For example, depending on where you live, you might be able to buy a broadband plan with a download speed of anywhere from 35 megabits per second (Mbps), all the way up to 900 Mbps, or even higher. This is quite a significant difference, and you’ll notice that faster broadband plans often come with a much higher monthly cost.
It’s always nice to have blazing-fast broadband, but you might not want to spend more than you really need to on your broadband bill. And at the same time, you don’t want a broadband plan that’s too slow, otherwise you’ll face buffering when watching Netflix, and delays when downloading large files.
This raises the question – what is a good broadband speed? What download and upload speed do you actually need, given how you use the internet?
How much bandwidth do you use?
To begin with, it’s useful to take a look at some common things you might do online, and how much bandwidth they use, in megabits per second.
Remember, you want to avoid using up all of your available bandwidth, or your broadband will slow down.
Here are some examples of things you might do online, and how much bandwidth they use:
- Streaming a high-definition 1080p video: 5 Mbps
- Streaming an ultra high-definition 4K video: 15 Mbps
- Listening to music on Spotify in lossless quality: 2 Mbps
- Joining a Zoom call: 4 Mbps to view participants’ video in 1080p (high definition), or 3 Mbps to view participants’ video in 720p
- Browsing Facebook seamlessly, without images/video buffering: approximately 5 Mbps
As you can see, most of the things you might do online don’t use a huge amount of bandwidth on their own.
However, when multiple people get online at once, the amount of bandwidth being requested begins to add up quickly. For example, if three people watch 4K YouTube videos at the same time, this will take up about Mbps of bandwidth.
Also, these days, with the number of devices we have at home, there can be quite a lot of hidden bandwidth usage that you might not even be aware of. For example, your phone might update installed apps automatically over Wi-Fi, without prompting you. This is why, when it comes to deciding what broadband speed you need, it’s always useful to have a bit of a buffer.
Large file downloads and uploads
It’s also important to note that unlike when live streaming video, or joining a Zoom call, large file downloads and uploads don’t require a specific amount of bandwidth. Having slow broadband will simply mean that these downloads and uploads take a lot longer to complete.
For example, say you want to install the latest FIFA update on your Xbox, which is a 3-gigabyte download.
- With a 15 Mbps download speed, this will take 27 minutes
- With a 50 Mbps download speed, this will take 8 minutes
- With a 100 Mbps download speed, this will take 4 minutes
- With a 500 Mbps download speed, this will take 48 seconds
- With a 900 Mbps download speed, this will take 27 seconds
What is a good download speed?
A good download speed for your household depends on how many people live at home, and how you use the internet.
- For someone living alone, a download speed of 35-50 Mbps will be plenty, in most cases. This will offer enough bandwidth to stream videos in 4K while also browsing social media, or performing a file download.
- For a couple, a download speed of 50-75 Mbps will be plenty. This is enough to run two ultra-HD video streams as once, with plenty of bandwidth left over for web browsing, social media, and your smart home device, even if you have guests over.
- For a family of four, you might want a download speed of 100 Mbps or so, especially if your kids are online all the time. This will allow for people to watch videos and download files without causing other family members to slow down, or lag when playing online games. You’ll also be able to have a seamless Zoom call experience when working from home, even if the kids are online.
Of course, if you often download large files, you might want to pay more for a faster download speed, so that you spend less time waiting around for downloads to complete.
If you download large files a few times a week, you might like to double the speeds we’ve mentioned above, to cut your waiting times in half. And if you download large files every day, it might be worth paying for the fastest-possible broadband you can find, such as our Eggceptional 900 Mbps plan here at Cuckoo.
To get a better idea of what download speed you need, given how many people live at home, and how you use the internet, you can use this broadband speed needs calculator, built by the team at Broadband Savvy.
What is a good upload speed?
When you buy a broadband plan, you’ll often find that your upload speed is significantly lower than your download speed.
This is perfectly normal, and isn’t anything to worry about. We download a lot more data than we upload, so it’s fine to have a lower upload speed.
However, you still need to be careful to avoid using up all of your upload bandwidth. If you do, other people at home will notice their download speeds suffer, and their latency will increase, leading to significant amounts of lag when playing online games.
Some things that use a lot of upload bandwidth include:
- Live streaming yourself on websites like Twitch, or on Instagram Live.
- Uploading videos to YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram.
- Uploading large files to the cloud.
- Photos and videos automatically syncing to the cloud, such as on iCloud if you’re an iPhone user.
- Attending a Zoom call or using Facetime (this uses a bit of bandwidth, but not as much as using a live streaming app or website, like Twitch).
If you only upload the occasional photo/video to social media or the cloud, and jump on a Zoom or Facetime call every now and then, an upload speed of 8-12 Mbps will be plenty.
However, if you do use live streaming apps a lot, and often upload large files to the cloud, it would be good to have an upload speed of at least 15 Mbps, or even higher, to avoid using up all of your available bandwidth. This is especially true if you’ll often be uploading data from multiple devices at the same time.
This article was produced in collaboration with Broadband Savvy.