When shopping for internet service, speed is at the forefront of any buyer’s priority list. And it’s easy to see why — even the most reliable connection from a reputable provider could suffer if the speed provided isn’t compatible with the number of users and devices in a household.
Many providers advertise their “gig-speed” plans as the end of lag and buffering, so they’re in high demand and often come with even higher price tags. Before you spring for the priciest plan with the fastest gigabit internet speeds, learn more about the difference between Mbps and Gbps speeds and what speed you really need.
Mbps vs. Gbps
Basically, Mbps and Gbps are just two ways to do the same thing: measure internet speed rates. The data rate of your internet connection is measured in bits per second (bps). As data rates increase, it’s easier for providers and equipment manufacturers to express speeds by the thousands. One provider may offer a 1,000 Mbps plan and another provider will offer a 1 Gbps plan – they are the same speed.
Bits per second explained
Kilobit – One kilobit equals 1,000 bits per second (Kbps).It’s unlikely that you’ll find any major providers that still offer Kbps plans unless you live in a rural area where dial-up internet service is still offered.
Megabit – One megabit is equal to 1,000 Kbps or one million bits per second (Mbps)
Gigabit – One gigabit is equal to 1,000 Mbps, one million Kbps or one billion bits per second (Gbps)
In most serviceable areas, you’ll either shop internet plans with megabit or gigabit speeds depending on your provider and plan.
What can I do with gigabit internet speeds?
Gigabit connections are often considered the gold standard for internet users, as they can support unlimited devices and users. You can shop these internet speeds with internet service providers (ISPs) that offer fiber-optic and co-axial cable connections. At 6 Gbps, or 6,000 Mbps, Xfinity currently offers the highest speed of any major provider. AT&T and Optimum offer up to 5 Gbps plans. Google Fiber is testing out 5- and 8-Gbps connections in select areas of the U.S.
A high-speed internet plan is best for a large home of internet users. If you have 4-5 people who need to access the internet at once or a large smart-powered home, then a gigabit plan makes sense for you. Speeds at or over 1 Gbps can provide you the bandwidth to keep multiple smart devices running, Zoom meetings going smoothly and your kid’s Subnautica game playing without any lag.
What can I do with megabit speeds?
Megabit speeds are the standard measurement for broadband connections. Remember that megabit and gigabit are just two ways to measure the same internet speed.
The need for high-speed internet has increased notably since 2020, as reported by our speed data study. Trends show that the most used speed bands across the U.S. are mid-200 Mbps to 500 Mbps.
For mid-size households, 300 to 500 Mbps plans will be sufficient, but the more devices you have connected and the more simultaneous internet tasks you do will slow down your connection.
Here’s how you can stream, game and work from home with certain speed ranges:
Typically you can stream in standard definition with speeds up to 3 Mbps. To stream in 4K or Ultra HD, you’ll need speeds up to 25 Mbps. Streaming services will offer speed recommendations to enjoy the platform in the highest quality. Here are the minimum speeds you need to stream uninterrupted using some of today’s most popular streaming services:
- 3 Mbps to stream in standard definition
- 5 Mbps to stream in high definition
- 25 Mbps to stream in HDR or 4K
- 3 Mbps to view on-demand titles
- 8 Mbps to view live TV
- 2.5 Mbps to 7.5 Mbps to stream in HD via mobile device
- 12 Mbps to stream via web browser at home
- 3 Mbps to stream in standard definition
- 7 Mbps to stream on one device in HD
- 13 Mbps to stream in HD on multiple devices
Speed recommendations for gaming will vary by the types of games you typically enjoy, but you’ll at least need a minimum of 4 – 8 Mbps in a single-user household. A great gaming experience often depends on the quality of your internet connection and data transfer rate, so experienced gamers will often go for the fastest speeds they can afford and a connection type with historically low latency.
See more details on minimum speed recommendations by gaming type and how you can maximize your gaming experience.
Working from home
The right internet speeds are paramount to a successful work-from-home setup, especially during COVID-19’s social distancing restraints. The speeds you require will depend on the type of work you do, but if you plan on video conferencing, checking emails or transferring large files, there are some minimum speed requirements to ensure you can successfully make your home office work for you:
- 2 Mbps to host a single, dual or triple-screen Zoom call
- 3 – 4 Mbps to email and utilize basic computer programs like Microsoft Word
- 10 Mbps to host a group Skype video call
- 40+ Mbps to transfer large files
Which providers offer gigabit speeds?
Many cable and fiber-optic ISPs provide gigabit speeds in select areas, most commonly in and around major cities.
AT&T – Internet 1000 with speeds up to 4,700 Mbps
Centurylink – Fiber Gigabit with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
Cox– Gigablast with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
Google Fiber – Plans up to 2,000 Mbps
Mediacom– Internet 1 Gig with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
Optimum– Internet 1 Gig with speeds up to 5,000 Mbps
Spectrum– Internet GIG with speeds up to 1,000 Mbps
Verizon Fios – Fios Gigabit Connection with speeds up to 940 Mbps
Windstream – Kinetic Gig with speeds up to 2,000 Mbps
Xfinity– Gigabit Pro with speeds up to 6,000 Mbps
Call today to see if these high internet speeds are available at your address.
What internet speeds do I need?
The best internet speeds for a household will primarily depend on the number of users and devices in the residence, as well as the activities most commonly enjoyed.
An average household of 2-4 people can get by on 200 Mbps, but depending on the number of internet devices connected, they may experience high latency.
“Devices” in this case means each and every internet-connected device in your home, including smartphones, laptops and smart home equipment like smart TVs, doorbells, lighting, refrigerators and hubs. If this sounds like your home, including having members who work and learn from home, a gigabit plan may be worth the money.
Before you break the bank, see what internet speeds you really need to enjoy your favorite internet-connected activities.
Now that you’ve found the internet speed that’s best for your household, shop internet providers available at your address and pick the plan that works for you.
Internet speed FAQs
The cost of an average internet speed plan is about $65/mo. That’ll get you speeds anywhere from 300 to 500 Mbps. 1 gig plans run around $80 to $120/mo. and 3 to 6 Gbps plans will see your internet bill jump as high as $180/mo.
The faster your internet plan, the more likely it’ll be more stable simply because most high-speed plans are fiber connections and are more reliable than cable or satellite connections. However, most internet users will find that they can have smooth connections with plans from 300 to 940 Mbps, depending on the size of your home and your tasks.
Written by:Camryn Smith
Camryn Smith is an Associate Writer with Allconnect.com. She specializes in writing about the broadband industry and helping consumers navigate complex internet service purchasing decisions…. Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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