Now that you and your family are all working and going to school at home, your internet speed may feel slow — video could be stuttering or web pages could be taking forever to load. Or maybe you're looking to figure out what internet package you need from your provider so you don't spend more money than necessary. What works for one home isn't the same for everyone, so here's how to determine what "good WiFi" means for you.
How much internet bandwidth you need going into your home (or what WiFi network speed you need inside your home) will depend entirely on what you are doing online – e.g. playing online games, making video calls, streaming movies, using a smart doorbell, or just checking email – and how many people and devices are actively using your home WiFi simultaneously.
Most households with 2-3 people will need at least 25Mbps under normal circumstances. However, with more people working and playing at home, attending video classes and meetings, as well as enjoying streaming video and gaming, 25Mbps may not be enough. And, there may be devices using your internet in the background that could be slowing things down. For instance, WiFi cameras (security cameras, baby monitors, video doorbells), streaming music services, and smart home devices, like thermostats and smart lights, all eat into the amount of WiFi available for other activities. And if you're looking to stream movies and shows in 4K, that's a whole different ballgame.
Another factor you need to take into consideration is that your internet package reflects the maximum speed your WiFi can attain. When you sign up for service, your provider always claims it's for speeds of "up to" 25Mbps or 100Mbps. Rarely will you achieve the maximum that you’re paying for. So be sure to check your actual connection speed on sites like Speedtest.net at various times throughout the day to get an accurate picture of your true speed. (And, consult our tips on how to get better WiFi with the speed you do have.)
Armed with your actual WiFi speed, you can use the chart below to add up the speed you'll need to comfortably use WiFi without video stuttering, gaming lags or internet slowdowns. Keep in mind that you'll likely not be engaged in all of the activities simultaneously, so add up the maximum load you reasonably think your WiFi will need to handle. For instance, with my family of five, I need enough for two HD video streams, regular online gaming (my son is a Fortnite fanatic), video-heavy web browsing and several smart home devices – your requirements may differ.
Minimum Bandwidth Requirements
|up to 1.5Mbps||1.5-2Mbps||2-3Mbps||3-5Mbps||5-12Mbps||25+ Mbps|
|Streaming video||low-quality video||standard definition video||HD video, live TV||4K video or HD video with HDR|
|Video conferencing||standard definition video calls||HD video calls, group video calls|
|Smart home video devices||low frame rate, standard definition security cameras||video doorbells, standard definition security cameras|
|Gaming||basic online gaming||regular online gaming (Fortnite)||HD gaming at high frame rates, gaming streaming services|
|Web browsing/ computer work||email and text-heavy web browsing||regular web browsing||video-heavy web browsing, downloading large files (slowly)||downloading large files (quickly)|
|Streaming Audio||low-quality audio streaming||streaming music services|
[Image credit:devices with wireless signals via BigStockPhoto, screenshot via Techlicious/Speedtest.net]