What Internet Speed Do I Need?: Key Numbers for Online Activities

What Internet Speed Do I Need

Most Internet packages place great emphasis on speed, leading a lot of users to ask, “Well, what Internet speed do I need, anyway?” More speed sounds better, but it can be difficult to tell what that actually means for everyday online activity. For a clear explanation of what speeds work best for common tasks, here’s a quick guide showing the ideal minimum numbers in Mbps or megabits per second.

“What Internet Speed Do I Need?”

These days, there are plenty of things people need to do online, but not everything needs maximum speeds. Here are some examples of Internet speeds needed for certain tasks.

Emailing: For emailing activities, you will want speeds around 0.5 Mbps (downloading) to make sure everything runs smoothly and you don’t have to wait to open larger or more graphically intense emails.

Basic Browsing: Browsing and searching the web? That will also take around 0.5 Mbps when finding your way to the right site.

More Advanced Browsing: Websites with plenty of rich media, interactive pages, and auto-videos take a little bit more work. These pages will function best at 1 Mbps.

VOIP: Voice calls are one of the easiest streaming tasks. Not only do they not require complex video, their audio needs are also a lot simpler than music. We’re talking around 0.1 Mbps on both the download and upload side for basic at-home VOIP. However, for clear, reliable connections, speeds up to 1 Mbps are better, especially when dealing with mobile devices.

Netflix and Hulu: Netflix, Hulu and other streaming video sites can typically offer better video quality for higher Internet speeds. Netflix likes it if you have around 1.5 Mbps on the download side, but if you really want to take advantage of the HD videos, you need speeds at 5.0 Mbps or above. Services like Hulu actually offer several settings depending on your Internet speed. You can increase the settings for better quality if you have enough available bandwidth.

Playing Online Video Games: Online video games require various Internet speeds, anywhere from 1 Mbps to 4 Mbps depending on how much high definition video is required. However, online video games also benefit from a high-quality connection – a particularly dependable Wi-Fi connection or an Ethernet connection is suggested for the best results.

Streaming Music: Music streaming is relatively simple compared to streaming full video, so it takes a lot less speed to give you good sound. Spotify, for example, recommends around 0.15 Mbps for playing its tunes. No problem at all — but when asking “What Internet speed do I need?” remember that mobile services, including mobile music streaming, may require greater speeds to ensure the same quality.

YouTube and Other Video Streaming: Video streaming from sites like YouTube follow the same general rules that Netflix and other streaming sites use. For low-definition videos, 0.5 Mbps will suit you just fine. But if you want to view higher quality videos (anything above 480p, or most of the new videos on YouTube), you’ll need more speed.

Video Web Conferencing: Web conferencing through services like Skype establishes a real-time connection with two-way video. This can require particularly high upload times, generally equal to the download times (in order to maintain a quality conversation, at least). So, typical video calls need around 0.5 Mbps downloading and uploading. However, HD video will probably require more along the lines of 1.5 Mbps both ways.

Hefty Uploads and Downloads: For most intense Internet activities, like sharing files through the cloud or uploading and downloading large files in others, you want an extra kick of speed. Ideally, speeds around 50 Mbps download and 25 Mbps upload will allow you to upload and download high-definition media or massive files within seconds (or minutes, on a bad day). This is especially handy for graphic designers and others who frequently deal with larger files.

Caveat Alert!

Keep in mind, asking “What Internet speed do I need?” for specific activities is a helpful task, but all answers should be taken with a grain of salt. First, service speeds can vary based on issues or changes on their end – YouTube or Pandora, for example, may run into problems that create a slowdown even if your own speed capabilities stay the same. Second, bandwidth or Internet speed at your house can vary considerably based on the time of day and even the activities of your neighbors. Run a speed test on your Internet connection at different times of the day if you are curious about your real speed numbers.

Photo Credit: TheMonnie