People love numbers and they especially love hearing about the fastest speeds, but what do the numbers really mean? At what point do these super high speeds that marketers are pushing start getting negligible?
From FCC research we know that web browsing benefits from increased speed, but tapers off around 6Mbps (graph below). In their 2014 report, the FCC even states:
The data indicate that a consumer subscribing to a 10 Mbps speed tier is unlikely to experience a significant performance increase in basic web browsing my moving to a higher speed tier
We aim to provide ample bandwidth for all tasks our users wish to perform, including browsing, voice chat, video chat, and HD streaming video. For the standard plan, we aim for a minimum of 12Mbps available during all hours. At this bandwidth, you can stream an HD video stream (4Mbps) and still have 8Mbps left over, leaving web browsing nice and snappy. Adding more HD streams works great, but web browsing may become less responsive. Larger families will often stream multiple HD streams at a time and so we offer the Premium plan so they can run all their streams, AND have plenty of bandwidth left over for snappy web browsing.
Once you have the bandwidth you need, you have to get it to your devices. Our experience is that most customers Wifi limits them and they cannot get 10Mbps (the speed the FCC considers solid) to all areas of their home. This is fine, most people agree the benefit of mobility is worth the performance trade-off. It is important not to get caught up in the numbers game. If you can only get 10Mbps in your bedroom because of Wifi, then why pay for 50Mbps you cannot use?
Many of the things you want to do online actually need much less bandwidth than you’d think, here are some recommendations from the companies and websites themselves:
- Skype Video Calling – 1.2 Mbps
- Netflix HD Stream – 5 Mbps
- Hulu Plus HD – 3 Mbps
- HBO Go HD – 3 Mbps
- Spotify – 0.16 to 0.32 Mbps
- Pandora – 0.15 Mbps
Speed tests, in theory, are a great way to figure out what speeds you are getting at any time and see if your Internet service provider is living up to what was promised. The problem with speed tests is that they are unreliable, there are a bunch out there and they could all give you different numbers (the worst part is, some of the big ISPs can even manipulate them to show the numbers they want).