How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?

Rebecca Armstrong
Researcher & Writer
Read More
December 14, 2022
5 min read

At a glance

Picking a new internet plan can be a pain. You want to make sure you have enough internet speed to avoid buffering and disjointed Zoom meetings, but going with the fastest speed might be a waste of money.

As a general baseline, you want at least 10 Mbps of download speed per person who could be online at the same time, but the actual amount of internet speed you need depends on how many devices are connected to the internet and how you use the internet.

Here are the basic considerations for choosing an internet plan:

  1. Bandwidth requirements
  2. Common internet speed options
  3. Upload speed vs. download speed
  4. Internet types

Keep reading to learn more about internet speed and how much of it you should pay for. And if you're looking for a new internet service provider (ISP) that can give you faster internet speeds, check out our list of ISPs we recommend.

Find internet prices for your new home

How do I choose an internet speed?

This is going to be a bit of (easy) math. But don’t worry—you need to do this only once to know how much internet speed you need.

What you need to do is figure out the number of devices that will potentially be online at the same time, along with the amount of bandwidth required to keep each connection running smoothly.

Here’s a chart to help you figure out how many Mbps each of your internet connections might need. Or you can skip the math and get a personalized internet speed recommendation.

Compare internet providers at High Speed Internet
Compare internet providers at High Speed Internet

Bandwidth requirements for common online activities

Recommended bandwidth per instance

Web browsing

3–5 Mbps


1–2 Mbps

Music streaming

1–2 Mbps

Checking social media

3–10 Mbps

Video streaming

5–25 Mbps

Video conferencing

5–10 Mbps

Online gaming

5–25 Mbps

Smart home devices

1-10 Mbps

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Researching internet before a move?

If you're looking into internet speeds and ISPs because you're moving, we can help you pick your moving company and prepare for moving day. Check out which movers we recommend and use our moving checklist to stay on top of every part of your move. We've also got a handy guide for choosing the best internet for your new home

The amount of bandwidth any online activity can use depends on a few factors. Checking social media could mean a brief look on Twitter, or it could be endlessly scrolling through TikTok (which would use more bandwidth).

Likewise, video streaming resolution affects how much internet speed you use—standard definition Netflix has a minimum requirement of only 3 Mbps, but streaming in 4K could easily use up 25 Mbps.

If you have multiple connections going at the same time, you also want to make sure you have enough bandwidth for every connection to run smoothly simultaneously—otherwise your network will slow down when multiple people get online.

For example, if you’d potentially have a smart TV streaming Netflix, a smartphone scrolling through Instagram, and a laptop looking up the best takeout in your area at the same time, 20–30 Mbps would work. That’s 5–25 Mbps for streaming, 3–10 Mbps for Instagram, and 3–5 Mbps for web browsing.

Giving yourself a bit of wiggle room isn’t going to hurt either. In our opinion, it’s better to have a little extra bandwidth than to get stuck with a little less than you regularly need.

Check every internet plan in your area to find the speeds you need.

This helpful video from Xfinity can help you visualize the bandwidth requirements for different tasks like checking your email, streaming, and making video calls. 

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Common internet speeds

Even though every internet provider has its own range of internet plans, there are a few common speed ranges you might find as you shop.

25 Mbps—Good for about 2 people and up to 5 devices, depending on what you do with them. With 25 Mbps, you could stream one show in 4K if there are no other internet connections.

50 Mbps—Good for 2–4 people and 5–7 devices. A speed of 50 Mbps can handle 2–3 video streams plus some extra online activity. 

100 Mbps—Good for 4–6 people and up to 10 devices. Most families would be amply covered with a 100 Mbps internet connection.

200–500 Mbps—Good for large families with several connected devices where everyone wants to watch a different movie or show at the same time. 

1,000 Mbps—This is usually the fastest residential internet speed available, and it’s good if you rely on incredibly fast internet speeds for online gaming, your job, or simply because you want the best of the best.

Internet speeds from our favorite providers

Price range
Download speeds
Learn more
$30.00–$80.00/mo.75–1,200 Mbps
$55.00–$80.00/mo.**25–1000 Mbps
$49.99–$89.99/mo.***200–1,000 Mbps
$49.99–$109.99/mo.****100–1,000 Mbps

Data as of 12/14/2022.

*Excludes Xfinity Gigabit Pro and Gigabit X3 plans. For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.
**Excludes AT&T Internet 2000 and AT&T Internet 5000 plans. For 12 mos., plus taxes & equip fee. $10/mo. equip. fee applies. Incl. 1TB data/mo.; overage charges apply. Ltd avail./areas.
***For the first 12 months.
****For the first 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

Get great deals on fast internet

Unfortunately, the faster your download speed, the more expensive your internet will be. But you don't need to go broke to get the speed you need! Check out our internet deals and discounts to get fast internet for cheap.

Upload speed and download speed

For most of this article, we’ve been talking about download speeds—the speeds that determine how fast you can receive data from the internet. But upload speed—the speed at which you can send data to the internet—is also important.

Many internet providers advertise download speeds but keep upload speeds a little more hidden because they can be much slower than download speeds. That’s fine for most because you don’t normally send as much to the internet as you get from it. 

But for people who upload a lot of files, photos, or YouTube videos for work—or households where there are multiple video calls going on at the same time—you’ll want to make sure your upload bandwidth can keep up. 

Internet providers usually give you 10% of your download speed as your upload speed. So if your internet plan says 100 Mbps, your upload speed would be 10 Mbps.

The exception to these asymmetrical speeds is usually fiber internet, which tends to be more generous with upload bandwidth than other types of internet. With a fiber internet connection, you would usually get equally fast upload and download speeds.

How internet type affects speeds

Different types of internet connections can affect your speeds in a few different ways, mainly in speed or distance limitations, network congestion, or high latency. Let’s go through the main types of internet and how they affect speeds:

Fiber internet is the fastest type of internet currently available. Notably, fiber internet connections give you much faster upload speeds than other types of internet. Examples of fiber internet providers are Google Fiber, Verizon Fios, and CenturyLink Fiber.

Cable internet is also a fast connection type with top speeds up to 1,000 Mbps. It doesn’t have symmetric upload speeds, and cable connections can slow down when a lot of people in a neighborhood are on the same network at the same time. A few notable cable providers are Xfinity, Spectrum, and Cox

DSL internet can handle top speeds around 100 Mbps, but it usually performs slower than that because the wires carrying your internet data are older and more prone to interference over long distances. Examples of some DSL internet companies are CenturyLink and Frontier

Satellite internet is usually the slowest type of internet due to its high latency. Think about it: all the information you send and receive has to go to space and back. Satellite internet providers are HughesNet, Viasat, and Starlink.

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DSL vs. cable internet

Cable internet is much faster than DSL, though it can cost a lot more in some areas. If you want fast internet but don't want to spend money on speeds you won't actually use, check out our guide where we compare DSL to cable internet to weigh the pros and cons of both options before you choose.

Frequently asked questions about internet speed

Latency is the time it takes for any data—like a word file, a YouTube video, or an email—to get from its original source to its destination. If your latency is high, it means data is taking longer to transfer from the web to your phone or computer.

You can reduce latency by moving closer to your router or finding an optimal location for your router. Sometimes, restarting your router can also be helpful. If your router is old, you might even need to replace it to solve latency issues.

Fiber internet like Google Fiber and Verizon Fios is the fastest internet type on the market. Fiber isn't available in every area though, so you might have to settle for cable internet. Luckily, cable internet is still pretty speedy compared to DSL internet and satellite internet.

If you're paying for fast internet, but you still get a lot of lag and buffer when you game online or stream video, make sure you're getting your money's worth using this handy internet speed test.

Rebecca Armstrong
Written by
Rebecca Armstrong
Rebecca is a natural techie and the friend you turn to when your Wi-Fi randomly stops working. Since graduating from the University of Evansville with a degree in creative writing, Rebecca has leveraged her tech savvy to write hundreds of data-driven tech product and service reviews. In addition to, her work has been featured on Top Ten Reviews, MacSources, Windows Central, Android Central, Best Company, TechnoFAQ and iMore.