Average Download Speed vs. Upload Speed: What's the Difference and Why It Matters
A good download speed is at least 100Mbps, and a good upload speed is at least 10 Mbps. With 100Mbps, you can watch Netflix or YouTube, attend Zoom meetings, and play most online games on several devices at the same time.
You can calculate your internet speed requirements by considering the common types of activities you do online, the number of people who use your Wi-Fi, and how many Wi-Fi devices you tend to use in your home.
average download speed
You want fast internet to cover the total number of people and devices that connect to your Wi-Fi. If you live with a roommate, for example, you need enough speed to support each of your own laptops, smartphones, and gaming consoles. You also want bandwidth to support devices that are connected in the background, like smart home tech.
Sometimes a simple restart of your computer, modem, or router is all you need to get your internet speed back to normal. Restarting clears out the bugs of a fatigued machine and sets things back to normal.
Most people use Wi-Fi to get internet on their devices, but you can get slightly faster speeds by plugging your computer directly into your router using an Ethernet cable. That reduces the chance of signal interference and creates a more direct link.
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.
But you want faster upload speeds if you do things that require a lot of upload bandwidth. To get faster uploads, sign up for a faster internet plan or get fiber internet, which gives you symmetrical upload and download speeds.
According to data collected from our internet speed test, the national average internet speed is 42.86Mbps. Of course, this average is always changing, and that number might not reflect your internet experience.
Mbps stands for megabits per second. Internet providers use Mbps to measure bandwidth. One megabit is a million bits, each of which is a single unit of data. When your internet speed is 25Mbps, for example, that means your connection is capable of transferring 25 megabits of data per second. The faster your internet connection is, the more data you can get in a given timeframe.
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A good rule of thumb for how much internet download speed you need is 10Mbps per person. Of course, what a good download speed is for you heavily depends on what you do online and how many devices are on your home network. For basic web surfing or email, 10Mbps is enough to give you a seamless online experience.
Search Providers near you Find Providers What is a good Wi-Fi speed?Many Wi-Fi routers boast incredibly high speeds due to having dual-band or tri-band technology, which essentially allows them to broadcast multiple Wi-Fi networks at the same time. This can be really important if you have a lot of devices on your home network. Multiple signal bands, along with other features like beamforming, MU-MIMO (multi-user, multiple input, multiple output), and other Wi-Fi 6 technologies, can allow your devices to take maximum advantage of your high-speed internet connection.
Download speed is also referred to as bandwidth, or the amount of data transmitted over a connection over a certain amount of time. You can think of downloading data like filling a swimming pool with a hose. A bigger hose allows more water to flow through it, and the pool fills more quickly. Likewise, a connection with more bandwidth will download files much more quickly.
Faster download speeds are great, but faster speeds mean more data traveling through your connection. Be aware if your provider has data caps, as a faster connection means you will hit those limits sooner.
Most ISPs advertise only download speeds, so you might not even realize that upload speeds are a separate thing. Download speeds are also generally the faster of the two speeds, so most advertisements tend to focus on them.
Outside of upgrading your plan to one with higher download speeds, you can also try repositioning your router or reorganizing your Wi-Fi connections. For a more comprehensive troubleshooting guide check out 8 Reasons Why Your Internet is Slow (and How to Fix It).
So what's a "good" internet speed? And how much money should you expect to pay for a decent internet setup? Here's a detailed guide to internet speeds, including tips on how to increase speeds without upgrading.
DSL (direct subscriber line) is the cheapest of the four. It runs through your phone line, and tends to be pretty stable. The farther away you are from your ISP's data center, though, the spottier the quality gets. With DSL, you can expect speeds between 5 Mbps and 50 Mbps.
Cable is the most common internet type in the United States, and most providers will offer to bundle it with TV and phone services. It's more stable than DSL and less affected by distance, and usually gives speeds between 5 Mbps and 100 Mbps. But providers will often require you to sign multi-year contracts, which can be an issue if you end up disliking the service. And Cable also requires you to share bandwidth with people living around you, meaning slower speeds in more crowded areas.
Firstly, find out what the ISP's "maximum speeds" are, says Harpalani. "Even if you don't want to go to the highest [service] tier, you still want to know what you can upgrade to." If their maximum speeds are just barely enough for you now, that's a sign that they can't support you in the long-term.
Stornelli says this also means that if the company gives you an introductory offer, you need to look ahead and check if your speeds will drop once that offer is over, and what it will eventually cost.
Once you've signed up for a plan, run regular speed tests to make sure that it's running as fast as you expected. If your internet is consistently slower than what you're paying for, it's time to complain to the ISP.
Renting devices from your ISP can mean slower speeds and extra fees. And if you ever want to upgrade what they've sent you, most ISPs require you to justify why you need an upgrade, and reserve the right to decline the request. And even if they do send you new equipment, there's no guarantee that it's not pre-owned or refurbished.
This isn't necessarily because the equipment you have is bad or broken. Rather, upgrading that often means you won't fall behind on new Wi-Fi standards and features. It's the best way to make sure you always have the best internet speeds.
Considering how expensive internet equipment can be, even three years might be too soon for some people. Luckily, there are lots of ways to squeeze faster speeds out of the equipment you already have.
One of the most underrated ways to speed up your Wi-Fi, Stornelli said, is to move your router or nodes to a better location. Make sure it's as centrally located as possible, not in the corner of the house or pressed up against a wall. You'll also want to keep it at least four feet off the ground and in an open space, away from other electronic devices.
When picking a plan with data upload and download speeds that match your needs, consider your day-to-day internet activities and choose accordingly. With some quick math, you can determine what you use. For instance, sending a text-only email uses only about 10 kilobytes (KB), according to Verizon Wireless.
Streaming video and videoconferencing require higher speeds. If these comprise a good percentage of your daily internet activities, you'll need faster internet service with low latency. A provider with a fiber-optic connection is the fastest and most reliable choice, with cable a close second.
The FCC says the best ISPs for two or more connected devices and moderate to heavy internet use should offer at least 12 megabits per second (Mbps) of download speed. For four or more devices, 25 Mbps is recommended.
Most ISPs deliver their promised broadband speed, says the FCC in its tenth Measuring Broadband America Fixed Broadband Report, released in January 2021. The report evaluates 12 different ISPs along with the different technology configurations such as fiber, cable, DSL, and satellite. The report states that out of these providers, only one performed below 90% for actual-to-advertised download speed.
Speedtest.net says video conference platforms like Zoom and Google Meet only work well when connected to adequately fast internet. Zoom suggests download and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps for video conferencing with multiple participants in high-definition. Google support documentation offers similar recommendations.
When considering how much speed you need, beware that low promotional pricing may be for an ISP's lowest speeds. Also, the Federal Trade Commission recommends that you make sure the download and upload speeds you actually get are the ones that you're expecting.
Gamers need low latency, high download and upload speeds, and a generous data plan for the best experience. The best ISPs for gaming mitigate latency and include both super-fast speeds and substantial data plans.
According to Xfinity, most video game console manufacturers recommend at least 3 Mbps of download speed and between 0.5 Mbps and 1 Mbps of upload speed. However, most serious gamers will want much higher speeds to compete effectively during online gaming. Games with fast action require fast responses. AT&T recommends at least 50 Mbps for download speeds and 10 Mbps for uploads. CenturyLink, on the other hand, suggests at least 25 Mbps for downloads.
To have the ultimate gaming experience, Xfinity recommends speed tiers with download speeds of 300 Mbps and above. Your download speed determines how fast your game information is pulled from the server, and upload speed determines how fast you push information back out to the server.
Congestion has become a bigger problem in the last few years. With many companies shifting to remote work during the pandemic, home internet subscriptions have soared. While companies are working to mitigate slow internet speeds, higher usage does lead to network congestion.