In the internet lingo, bandwidth refers to the maximum speed at which you can download anything over your internet connection. Your bandwidth is capped at a certain limit by your service provider as per your internet plan. If you want a smooth experience every time you are using the internet, you need to have a bandwidth that matches your internet usage behavior.
You certainly don’t want your online videos to pause for buffering every few seconds, right? Neither do you wish to spend more money than you need to on your internet. So, understand your bandwidth requirements before purchasing a broadband internet plan. Here’s what you need to consider to arrive at your ideal internet speed.
Why do you need the internet?
Your bandwidth requirement is decided by what you do on the internet. If sending emails and browsing is what you do most of the time, then even a 0.5Mbps connection is sufficient for your needs. Even if you regularly use the internet for video chats, Skype recommends a bandwidth of at least 0.3Mbps for stable connections. Clearly, a 0.5Mbps connection can take care of all your needs.
If you regularly check social media, watch video clips on youtube regularly, and listen to music online, then you will need a speed of at least 1Mbps. Then there are the users who use the internet to stream movies, or share files frequently.
Netflix recommends a speed of 3Mbps for SD quality video streaming and 5Mbps for HD quality video streaming. For 4K video streaming, you will need a bandwidth of more than 10Mbps, which is also the requirement for live video game streaming.
How many devices will be connected to the connection?
A thumb rule is that whatever your bandwidth requirement is, multiply that number by the average number of devices that will be simultaneously using the internet. That’s because your connection’s bandwidth will be split among all the devices that will be using the internet.
Now, you might be having a laptop, a smartphone, a tablet, and a video game console. Although they might be connected to the internet constantly, you probably use any one or two devices at any given time. Thus, the average number of devices that will be sucking up the internet is 2 or 1, depending on your usage pattern.
That’s not the end of this exercise, unless you live alone. You might have constant company in your home. You could be living with your girlfriend, boyfriend, or your family. In such cases, you have to consider all of their devices too. Calculate the average number of devices that will be using the internet at any given point of time in your entire home.
Now, you could go ahead and simply multiply this number by your bandwidth requirement to arrive at your home’s bandwidth requirement, as mentioned before. But, aren’t we forgetting something? Your housemates could have very different internet usage patterns.
Your son might be a hardcore gamer who constantly live-streams his video games. Your spouse could be a light user of the internet. So, consider each member’s bandwidth requirement separately, and then add them all up. Now, you have arrived at your home’s ideal bandwidth requirement.
And yeah, this might sound like a lot of work. But, it isn’t. It’ll hardly take you half an hour to be done with. Moreover, you don’t want to shout at your spouse to pause their downloads just because you are unable to load your Netflix video, right? That’s why it is important that you know your requirement.
Upload Speeds Matter Too
We usually focus too much attention on download speeds. But, some of our internet usage is upload heavy. Perhaps, you click a lot of pictures that you need to sync online all the time. Maybe you make or edit videos for a living and have to upload them on the internet constantly. Or, you do a lot of peer-to-peer file sharing. All these activities require you to upload a huge amount of data. Naturally, your upload speeds should be high. Consider the amount of files you upload on a daily basis. Ask yourself – what is the ideal speed at which these files should be uploaded? Is it fine if these files take 5 hours, an hour, 15 minutes, or less to upload? Depending on your answer, you have your ideal upload speed requirement.
A bulk of the internet service providers offer high download speeds but low upload speeds. But, you can find services which offer same upload and download speeds.