One of the most challenging aspects of shopping for internet service is knowing what speed plan you need. Although most providers offer a wide range of plans that can reach as high as 2,000 Mbps, the truth is, most households only need about 100 Mbps.
If you look at the speed requirements for various online tasks, such as joining a Zoom call, streaming videos, checking email, or live gaming, you will notice that the speeds reach no higher than 25 Mbps. This can be misleading since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends at least 25 Mbps for households with four users or devices at a time.
How bandwidth works
The reason why you need a speed plan that is faster than what a single online task requires is that bandwidth gets divided among every connected device in a household. This means, if you have four people in your household learning and working remotely, each person will take up approximately a quarter of your plan’s bandwidth. And if each person uses more than one device at a time, such as a smartphone and a computer, each device will then take up approximately an eighth of your plan’s bandwidth.
Therefore, when you are buying a plan, you need to consider how many devices will be online at a time and what tasks those devices will be performing.
How to determine the internet plan you need
A helpful way to determine what speed plan you need is to divide the number of devices you use at a time by the speed plan you are considering buying. You will want that result to be between 25 and 40 Mbps.
If you are a family that has multiple members working and learning from home, streaming from multiple devices in 4K or in HDR, and/or participates in heavy online gaming, you will want that number to be closer to 40 Mbps. However, if your family only performs more basic online tasks, such as streaming videos from one or two devices at a time and checking email, then you can stay closer to 25 Mbps.
Why 100 Mbps is sufficient for most households
A 100 Mbps plan, therefore, is likely sufficient as households rarely use more than five high-bandwidth devices at a time. If your household uses one or two devices at a time, and there is a cheaper plan than the 100 Mbps, you may want to opt for that plan (just don’t go below 25 Mbps).
A 100 Mbps plan is right for you if your household:
- Uses 3-5 devices simultaneously
- Streams videos in HDR or 4K HD
- Games online with multiple players
- Works and learns from home
You need faster than 100 Mbps if your household frequently:
- Uses more than 6 devices at a time
- Shares large files
- Livestreams videos
Top providers with a 100 Mbps plan
If you want to look at speed plans slightly above and below 100 Mbps, check out our Cheap Internet page.
Written by:Ari Howard
Associate Writer, Broadband & Wireless Content
Ari Howard is a staff writer Healthline and spent two years as a writer on the Allconnect team. She specialized in broadband news and studies, particularly relating to internet access, digital safety, broadband-… Read more
Edited by:Robin Layton
Editor, Broadband Content
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