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The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Home Internet Speed

Updated: Jan 6, 2023

Streaming media is the most popular way to entertain oneself these days. It is not uncommon for people to stream movies, sporting events and television shows on their smartphones, tablets, laptops, desktops and other devices.


The problem with streaming media is that it can be too slow at times and this can be very frustrating. In this article we will discuss what you can do to fix streaming issues like buffering and get a better internet speed. Before we get into the details, let’s look at some concepts that might help in making your decisions.


What is the Difference Between Speed and Bandwidth?

Speed and bandwidth are two different things. Speed refers to the rate at which data can be transferred while bandwidth measures the amount of data that can be transferred. You can think of it like on a road, Bandwidth is the speed limit and Speed is how fast you are actually going (if you couldn’t go over the speed limit with your heavy foot!)


What is a Megabit, Mbps and Megabyte?

Megabits are units of data transfer rate for computers. They are used to measure the speed of internet connections, and are typically expressed in Mbps. Mbps = Megabit per second

Megabits and Mbps are two different units of data transfer rate for computers. Megabits measure the speed of internet connections, while Mbps is a unit that measures the speed at which a computer can send or receive data.


Megabyte (not bit) is used to measure the size of data on storage media, like a hard drive or thumb drive. So you have a 500 Gigabyte hard drive, or to compare to Internet speeds. You have 100 Gigabytes of storage on an SD card, but have 100 Gigabits for your Internet.


How Fast Should Your Internet Speed Be?

The internet is an essential part of our lives and a lot of the time it seems like we are waiting for it to load. We may not know what the benefits are, but we can all agree that faster internet speeds are better.


The “average family” shouldn’t pay for “anything beyond 20 x 5” – in other words, 20 Mbps for each of up to five data-hungry devices like laptops, game consoles and streaming TVs. Streaming on 4k would be about 20Mbps per device, 1080 would be about 10Mbps per device.


So if you have 5 devices (TVs, laptops, tablets, etc…) that you use in your home daily for use. Take 20 Megabits per second, per device, and multiply that by the number of devices you have. 20 × 5 = 100Mbps is about all you “need”. More devices, more gaming, more IoT devices, then the more bandwidth you will need. Most experts recommend adding an extra 5 Mbps to your plan for every 10 smart-home devices, though some data-intensive products, such as cameras, will require much more.


How to Make Sure You're Getting the Home Internet Speed You Paid For

You might be paying for a fast internet connection but not getting the speed you paid for.

The first thing you need to do is find out if your internet speed is actually as slow as it seems. You can do this by running a simple speed test. If the results show that your download speed is significantly lower than what you're paying for, then there might be an issue with your service provider or equipment.


Popular internet speed testing tools include Ookla Speedtest (opens in new tab) and Netflix’s Fast.com (opens in new tab) which you can pull up on your laptop or smartphone in any web browser for free.


Other speed test sites specific for ISPs

Tips to Save Time & Increase Productivity

The first thing you could try is to get an analyzer app. These apps are designed to display your wifi speed, the channels being used and allows you to determine if changes are necessary.


A great FREE tool I use to view my home network is Fing - https://www.fing.com/


Great “freeish” program for this is Netspot allowing you to see all the wireless routers around you - https://www.netspotapp.com/


More tips:

  • Use a hardwired connection when possible. A wired connection is faster than a wireless one because it doesn't have any interference or signal loss.

  • Move your router closer to where you use the internet most often. This will give it a better range and will provide better connectivity in those areas.

  • Update the firmware on your wireless router

  • Replace your older router with a newer one - might support more throughput, have more antennas and ability to utilize more channels.

    • Make sure your end devices can support the "new router". If the router can talk 100 miles an hour, but your device can only listen at 50 miles per hour, that new router isn't doing you much good.

  • Make sure your wireless router isn’t next to something causing interference, like a microwave, electrical motors and other devices with radios like cell phone repeaters or Internet of Things hubs

  • If you live in a neighborhood, putting your wireless router closest to the middle of the home as possible would help with the neighbor’s wifi competing or cause interference with yours.

In the end…

Everyone wants the fastest Internet they can get, I understand, I have a gigabit connection myself, but even having over 50 devices in my home, I don’t come close to utilizing the entire connection. Sometimes you have to put budget in front of “wants” but of course, the final decision is up to you. Hopefully this post helps you in making those decisions.

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