Gigabit Internet:
What is it? Do I need it?

Some of you may be familiar with the term Broadband or Bandwidth Envy; it’s simply anxiety caused by not having the fastest Internet speed available.  (It’s like the feeling you get when you realize that Apple has released a newer iPhone than the one you just bought.)

Anyway, the current buzz in Internet speed is Gigabit Internet service.  Gigabit Internet service transmits data up to 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) — or 1,000 megabits per second.  The broadband envious among us are clamoring for Gig service; is it overkill?  Let’s see.  But first in the interest of transparency let’s address this question:

Is a gigabit internet service really equal to 1,000 Megabits per second (Mbps)?

The answer is yes and no.  At the origination point of the Internet signal, the capacity is a true 1,000 Mbps, as the signal travels through the various pieces of equipment on a network, there can be a minimal reduction in capacity to about 940 Mbps when it reaches your home or business.

Whether we’re talking 940 Mbps or a full gig (1,000 Mbps) it’s still nearly ten times faster than 100 Mbps service and 250 times higher than 4 Mbps – which was the FCC standard just 10 years ago.

FIber 101 Video

Need an Internet primer?  Check out our Fiber 101 video.

1 Gig seems like a lot, but is it really?

Consider this.  Today the FCC standard is 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload.  According to the Commission, 25/3 should meet the needs of the average household with a maximum of 4 users OR connected devices.  A device is anything in your home connected to the Internet, cell phones, TVs, tablets, computers, smart home devices, virtual assistants.

Since many of the devices in your home are using Internet even when idle, the number of users becomes less important than the number of devices.  Based on the FCC standard, you need 25/3 for every four devices.  How many Internet connected devices are in your home?

Let’s look at a 2-person household where both have a personal computer and cell phone as well as a work computer and cell phone.  They each have a tablet, they each have an e-reader, there is one Internet ready TV, 2 personal assistants (Alexa, Google Dot, etc.), 2 security cameras, and 10 smart plugs.  That amounts to 23 devices – regardless of the number of users.  According to the FCC’s standard, this household would need 150 Mbps for everything to have the bandwidth it needs at any given time. Learn more about how to calculate how much speed you need.

Mother trying to talk with doctor on laptop while watching two kids

When you consider a couple of students and their connected devices added to the mix,  plus the fact that so many of us are using Zoom and other video conferencing platforms for working and schooling from home, it’s easy to see how 300 Mbps or more can get eaten up pretty quickly.

To See How Much Speed Your Family Needs, Download OTELCO’s Bandwidth Calculator Today!

300 Mbps may be fine for your family today, but history tells us that we’ll become more and more dependent on Internet access.  It’s a good idea to do an annual assessment of the devices in your home to make sure you have the bandwidth you need.

For now you just need to decide whether you want the speed you need, or the speed that will make you the envy of your pals.