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What is a good internet speed?

Depending on your needs, you might need to bump up your internet package.

person using internet in regards to net neutrality
Image: Unsplash

When internet providers quote their speeds, it’s often only for the download part. The upload speeds can vary wildly and are often nowhere near the download speeds. It can make understanding good internet speeds difficult.

With the rise of work-from-home arrangements, you might be wondering if your home internet speeds are ‘good’ or not. You might also be wondering if you need more upload speed, to handle all of the video conferencing you now have to do.

The last thing anyone wants is pixelated video, or that dreaded spinning circle when the connection drops.

We’ll take you through what ‘good’ internet speeds look like for different usage scenarios. We’ll also offer some tips on checking your speeds, in case you think you’re not getting enough or what you pay for.

So, what is a good internet speed?

Short answer: 25 Mbps (but again, it depends on what you need it for)

The Federal Communications Committee (FCC) says that broadband should be at or above 25 Mbps down, and 3 Mbps up. Of course, that report is from 2018, a time before the pandemic pushed a sizable chunk of the workforce to work from home.

Since we’re all taking meetings from home now, you might want a better upload speed. Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing tools, and it says you need 3.0 Mbps upload for 1080 HD video.

zoom app logo and background
Image: KnowTechie

For gallery view, you need more, than 4 Mbps. Remember this is per computer that’s video conferencing, so if you’ve got a partner that’s also on calls, and kids doing virtual schooling, you need to multiply that up.

That could potentially mean you need 20 Mbps or more as your upload speed. Most cable broadband packages give you around 25 Mbps, or if you need more, fiber packages like FiOS give you symmetrical up/down speeds starting at 300 Mbps.

The pandemic has also increased the number of people livestreaming content to sites like Twitch. Restream says for 1080p video at 60 frames per second (fps) to Twitch, you need at least 7.4 Mbps of upload speed.

YouTube Live streamers will want 68.8 Mbps upload if they’re planning to stream 4K video at 60 fps.

Here are some other common internet download speeds, and the tasks that are suitable for them:

Internet speedSuitable tasks
0 to 5 MbpsChecking email, streaming music to one device, using search
5 to 40 MbpsStreaming video to one device, video calling on one device, online gaming for one console or PC
40 to 100 MbpsStreaming HD video to multiple devices or 4K to one, multiplayer online games, downloading big files
100 to 500 MbpsStreaming 4K to multiple devices, downloading big files quickly, multiple PCs or consoles playing multiplayer games
500 Mbps or moreDoing almost anything on multiple devices in your home at the same time

Testing your speeds

speed test tools
Image: KnowTechie

You should get close to what your sold-as-up-to internet speeds say, but “should” is a big word. If you think you’re not getting what you pay for, it’s time to do some testing.

Here are some of our favorite speed tests to use:

  • Cloudflare Speed Test – Cloudflare uses a slightly different testing method than most internet-based tests
  • Testmy.net – We like this one because it doesn’t use Javascript, so you’re seeing actual test data and not averages
  • Speedtest by Ookla – This is the Javascript-based speed test that powers many other companies’ tests

Our advice is to run multiple (we like three) speed tests as results can vary drastically between runs. It’s also good practice to try different site tests, as some are more accurate than others. We’ve got a longer guide if you want a more in-depth how-to.

Those tests will show if you’re getting what you’re paying for. If not, it’s time to contact customer support.

Have any thoughts on this? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

Editors’ Recommendations:

Maker, meme-r, and unabashed geek. Hardware guy here at KnowTechie, if it runs on electricity (or even if it doesn't) I probably have one around here somewhere. My hobbies include photography, animation, and hoarding Reddit gold.

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