up to 2 Gbps, all backed by the best customer service in the industry. Get in touch with us today to get started.