Top 5 things you need to know about broadband

Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Bandwidth

How much bandwidth do I need? How do I know how much bandwidth I currently have? I just want to stream Netflix and send emails, am I overpaying? How do I run a bandwidth test? What even is bandwidth? 

These are just a handful of the questions plaguing customers in Maine who rely on home internet access more and more each day. It can be an overwhelming endeavor to try and find all the answers, so we’ve distilled it down to the top 5 things you need to know about bandwidth so you can make the best decision for your household and get on with your day. Besides, that new Netflix series isn’t going to watch itself. 

Bandwidth is a measurement of data capacity, not internet speed.

Bandwidth and internet speed are two terms that are often interchanged, however they are two different things. 

Bandwidth: the measurement of how much data can be uploaded or downloaded over a given 

amount of time

Internet Speed: the measurement of how fast your data can be uploaded or downloaded

Think of it this way, bandwidth is the total number of miles you can run at one time, while internet speed is how fast you are able to run those miles. 

Upload and download speeds need not be equal. 

Average at-home internet usage tends to rely more on download speed than upload speed. Streaming, gaming, email and internet browsing are all activities that are pulling data in, as opposed to sending data out. Upload Mbps (megabits per second) tend to be the lower number, whereas download Mbps are higher (most often double – sometimes triple – digits, depending on how many devices and users in your household).

Download / upload speeds are often represented by internet service providers (ISPs) as something like:

50 / 10 Mbps, or

50 x 10 Mbps

Your household and internet activity determine how much bandwidth you need.

Bandwidth calculators – including ours – take into account a number of factors to best determine what you need. These factors include:

  • Number of people in your household
  • Number of devices (computers, TVs, game consoles, mobile phones, etc.) in your household
  • Number of hours per day those devices are in use
  • Number of hours per day those devices are in use concurrently
  • Internet activity in your household (streaming, work, e-learning, etc.)

The more people, devices and usage in your household, the more bandwidth is needed to maintain smooth internet speeds, especially during high volume usage times. 

Keep an eye on latency measures and data limits. 

Latency is another measure that can help paint the picture of how fast your internet speed will be. Latency is the amount of time it takes for data to transfer from one source to another, and can vary depending on your internet provider and broadband technologies. High latency can slow down things like gaming or video conferencing, as it indicates slower transfer times, and can exist even with sufficient upload / download speeds. 

On a parallel path, some ISPs will cap the amount of data you can use in a month and, once the limit is reached, will result in slower internet speeds. Outer Reach’s packages offer unlimited data, so you don’t need to track or worry about reaching any limits. 

Netflix and Zoom and Spotify…oh my!

One of the questions we’re asked the most is, “How much bandwidth do I need for [fill in the blank streaming / video /gaming platform]?” The good news is that most of these platforms present their required bandwidth and data information up front, and articles like this one do a great job breaking down everything in your household that uses data and at what capacity. Things we may not realize are using bandwidth – such as a home security system run through wifi – can slow down your service, but there are setting adjustments that can help speed things back up. 

Your first step should be to check out what the recommended bandwidth is for your household, and then price compare packages from your local internet service providers to ensure you’re not overpaying for underperformance. Questions? Drop us a line

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