What is a good internet speed?
A good internet speed for most people is around 30 Mbps. Some can get away with less and others could use more. But 30 Mbps is a good starting point.
More specifically, a good internet speed is whatever lets you do what you need to do online without limitations. That’s different for everybody based on what you do online and how many people and devices are connected to your network.
To simplify things, here’s a breakdown of common internet speed ranges and what they’re good for.
- Checking email
- Streaming music on one device
- Searching on Google
- Streaming video on one device
- Video calling with Skype or FaceTime
- Online gaming for one player
- Streaming HD video on a few devices
- Multiplayer online gaming
- Downloading large files
- Streaming video in UHD on multiple screens
- Downloading files quickly
- Gaming online for multiple players
- Doing a lot of almost anything
How to calculate the internet speed you need
Your internet speed requirements depend on two main things:
- How the internet is being used
- How many people are using the internet
How do you use the internet?
Different online activities use different amounts of bandwidth. Streaming The Mandalorian in 4K requires a faster connection than watching it in standard definition. And online gaming takes more speed than checking your email.
Internet bandwidth vs. speed
Internet speed and bandwidth are often used interchangeably, but they’re not exactly the same thing.
If the internet was a road and data are the cars, speed is how fast the cars travel, and bandwidth is the number of open lanes.
So, say you have 100 data cars all going the same speed—you’ll get your data faster if those cars are traveling on a five-lane highway compared to a one-lane back road.
We’ve compiled a few internet speed recommendations for common internet activities below. Note that these recommendations are listed per device.
|1 Mbps||1 Mbps|
|Web browsing||3 Mbps||5 Mbps|
|Social media||3 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Streaming SD video||3 Mbps||5 Mbps|
|Streaming HD video||5 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Streaming 4K video||25 Mbps||35 Mbps|
|Online gaming||3–6 Mbps||25 Mbps|
|Streaming music||1 Mbps||1 Mbps|
|One-on-one video calls||1 Mbps||5 Mbps|
|Video conference calls||2 Mbps||10 Mbps|
|Streaming SD video|
|Streaming HD video|
|Streaming 4K video|
|One-on-one video calls|
|Video conference calls|
How many people use your internet connection?
The second thing you need to consider is how many people and devices will be connected to the internet at any one time. Don’t forget about devices that are connected in the background, like smart home tech.
For example, you live with a roommate, and you each have your own laptop, smartphone, and gaming console. If all six devices are ever in use at the same time, you’d want enough bandwidth to cover all six connections simultaneously. But if only two are ever on simultaneously, you can get away with a slower internet speed.
Find the speed you need in your area.
Upload speed vs. download speed
When internet providers advertise internet speeds, they most often refer to download speeds, or what you use to receive data from the internet. Our speed recommendations are given in download speed as well.
Both upload and download speed are important, but most people use more download bandwidth than upload bandwidth. Internet providers generally give customers much less upload speed than download speed—usually 1 Mbps of upload bandwidth for every 10 Mbps of download bandwidth. So a 100 Mbps internet package would have around 10 Mbps for upload speed.
If you often share large files, upload videos, or have a lot of stuff in the cloud, you might want to pay more attention to upload speeds. Some providers (mostly fiber internet providers) offer symmetrical bandwidth, which means you get equal upload and download speeds.
Latency is the amount of time it takes for a piece of information (called a ping) to travel from your computer to the network server and back. In practical terms, latency is how long it takes from when you click a thing to when you see the results of that click. It is measured in milliseconds, and lower latency is better. High latency causes things like lag in video games.
What is a fast internet speed?
A fast internet speed is at least 25 Mbps for download and 3 Mbps for upload, which is also what the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines as broadband internet. That’s the minimum requirement for an internet connection to be called high-speed internet.
But much faster internet exists. In fact, it has been suggested that the definition of broadband internet needs to increase to 100 Mbps (PDF) to reflect increases in bandwidth use thanks to things like smart home devices and the growth of on-demand video streaming.
On the high end, residential internet speeds can reach up to a gigabit per second (Gbps), or 1,000 Mbps or more. A few areas can even get 2 Gbps. That kind of bandwidth is good for large families, multifamily homes, and businesses. That said, the extra speed (and cost) might be overkill for most people.
But paying for a fast internet package doesn’t necessarily mean that you have fast internet. Network congestion, throttling, and equipment bottlenecks can all bog down your internet speed as well.
Troubleshooting a slow internet connection
Is your connection slow because of your internet type?
There are six basic types of internet connection, and some are better than others. Here’s what you need to know about how each internet type affects internet speed.
Fiber internet is the best type of internet for fast speeds. It offers a lot of bandwidth and very low latency because it uses light signals that do not degrade over long distances. Unfortunately, fiber is not as widely available as other types of internet and is available mainly in larger metropolitan areas. And some areas that do have fiber only have actual fiber infrastructure for part of the network, relying on cable connections for the last stretch.
Cable internet uses buried copper cables to deliver your internet. The cables are also used for cable TV. Cable internet providers offer top speeds to rival fiber internet, but the infrastructure can’t handle the same amount of traffic. Cable internet connections can get congested when too many subscribers are online at the same time, which makes the whole network in an area run slower.
DSL (digital subscriber line) internet uses phone cables to get you online. It’s a slower connection type than cable or fiber internet, but it can reach top speeds of around 100 Mbps. DSL does not have the same network congestion issues as cable, but DSL signals do degrade over longer distances. Your internet performance depends on your home’s distance from the network hub.
Satellite internet offers a similar speed range to DSL, but it uses wireless signals between your home, a satellite, and a network base station to deliver internet rather than cables. Satellite internet also has much higher latency than other internet types because each piece of data has to travel to space and back. Because of the wireless nature of satellite internet, your internet signal can be disrupted by severe inclement weather or equipment disruption.
Fixed-wireless internet uses similar technology to satellite internet, but the middle point is a tower instead of a satellite. This cuts down on latency compared to satellite internet, but the available speed ranges are about the same (1–100 Mbps). Fixed wireless also isn’t as affected by the weather as satellite internet, but internet signals can still be disrupted when anything gets in the way of the transmission.
Dial-up internet is the original internet type. It establishes an internet connection by calling your ISP (internet service provider) using a landline phone connection. This ties up your phone line and is very slow by today’s internet standards. Dial-up speeds max out at 56 Kbps (0.56 Mbps) but usually perform a bit slower (40–53 Kbps).
Is your internet slow because of internet traffic?
Traffic on your provider’s network
Too many internet connections on a network can slow down internet speeds across an internet service area or within your own home network.
Cable internet is the most notorious for larger-scale network congestion—especially during peak-use hours (around 7:00–11:00 p.m.). This happens when there’s more internet traffic than the network can handle at one time. It results in things like longer load times, packet loss, and web page timeouts.
There’s not much you can do as an individual to fix network congestion in your area, but if you don’t want your evening Netflix marathon interrupted by buffering, you could download your episodes beforehand during off-peak hours.
Traffic on your home network
If your own home network is running into traffic problems, there are a few things that could be causing the issue:
- Not enough bandwidth
- Outdated equipment
- Wi-Fi signal strength
The first problem can be solved by upgrading your internet plan or cutting back on bandwidth-heavy internet applications (like video streaming or gaming).
An outdated modem or router could be an issue because a network is only as fast as its slowest component. So even if you had a high-speed internet signal from your internet company, the speeds would be bottlenecked by your equipment. This can be fixed by replacing your equipment with something that can handle your internet speeds.
If you’re having issues with Wi-Fi signals, the problem is a little more complicated. Check out our tips for improving Wi-Fi for more in-depth info. But if you need the best internet connection within your home (for a PC or gaming console, for example) connect with an Ethernet cable instead of going wireless. Wired connections are faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi.
Get the best internet speeds for what you do online.
Internet speed FAQ
What is the average internet speed in the US?
According to data collected from our internet speed test, the national average internet speed is 42.86 Mbps. Of course, this average is always changing, and that number might not reflect your internet experience.
What is Mbps?
Mbps stands for megabits per second. Internet providers use Mbps to measure bandwidth. One megabit is a million bits, each of which is a tiny piece of data. When your internet speed is 25 Mbps, for example, that means your connection is capable of transferring 25 megabits of data per second. The faster your internet connection is, the faster you can get your data.
Because tech language is weird sometimes, a megabit (Mb) is not the same thing as a megabyte (MB). One megabyte is actually eight megabits. You usually use bytes to talk about file sizes and bits to talk about data transfer rates.
What is a good internet speed for Wi-FI?
Anything faster than 10 Mbps is a good enough internet speed for Wi-Fi, but you can have Wi-Fi with pretty much any internet speed. Just keep in mind that connecting by Wi-Fi can dilute your internet speeds due to distance, interference, or the number of devices connected to the signal.
Wired Ethernet connections take better advantage of your bandwidth. So if you have a slower internet connection, it might be better to connect your main devices with a wired connection for the best possible performance.