New devices, new problems? How to secure the proper bandwidth for your gadgets

Between Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the upcoming holiday season, there are plenty of opportunities for everyone in your family to get connected with a new device. 

Whether it’s mom’s new iPad Pro for collecting Pinterest recipes, a smart TV for dad to watch the big game, an Xbox One for Junior to play Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order or an iPhone 11 for Julie to keep up with her friends, we’re using — and connecting — more devices than ever. And with more connected devices, there’s a chance you may need more bandwidth in your home.

Connected devices continue to grow

As more devices become “smart,” everything from your phone to your refrigerator may require an internet connection. According to data collected from NPD Group by Statista, there were an estimated 200 million connected devices in the United States in 2017. That number is expected to grow to 260 million by 2020.

The average internet speed in the U.S. has also continued to grow. According to Speedtest.net, the average fixed broadband speed for Q2-Q3 2018 (the most recent data available) was 96.25 Mbps download and 32.88 Mbps upload. This is up from an average of 64.17 Mbps download and 22.79 Mbps download in 2017. With more devices demanding internet usage, you may be wondering if you have too many devices on Wi-Fi.

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data that can be sent over a specific connection in a given amount of time. While bandwidth is used to describe internet speeds, it differs in that it’s looking at the amount of content to be transferred not how fast it’s moving. It might seem like a technical term you don’t need to worry about but it’s important in optimizing your wireless devices at home. 

What is good bandwidth?

How much bandwidth you need and what is good bandwidth for your household relies specifically on how you plan on using the internet. If you’re just browsing Facebook, then you don’t need as much bandwidth and therefore can choose a plan with lower internet speeds. If you plan on streaming in 4K daily, you’ll want a plan with more bandwidth, i.e. higher internet speeds.

In general, the Federal Communications Commission recommends internet speeds of 12 to 25 Mbps for families with three to four devices with moderate use. More devices than that or higher usage levels and you may want to consider 25+ Mbps.

No. of devicesSuggested internet speeds
1Up to 3 Mbps
2-3Up to 15 Mbps
4-5 Up to 25 Mbps
6-10Up to 100 Mbps
10+Up to 200 Mbps or more

Run a bandwidth test

Your best bet to check your available bandwidth is to run a speed test. This will give you an idea of how much data is being transferred and at what speed.

If you find you have insufficient bandwidth or your bandwidth is too low, you may need to consider a better internet connection.

New devices, new questions

As you add more connected devices to your home this holiday season, this may raise some new questions. Here are some frequently asked questions about common devices:

How do I increase bandwidth?

There are a few ways to optimize your bandwidth:

  • Monitor your bandwidth: Start by running speed tests at different times of day and during different activities to see when and what is consuming the most bandwidth. Knowing what activities use the most bandwidth allows you to make adjustments, such as gaming during non-peak hours.
  • Reboot your router: “Did you turn it off and back on again?” This is a tech cliche for a reason — it’s so often true. Rebooting your router regularly (and keeping your firmware and software up-to-date) ensures you have the most available bandwidth.
  • Adjust device settings or turn them off: Some devices and apps may continue to run in the background even when you’re not using them. This eats up bandwidth. Adjust your settings or turn them off completely to free up bandwidth.
  • Try a different wireless frequency or channel: Most Wi-Fi routers have two frequencies (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz). Switching frequencies from 2.4 GHz to 5 GHz allows for more bandwidth. Most newer routers will automatically do this when one frequency gets overcrowded, but if your router is a few years old, you may need to switch it manually.

How many devices can a router handle?

Most newer wireless routers can handle up to 250 connected devices, including laptops, smartphones, smart TVs, smart home devices, voice assistants and more. Keep in mind though that all connected devices are sharing the same bandwidth. The more you connect, the more it has to spread your bandwidth across them.

What internet speed do I need for streaming video?

Popular streaming providers recommend the following:

  • AT&T TV NOW (formerly DIRECTV NOW): 12 Mbps for best quality
  • Hulu: 3 Mbps for Hulu on-demand, 8 Mbps for Hulu with Live TV
  • Netflix: 3-5 Mbps for SD quality, 5 Mbps for HD quality, 25 Mbps for Ultra HD quality
  • Roku: 3 Mbps for SD, 9 Mbps for HD
  • Sling: 3 Mbps for portable devices, 5 Mbps for TV, PC or Mac, 25 Mbps for multiple devices

How much data does Xbox Live use?

The amount of data required to play Xbox Live depends on the type of game you play and how often you play online. On online forums, players have reported games using anywhere from 3 MB to 300 MB per hour. On average though, XFINITY estimates about 34 MB per hour for online gaming. So, if you were to play two hours of Xbox Live every day, you’d need about 2 GB of data per month.

What internet speed do I need for PlayStation 4 online?

As with other gaming consoles, the internet speed you need for PlayStation 4 will depend on the type of games you play online and how often you play. In general, the minimum recommended speeds are 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload. However, if you play multiplayer online video games, you may want to consider speeds up to 10 Mbps or higher.

If you’re still not sure what speed you need for all of your new devices, check out our FAQ on internet speeds to answer some common questions and help you make an informed decision.