What internet speed do I need?

If you’re interested in switching or upgrading your internet service, or you’re just moving to a new area and need to find a new provider, you may be wondering: how much internet speed do I really need?


There are a lot of variables to consider. Let's take a look, so you can understand what internet speeds may be right for you.

What is bandwidth?

Internet bandwidth refers to the total speed at which data can be delivered to your computer or other internet-connected device. This speed is usually expressed in “Megabits per second” (Mbps). The higher the bandwidth, the faster your connection.


With high bandwidth, you can do things like download music faster, browse the internet more quickly, and stream video in full HD. A low-bandwidth connection, on the other hand, will result in longer download and upload times, poor video quality, and buffering while streaming video or audio.

What speed is right for you?

The best internet speed for you depends on how you use the internet, the size of your household, and a few other factors. The official speed recommendations from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for download speeds, summarized below from lowest to highest bandwidth, can give you a good starting point.

Online activity Bandwidth needed
Streaming music 0.5 Mbps
General web browsing, email, social media 1 Mbps
HD personal video chat (Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, etc) 1.5 Mbps
SD (Standard Definition) video streaming 3-4 Mbps
Online gaming (multiplayer)  4 Mbps
HD (High Definition) video streaming 5-8 Mbps
HD video teleconference 6 Mbps
Downloading large files 10 Mbps
Ultra HD 4K video streaming 25 Mbps
Remote work/learning up to 25 Mbps

Note: Mbps (Megabits per second) is the standard measure of internet speed and refers to how much information can be downloaded or uploaded in one second.

Before choosing an internet speed package, you should consider the maximum bandwidth that your home may be using altogether at one time.


So if you live alone and are the only person using your internet connection, a 5 Mbps connection would be enough to do most things, beyond downloading large files quickly.


But if you are part of a larger household with multiple users wanting to stream media, shop, surf and video chat all at the same time, then even a 10 or 20 Mbps connection may not be enough to handle all of your needs. Depending on the service options where you live, you may wish to explore options to give you more speed, such as upgrading or adding a second internet line.

What is considered high-speed internet?

High-speed internet or “broadband” is legally defined by the FCC as an internet connection that has a download speed of 25 Mbps or higher and an upload speed of 3 Mbps or higher.

What is the difference between download and upload speed?

Before getting a new internet connection, it’s helpful to understand the difference between upload and download speed, and why it matters.

Download/downstream speed

This refers to how quickly your computer or device downloads content. A higher download speed means that you can watch high-quality video more seamlessly and download large files more quickly.


Typically, internet connections are presented with the download speed followed by the upload speeds. For example, a 100/10 Mbps connection would provide a 100 Mbps download speed and a 10 Mbps upload speed.

Upload/upstream speed

Upload speed refers to how quickly your computer or device can send data (upload) to another device on the internet. Posting a photo or video to Facebook, for example, will make use of your upload speed.


Usually, upload speeds are quite a bit slower than download speeds, because most users download much more data than they upload.

Check your current internet speed

Wanting to know how much internet speed you need? The first step is to check your current internet speed. Run the internet speed test to find out your current download and upload speeds. Follow the instructions on the test page carefully, and run the test a few times for the most accurate result.

Need more speed?

Based on the information provided here, and on your current internet service plan, you may determine you simply don't have enough bandwidth to meet your needs. So what are your options to increase your speed?

Upgrade your service to a higher speed

Start by finding out whether speed upgrades are available at your address. This will depend on the service you already have and which speed tiers are sold in your area. If you’re a CenturyLink customer, the simplest way to see any upgrades we can offer is to log in to My CenturyLink on the web or through the app, and go to My Products

Add a second internet line

Another popular option is to add a second internet line to your home, which can be used exclusively for gaming, streaming, or remote working and schooling needs. This is a great option for homes that can't upgrade or are already getting the top speed in their area, but still find they need more bandwidth for all their online activities.

See what internet speeds are available in your area

Now that you know how much internet speed you need, you can explore some internet services in your area, and make sure that you get the connection that’s right for you and your family, based on your browsing habits and online activities. 

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