We see ads for “fast internet” everywhere, but what is the difference between a 20 Mbps and a 200 Mbps internet package? You may be surprised to learn that you might not be able to notice the difference in speed at all, depending on your household size and average bandwidth use.
Since 2007, the average internet connection speed has gone from around 4 Mbps to 19 Mbsp. While both of those numbers might seem tiny, there is a massive difference in internet quality between these two points. But depending on how many household members like to watch Netflix on their SHD smart tvs at the same time, you might not notice a marked increase in quality after even 20 Mbps.
Mbps stands for “megabits per second” and typically refers to the total volume of data that you can either download or upload at any given second. If you’re trying to go beyond your bandwidth means, you’ll notice delays in page loading, frequent buffering stops on videos, and possibly won’t be able to show your face on video calls at all. This means you need as many Mbps as you can afford to get the best quality experience for all of these things, right? Nope.
Each webpage or app only contains a limited amount of data that needs to be transferred at any single moment. Netflix for example, recommends that to enjoy their shows and movies, you should have the following bandwidth:
Yes, you’re reading that right. You only need 15 Mbps of bandwidth to be able to enjoy UHD Netflix streaming. And this is one of the largest bandwidth hogs of the internet. But, if you were to have a 15 Mbps plan and then tried to run any other apps or do any other browsing at the same time as streaming a UHD show, you would notice dips in quality and extremely slow browsing. This is because you have reached your bandwidth capacity.
That means that if you have multiple household members who use data intensive applications such as Zoom, Netflix, TikTok, Facebook etc. at any given time, you would all probably benefit from having a plan that could accommodate everyone at your peak times.
And that’s just for download speed. Most plans barely even talk about their upload bandwidth, but if you are someone who makes a lot of video calls to family members or for work, or you want to have a side hustle as a Twitch streamer, you need to check the upload bandwidth capacity separately.
And even if you do have a 5 Gbps plan, if you have terrible ping times you’re still going to suffer from slow page loads or video buffering.
Ping time (also known as latency) is how long it physically takes for the data to transfer between the server and your device. This is arguably more impactful than bandwidth especially after around 25 Mbps, but is affected by physical distance as well as any devices (ex modem, router, extender, or mesh system) in between your screen and the original server where the data originates from. This is why having a good router and seamless Wi-Fi coverage throughout your home (such as with the Vilo Mesh Wi-Fi System) is critical to improving your internet experience.
You can check out how much your average bandwidth usage is at peak hours by checking the Vilo App!
Just go into your Network -> Usage Report (make sure reporting is turned on in the settings) ->select your Wi-Fi Network as a whole to look at in detail, and check out what the peak data usage hours are for today, or what it was in total for any day over the last week or month.
Note that this is reported in Mbph (Megabites per hour) in the day view, but you can come up with a rough estimate of how much bandwidth your household uses by just dividing that by 6 (this assumes you aren’t just flipping at lightning speed through 1 Mb pages every second, but rather every few minutes with some extra leeway for larger pages, streams, or applications).