Internet Speed Guide

internet speed guide hero

Is there anything more frustrating than trying to use the internet when you have a slow connection? Streaming movies, playing video games, or chatting overseas can induce a hair-pulling, frustration-filled experience with a slow connection. But is there anything you can do to help it?

Now that the internet is almost 30 years old, most people don’t even know the basics about their connection. Terms like ISP, Mbps, 802.11b, latency, bandwidth may sound familiar—you might even remember seeing them on your router’s box that you got from your internet provider, but most people unfortunately don’t know what they mean or how they affect their internet connection.

Here is a guide to get you more acquainted with the things that affect your internet speed.

75 Mbps

Actual internet speeds may vary due to other factors.

Select the total number of devices and usage below and your estimated internet speed will show above.

5 Devices

Usage

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Low: General browsing, social media, email, basic video chats

Med: Streaming high definition (HD) video

High: Downloading large files

5 Devices

Usage

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Low: General browsing, social media, email, basic video chats

Med: Streaming standard definition (SD) video

High: Streaming high definition (HD) video

5 Devices

Usage

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Low: Internet gaming or streaming standard definition (SD) video

Med: Online multiplayer or streaming high definition (HD) video

High: Streaming 4K video

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Household items connected to the internet, like smart speakers, thermostats, locks, security/pet cameras, or appliances.

5 Devices

Usage

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Low: General browsing, social media, email, basic video chats

Med: Low plus: Streaming high definition (HD) video

High: Medium plus: Downloading large files

What’s the Difference between Bits and Bytes?

Despite the fact that the two words sound and look very similar, there is a difference between Mbps and MBps.

Mbps stands for megabits per second. Megabits are used when talking about download and upload speeds. There are 8 bits in 1 byte. 1,000 bytes is a kilobyte (KB). 1,000 kilobytes is a megabyte (MB). 1,000 megabytes is a gigabyte (GB). 1,000 gigabytes is a terabyte (TB). The chart below highlights this outline:

bits to byte conversion table

MBps stands for megabytes per second. Megabytes are usually used when referencing the size of a file and/or the amount of data being transferred.

Download Times

To truly understand the file size and download times of files that you use every day, it’s easily to see them side by side. Here is a breakdown of some of the most common file types and the time it takes to download them:

cable download speeds

What Affects Internet Speed?

Several things can affect your internet speed at home. To understand how, first you need to understand how you connect to the internet. Modems connect you to your service provider, like Verizon, which connects you to the internet. A router will then route that signal to any connected devices.

internet to devices diagram

    1. Hardware
      • Modem – Today, most modems are connected to the internet service provider via cable. Back in the old days, they were connected via phone line and you could actually hear the modem dialing up to connect to the web. If you are using a cable modem, anything that affects your cable signal can also affect your internet speed.For instance, if your cable is using a signal splitter or has poor wiring, this could hinder speed from the start. Another thing to be aware of is that modems are split into speed tiers based on the maximum amount of connection speed they can handle. If you pay for a high speed connection, but your modem is only able to support a lower number, you are still limited to that maximum amount.
      • Router – Acting as the bridge to several devices in your home, a router can affect your speed as well. The most common routers connect you to the modem wirelessly.There are several types of wireless router. You’ll notice 802.11b, 802.11g and 801.11n. These numbers essentially refer to the bandwidth they operate on, but mainly affect the communication speed. “B” is the oldest, and “N” is the most recent technology, which goes fastest.Like the modem, wireless routers have maximum connection speeds as well. A wired connection via ethernet cable is more stable and quicker than Wifi. Although technology has come a long way, nothing helps increase the speed like simply plugging right into the source.
    2. Users – You might notice your internet getting slower at home or work if there are too many people using it at once. Technically, a router rated at 500 Mbps with 100 devices connected to it can only offer 5 Mbps to each device connected. In a practical world, however, this is rarely the case. At home, there is only one single internet connection, so the more people that join, the more crowded and slower it gets.
    3. Physical Objects – Trees and buildings are some of the most common causes of interference. Concrete and steel walls are the most difficult for signals to pass through. Water, like that found in a home aquarium, can be difficult for a signal to pass through as well.Since some wireless routers (802.11b) have the same signal channel as other devices like radios and microwaves, these can affect the signal. Here is a list of the most common obstacles and their severity range:

internet barriers and interference levels

  1. Latency – Latency is delay in how long it takes data to travel between the source and the destination. To view a webpage, you are making requests to download and view the information that happens in milliseconds. Although that may sound fast, if you have a lot of information, or it is traveling a long distance, this delay can add up.If you are video chatting and the connection is spotty, this is because of a high-latency connection. In an ideal scenario, you’d have a high speed, low latency setup, where you would see a web page appear immediately. Latency can be caused if internet connections are occurring over large distances, or if you are trying to download a lot of information.

Where to Place a Wireless Router?

  1. Central – Wifi signals dissipate as they travel away from the source. So, obviously the strongest signal will be right near the router. Try to put it where the devices that need connecting (computer, tv, video game system) have a line of sight to the router — ensuring there are no physical barriers.
  2. Keep it high – Radio signals spread out and down from the router. So, try mounting it on a wall. A fireplace mantel is an ideal spot if most of your devices are in the living room.

ideal router placement diagram

Measuring Internet Speed

Ever wonder how much speed you’ll need based on all of the different devices, computers, and TVs in your house? Use this calculator to help get an idea of the amount you use at any given time.

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