If there is one thing we know about the Internet, it is that it is continuously changing. In 2015, we published a “How Much Speed Do You Really Need” post. This week we are giving that post a face-lift, so welcome to “How Much Speed Do you Need: The 2019 Edition.”
How We Use Bandwidth: Then and Now
It used to be that most residents were mainly using the Internet for downloading. They were surfing the web, streaming content, and cruising through social media. Today, the average resident is uploading much more than ever before. For the most part, that can be attributed to telecommuting, though online education and telemedicine are playing significant roles as well. Between the rise in telecommuting and the complete domination of smart devices, Internet use just isn’t what it used to be. Here is what has changed and what has stayed the same:
- Standard TV Streaming: To stream on-demand content, like Netflix, you need at least 0.5 Mbps. That is the minimum, though, and the recommended speed is 3.0 Mbps for SD and 5.0 Mbps for HD. If you want to stream in 4K, you will be using at least 16 Mbps.
- Music Streaming: You don’t need much bandwidth to download music. Music giant Spotify only requires .096 Mbps of speed for streaming on your phone and .1670 Mbps to listen on a computer.
- Video Chat: Video chat users, according to Skype, need 1.5 Mbps download and 1.5 Mbps upload, while video calls with multiple people need at least 8 Mbps download.
- Social Media and Basic Surfing: Basic online surfing and social media scrolling on a computer uses about .03 Mbps, but video streaming takes about 1 Mbps.
- Online Gaming: The recommended speeds for online gaming on devices like PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch are between 3-6 Mbps down and .75-1 Mbps up. That is for one player on one device.
- Email: Regarding e-mail, estimates are that an average email without attachments is about 75 kilobits, which is 0.075 megabits, in size. An e-mail with a file attached increases by the size of the data.
Live TV Streaming: In the old days (four years ago), there was just regular Cable TV and Netflix. Today, you can cut out cable altogether and get live TV, from services like Sling, Philo, and YouTube TV. According to the experts at clark.com, the magic number for live streaming from these types of solutions is 10 Mbps. For more information on what we mean by “Live TV” and “Standard TV” check out our Summer Streaming Series.
- Virtual Assistants and Smart Home Devices: Sitting idly, Alexa uses about 1 Mbps of data, and while streaming music or answering a question, she is using an added .51 Mbps down. When it comes to running smart home devices, Alexa is using about 5 Mbps down for each device and 10 Mbps down for devices with video. The recommended upload speed for these devices is about 3 Mbps because these devices are uploading information to your phones, tablets, or smart assistants. This is generally the same across all virtual assistants and smart home hubs. Smart TV and streaming device bandwidth is contingent on what you are streaming (e.g., live, HD, SD, 4K)
- Smart Phones and Tablets: Most of the things we have already mentioned take the same amount of bandwidth to do on a phone or tablet as they would on a laptop. The real problem is that while idle, smartphones and tablets have been known to use as much as 1 Mbps of download, which is due to constant updates and notifications.
- Telecommuting: Upfront, you should know that your Internet speed for telecommuting is going to vary depending on the apps, devices, and services you are utilizing. As an example, a considerable part of telecommuting is video conferencing, and as we already stated, that takes at least 1.5 Mbps upload and download. Our experts determine that the minimum speed a telecommuter will be using at any time is 2 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload, but we recommend a telecommuter have at least 25/2 Mbps.
- Online Education: Online schools require a minimum of 1.5 Mbps upload and download per student. The same can be assumed for kids doing homework online at home.
- Telemedicine: Telemedicine experts have found that a minimum of 15/3 Mbps is required to access telehealth services.
So how much speed does the average family need?
Based on this data, a four-person household’s bandwidth utilization might look something like this:
|Parent||Streaming Video on Smart TV HD||5.00 Mbps|
|Shopping Online||0.03 Mbps|
|Social Media on Phone||1.03 Mbps|
|Parent||Streaming Live TV to A Smart TV||10.00 Mbps|
|Working from Home||2.00 Mbps|
|Texting on Smartphone||1 Mbps|
|Teen Child||Streaming Music on Smart Phone||1.96 Mbps|
|Playing Online Game||3 Mbps|
|Middle School Age Child||Social Media on Smart Phone||1.03 Mbps|
|Doing Homework Online||1.5 Mbps|
|Streaming Music on Alexa||1.51 Mbps|
|Smart Devices||2 Devices||10 Mbps|
|Idle Tablets||2 devices||2 Mbps|
|Idle AI Assistants||2 devices||2 Mbps|
How much speed we need has changed a lot!
To put that total in perspective, 42/3.5 is over twice the amount a family needed in 2015. This rise in bandwidth demand is why companies like OTELCO are working diligently to improve and upgrade their networks. We are expanding our fiber network across Maine, Vermont, Alabama, and Missouri, and we are working with rural communities to bridge the digital divide.