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What is bandwidth, and how much internet speed do you really need?

Family relaxes with multiple devices connected to home internet.

Are you trying to figure out this whole bandwidth thing and how much internet speed is enough for your needs? Well, you're in the right place. Let's break it down in simple terms so you can make the best choice for your home.

At Asurion, we help our more than 300 million customers get the most out of the technology they love and rely on. Here’s our guide on bandwidth. 

What is bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transferred over an internet connection in a given period. It's measured in Mbps (megabits per second), which indicates the data transfer capacity available per second on a given connection. 

Higher bandwidth capacity enables faster speeds for downloads, uploads, loading webpages, streaming video, and other online activities. More bandwidth allows more data to be transferred each second. So, if you are downloading a file, it will download faster on a 100 Mbps connection than on a 10 Mbps connection since more data can flow through per second. 

What's the difference between bandwidth and internet speed?

Think of bandwidth like a water pipe. The wider the pipe (bandwidth), the more water (data) can flow through it at once. The flow rate is what we call internet speed. It's all about how much data your internet connection can handle at a given time.

Internet speed is the real-world download and upload speeds that users experience. It measures how fast data can be transferred and is affected by several factors. While bandwidth sets the upper limit for speed, the actual speed at any given time depends on the distance to servers, number of connected devices, network congestion, and other variables.

Bandwidth is the potential maximum data transfer rate, while internet speed is the actual realized transfer rate under real-world conditions. Higher bandwidth enables faster speeds, but limitations can still affect speed beyond just bandwidth capacity.

How much bandwidth do I need?

Your ideal internet speed depends on the number of connected devices in your home and what you do online. Are you a casual browser, an avid Netflix watcher, or maybe a competitive gamer? Each activity has different demands. For just browsing and emails, you can get by with less. But for streaming, gaming, or video calls, you'll need more oomph. And don't forget your trusted devices that work in the background, like security cameras and baby monitors.

Internet speed recommendations

Here's a quick guide on how many Mbps you'll need per device.

  • Basic browsing and emails: 1-5 Mbps
  • Streaming HD video: 5-10 Mbps per stream
  • Online Gaming: 10-25 Mbps
  • 4K streaming and heavy usage: 25+ Mbps

But remember, these are just general guidelines – check what your internet service provider recommends. You'll need more speed if your household has many devices connected at once. For heavy-duty users – like households with multiple streamers or gaming consoles – you might need a more robust plan, say 100 Mbps or higher. And if you're into 4K streaming, don't skimp on speed.

Why choosing the right internet plan matters

Choosing the right internet plan for your home is essential for several reasons. Faster internet speeds allow for more online activities without slowdowns or buffering, especially if you have multiple people (or devices) in your household. With a higher bandwidth connection, you can have multiple family members streaming HD video, video conferencing, and gaming online at the same time without lag. This avoids the frustrations of buffering wheels and choppy video quality.

Want to check your current Wi-Fi speed? Check out our guide

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*The Asurion® trademarks and logos are the property of Asurion, LLC. All rights reserved. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Asurion is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by any of the respective owners of the other trademarks appearing herein.*

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