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With all the technical mumbo jumbo dominating the conversation about the internet, it can easily get overwhelming, especially when you just want a connection that works. Not all of us are gamers and not all of us stream, but even if we do, why is it so hard to get an internet service that gives you what you need? Whats the point of offering multiple plans, each with a different speed, bandwidth, and heaven knows what else? And, why do companies claim that each one is the best plan there is? From a consumer viewpoint it only makes the subscription process that much harder.

If this is a concern that you share, you have come to the right place! Here, well delve into exactly what speed you may need and answer the internet related questions you might have. So, let us get to it.

What is the best internet speed?

There is no one answer to this question. It varies from person to person depending on their usage. And from the users point a good internet speed is one which lets you do what you want to do without any lags. So, here a detailed table listing what speed you need to select for online activities.

0–5 Mbps

5–40 Mbps

40–100 Mbps

100–500 Mbps

500–1,000 Mbps

Best for:

·   Checking emails

·   Google Search  

·   Streaming music on one device

 

Best for:

·   Streaming video on one device

·   Video calling

·   Online gaming for one person

Best for:

·   Streaming HD video on more than one device

·   Playing multiplayer online games

·   Downloading large files

 

Best for:

·  Streaming video in UHD on multiple screens

·  Gaming online with multiple players

·  Downloading large files quickly

Best for:

·   Almost anything that anyone in the family has in mind

 

 

As you can see, it all depends on your surfing habits. If all you do is check email and run search queries on Google, a 5 Mbps connection will do. On the other hand, if you want to make video calls, stream video, or indulge in online gaming, a 40 Mbps connection will be best suited. Bear in mind though, the speed you need also depends on the number of people using the internet. To help you out we have made a table detailing the estimated speed you will need per device for various standard online activities. You can use this as a point of reference. And, depending on the number of connected devices, you can judge how much faster the speed of your connection needs to be if you are to benefit from the best internet speed for your usage.

Activity

Minimum

Recommended

 

Email

1 Mbps

1 Mbps

Streaming music

1 Mbps

1 Mbps

One-on-one video calls

1 Mbps

5 Mbps

Video conference calls

2 Mbps

10 Mbps

Web Surfing

3 Mbps

5 Mbps

Social media

3 Mbps

10 Mbps

Streaming SD video

3 Mbps

5 Mbps

Streaming HD video

5 Mbps

10 Mbps

Streaming 4K video

25 Mbps

35 Mbps

Online gaming

3–6 Mbps

25 Mbps

 

Remember, these are estimates, yet this table does have the potential to do away with the mystery that surrounds the subject. Once you have an approximate idea of the speed you need, taking into consideration the number of connected users, you can decide which plan to subscribe to. Cox Internet offers a variety that ranges from 10 Mbps to 940 Mbps, with in-between speed tiers that bring you 50M, 150M, and 500M; so you might want to check their packages.

Getting the right speed is only one part of getting a fast internet connection. There are other factors you must consider while subscribing to an internet plan, like the bandwidth. So, what exactly is bandwidth and how is it connected to speed? Let us find out.

Understanding the speed and bandwidth connection

Bandwidth and speed are used interchangeably, often causing people to think of these terms as one and the same. As it happens, that couldnt be farther from the truth.

Think of the internet as a road and imagine cars are data. How fast the car travels is what we refer to as speed. Bandwidth on the other hand is the number of open lanes. You might have high speed but if the bandwidth is limited not a lot of data can move. So, you might want to ask your provider how many devices your connection can manage at a time. Spectrum Internet offers prompt customer support and boasts a huge Family. So if you are considering subscribing to a Spectrum plan, you will have plenty of help at hand, not only via direct customer service but also through community forums.

By accounting for the number of devices in use and the online activity-patterns of connected users, you should be able to reach a rather accurate estimate of what combo of speed and bandwidth will get you the desired results.

Do bear in mind, these days, almost every other person has a smartphone and a laptop, but if these devices are rarely in simultaneous use, you need not go for the bandwidth requirement for two devices. At the same time, dont forget to consider the devices running in the background, e.g. smart home techs like the Roomba and Alexa. When you calculate the number of devices connected at once, you must make sure to count these in as well.

 

Reading the fine print: upload vs download speeds

Apart from a fiber optic internet connection, all connection types offer asymmetrical speeds, meaning the download and upload speeds are different. And, more often than not ISPs advertise on the basis of download speeds, which are always faster compared to the counterpart upload speed-- usually up to 10 times more swift. Worry not though, you will be able to upload pictures and videos on social media just fine. However, if you plan on sharing large files and big videos, or you work from home and video conferencing is routine, wed suggest you pay as close attention to the upload speeds. And, in such a case, it may be worthwhile to invest in a gigabit plan, like the one from Xfinity Internet.

The latency impact

Have you ever noticed that gamers prefer to use a wired connection over Wi-Fi? Why do you think that is? For those who dont know: it is because of latency.

Latency is the time it takes between you clicking on a thing and getting the results of the click—to put it in the most simple way. Latency is measured in milliseconds and while it may not sound much, it can get frustrating to wait even that long. Now, you must understand a connection that is wired will always be faster than a wireless one; even though both may be using the same plan from the same provider. Simply because, data can travel directly from the computer to the network server and back, via an Ethernet cable—there is no routing involved as is the case when the signal travels wirelessly.

Also, remember that latency varies from one provider to another and also with the kind of connection offered. So, when subscribing to a plan make sure you note what type of a connection it is and how much of lag it is likely to have. Usually, the trial period is a long enough time to test the connection, and figure out if the service would work.

Understanding internet connection types

The type of internet connection you have can impact the speed you get. There are many common types of connections to choose from. Here well take a brief look at the four most used ones to help you understand better as to which type may bring you the best internet speed.

The best connection type today is fiber optic. The gigabit plan from CenturyLink Internet is quite affordable and offers symmetrical speeds up to 940 Mbps. Another distinguishing factor of fiber optic internet is that it offers more bandwidth, while the signal doesnt degrade over long distances, keeping the latency level low. The only downside is a fiber internet connection may not be available in your area, since most providers in the U.S. are still in the process of spreading out their 100% fiber-optic network. You can find this broadband type quite easily in metropolises, but if you live in the countryside or you are part of a smaller town community in the suburbs, you may not have access to a fiber-optic connection. 

A cable broadband connection delivers you internet over underground coaxial cables that use a copper-based conductor—an infrastructure that was previously used for cable TV service only. At this time, most cable providers in the U.S. offer broadband over a hybrid fiber-coaxial (HFC) network. One that utilizes fiber-optic lines to let data travel fast over longer distances until it reaches a specific neighborhood. Within the neighborhood, data hops over to the existing copper coaxial cables, courtesy of new networking protocols, such as the DOCSIS 3.0 & 3.1, as it makes way to your home. Such a cable connection gives you download speeds comparable to fiber optic internet, but the upload speeds are significantly lower. Another downside is congestion at peak usage times since the line is shared. When more users in the neighborhood are connected to the network, the speed gets slower. HFC networks in the U.S. are currently able to provide speeds as high as 940 Mbps.

If you need speed in the range of 100 Mbps, high-speed DSL is a great option to consider. It may be slower than what a 100% fiber-optic or HFC connection is able to furnish, but you wont face congestion issues because this type of connection does not rely on bandwidth sharing as a network management strategy. Currently used hybrid networks make use of Fiber in the Loop to boost data transfer, and twisted copper phone lines to transfer data over the “last mile”. The longer the “last mile”, the greater chance there is for you to experience latency. You might want to call the ISP and inquire about the distance between your home and the Node before you move forward with a subscription.

Satellite internet is widely used especially in rural parts of the U.S., and its availability is pretty widespread. It can go places where no other connection can. This is great, but as the signal must travel through space and back, the latency level soars high. Also given its wireless nature, severe weather can disrupt the service. So it is not the best of options unless you located in an area where you do not have access to another connection type that may give you speeds as high as 25 Mbps. 

Common factors that attribute to slow internet

After painstaking effort to subscribe to the best internet speed available in your vicinity, you might still find yourself stuck with slow internet. This is because a number of factors affect the performance of your connection. Here well go through the key ones, so that you can pinpoint the cause of the problem you are facing.

Data caps

Most internet plans have a data limit. When you exceed that, some providers suspend the service right away, while others throttle the speed until the beginning of the next billing cycle. Your internet thus slows down significantly. Keeping this in mind can help you understand why your internet connection may have taken a dip.

If however, you subscribe to Mediacom Internet which offers a very generous data allowance, to begin with, you wont face throttling of speed. First off, it is unlikely that you will exceed the limit, and secondly, even if you do, they will simply charge you for an additional block of data instead of blocking your service or throttling the speed.

Traffic on a cable internet connection

As we discussed earlier, cable broadband like WOW! Internet is more like a shared connection in a neighborhood. It has limited bandwidth, and if more people access the network simultaneously, it slows down. If you are stuck with slow speeds despite having subscribed to a high-speed plan you might want to check the time. If it is peak time when everyone is likely to be online, then know you are a victim of shared bandwidth.

In-Home network problems

If you have trouble with speed, you might want to check your internet connection for additional connected devices. Check if your connection is secure and that you dont have unwanted people using your in-home Wi-Fi. If you have got a plan with the right bandwidth given your usage, this could be an obvious factor undermining the performance of your connection.

If however, you find the internet is as fast as you expect it to be over a wired connection, but extremely slow over Wi-Fi, there could be multiple issues. You might have outdated equipment, the signal may not be traveling far and strong from where your router is located. So try to change the location of your router—put it somewhere central. Or else, just use extenders to enhance the wireless signal around the house.  

If you subscribed to RCN Internet though, you get the latest technology with RCNs enhanced Whole-Home Wi-Fi, and dont end up with these issues.

Final Words

There you go! With this information, you will know exactly what internet speed you need and why you might have a slow connection despite subscribing to the perfect internet plan. Let us know if you have any questions or another internet-related issue that you ended up facing. Wed love to hear from you.