How to figure out what internet speed you need.
Education
April 7, 2022

How to figure out what internet speed you need.

Picture of article author David Purkis
David Purkis
Brand & Comm Lead

You’ve probably heard someone, somewhere say: “Oh, just get the fastest speed you can so you’ll never have slow internet.”

First: ah, what? No. Just no.

Second, that is figurative propaganda and literal disinformation by the big telcos that just so happens to make more profits on their faster plans. We do things a little differently. Yeah, we make money selling internet plans–but we’d never tell you to choose a faster speed just because. We make basically the same profit regardless of speed. So, we’ve got absolutely nothing to gain by convincing you to spend more on a speed you just don’t need.

We know that we’ve all got a need for speed (yeah we went there), but let’s take a minute to choose a speed that makes sense.

How to choose the internet speed that’s right for you. Ready. Set. Go.

First up: downloads.

It all depends on how you consume your content and, when it comes to downloads, there are two types of people. Which one you are is, well, up to you.

During: You start using whatever it is you're downloading while it’s downloading (an example of this is streaming).

After: You start using whatever it is you’ve downloaded once it’s finished downloading (an example of this is a video game).

To help explain the nuance here, we’re going to compare it to taking a shower. No really. It’ll make sense. Trust us.

During: aka while it’s downloading.

When it comes to taking a shower, water pressure matters.

So, let's say that, in your house, the maximum water pressure is 100 L/minute.

And to take a shower you need 30 L/min (this is all hypothetical by the way, I'm no plumber). So, logically, if three showers were running at the same time, you’re using 90 L/min of the 100 L/min that your house is capable of. Life, for the length of your shower, is beautiful.

But, this morning everyone needed to get ready at the same time and that meant there were four showers running (a pretty big home, but bear with us). Four showers running at the same time means you need 120 L/min or 20 L/min more than your maximum water pressure.

So, your house deals with this by giving everyone’s shower a little less pressure. In this case, the pressure of each shower will slow to 25 L/min because there just isn’t enough water to go around.

The same principle applies to devices connected to your home’s internet network. If you’ve got an internet plan with a download speed of 100 Mbps and each device uses 30 Mbps, then the fourth device that connects to your network would slow all your other devices.

To properly calculate your internet speed needs (aka the water pressure in your home), all you have to do is add up the number of devices that would normally use your internet and the activity that each of them does most often. You can check out the download speeds each of those uses in this very handy table:

So, maybe you’re scrolling Instagram on your phone while watching a show on Netflix (not super great for your brain, but hey we all do it), while someone else is on YouTube, and someone else is on a Zoom call on their laptop. That means, you have 4 devices using 5 Mbps + 3 Mbps + 3 Mbps + 5 Mbps. If your internet plan is faster than 16 Mbps, you’re good to go.

After: aka once the download is finished.

Okay so what if you’re more of a bath person. Well, the situation is a little different.

Let’s keep using your hypothetical home with a maximum water pressure of 100 L/minute as an example. Your bathtub has a faucet that can run water up to 100 L/min. This is great because you can’t have a bath until your tub is full, so the faster it fills up, the better.

And, you guessed it, devices connected to your internet work the same way. If you’ve got a 100 Mbps internet plan and you download a lot of files that you can’t use until they’re finished downloading, the faster they download the better.

But but but, don’t forget that other devices on your network reduce the available speed you can use to download something. So, if someone were to have a shower (remember that uses 30 L/min) at the same time as you’re filling up your bath, that means your bath drops from 100 L/min to 70 L/min, which is still pretty damn fast but slower than your maximum water pressure.

In this case, properly calculating the internet speed you need is a bit more subjective. First, you’ll need to figure out how impatient you are. If you work with big files or download a lot of content, you probably want a faster speed. But, if you download a video or two a month you likely don’t need the fastest speed around. Afterall, you are paying for that speed the 29 other days when you aren’t downloading anything. So, you could save some money here and opt for a slightly slower speed and download your game or content at night.

Second thing to consider: uploads.

Ah the mysterious (always much slower) upload speed. The upload speed is how quickly you can send information towards the internet.

For most of us, choosing our download speed is pretty much the only thing we need to think about because the upload speeds are pre-packaged with the download speed and are normally more than enough to meet our upload needs. At oxio, depending on where you live, we offer upload speeds of 1.5 to 50 Mbps.

Video calling services generally ask for less than 1 Mbps, different games suggest different speeds (but most are under 5Mbps) and uploading files is possible at all speeds, but just faster if your upload speed is faster. (Sorry that was a super repetitive sentence.)

But if you need to stream or upload or send large files often, you might (probably will) want an internet plan with a faster upload speed. Check out the recommendations of the programs you’re using and make a decision after you’ve collected all the info.

— If you now know what internet speed you need, you can stop reading right here.—

Everything from this point on dives into details that really only concern a few of us. So feel free to get on with your day. Or, if you’re curious, keep on reading. The more you know, right?

Third thing to consider: ping (and jitter).

For gamers, ping can be deadly (haha, get it?).

Ping is basically the time between when a request is sent and when you receive the answer. Jitter is a measure of the variations in your ping over time.

The higher the ping number, the longer the wait times. The higher the jitter, the more unstable the ping.

Ping isn’t really affected by your internet speed. As long as you have a speed of more than 5 Mbps (which covers the overwhelming majority of modern home internet plans), your ping won’t be affected by your speed.

If ping isn’t affected by your internet speed, how’s it work? Well, ping depends on a cocktail of factors: your wifi, the state of your local network, the speed of your devices, the DNS (Domain Name System i.e.: the thing that turns domain names into IP addresses, which browsers use to load internet pages.) used by your internet service provider (ISP), etc. So, ping and jitter aren’t really important things to consider when choosing your internet speed. But, we thought we’d explain them here to save you a search.

Francis Carreau, our Technology Director (and pretty smart cookie), wanted to share some advice when it comes to making sure you’ve got a low ping:

“Ping will be pretty similar for all oxio clients playing the same game. So the factor that most influences your internet experience will be your wifi. When you open the wifi menu on your computer and you see dozens of networks, tell yourself that you’re sharing the time of use of the (limited) wireless waves with your neighbours, which isn’t the case when you are connected by Ethernet (when you’re plugged into your router). If the wireless environment around you is very saturated with tons of networks, the ping is the first thing to be affected.”

So, for a low (optimal) ping (and a legit jitter), plug your console or computer into your router.

Fourth thing to consider: the VPN.

We’re really getting into the nitty-gritty here. So, why the heck does a Virtual Private Network (VPN) have anything to do with your choice of home internet speed? And for those who don't quite remember (or like me, never really knew) what a VPN is, read this.

If you use your home internet mostly for work and your work has a mandatory VPN and and and the VPN has a maximum speed, it's not really worth it to choose a faster speed. (We’ll come back to this in a few sentences).

But, if you use your home internet for work and for fun, it’s best to choose an internet speed that makes sense with how you use your internet. (Scroll back up to the Downloads and Uploads sections.)

Companies normally use one of two types of VPN:

Type 1: All the traffic is routed through your employer (most VPNs).

Type 2: Only certain traffic is routed through your employer.

To figure out (or try to) which type of VPN your company is using, connect to your VPN and do an online speed test.

  • If the speed detected during the test is slower than the plan you’re paying for, you can probably assume that the VPN is type 1 and has a lower maximum speed than your home internet plan.
  • If the speed detected during the test matches what you’re paying for, you can probably assume that your VPN is type 2 and that it’s not slowing down your home internet (or that its maximum speed is faster than that of your current plan).

If you’re still not sure, ask your IT department this question: “Does all traffic, including the internet, go through our VPN?”

If they say yes, your work’s VPN is type 1. If they say no, it’s type 2.

Conclusion.

The big telcos are misleading us all with their “faster is always better” messaging. Super fast speeds are definitely not always necessary.

All we need is a fair and sustainably priced internet plan with a speed that comfortably covers everything we like and need to do online. (Lucky for you, oxio has a few pretty great choices.)


Article adapted by David, from Danilo & Francis' original in French.

Picture of article author David Purkis
David Purkis
Brand & Comm Lead

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