Internet Speeds Explained

We explain Internet speeds including the terminology and the minimum requirements for activities from Netflix streaming to torrenting to Usenet to online gaming and everything in-between. 

Photo of fiber optics

Internet speeds can be confusing, so let's clear up a few things. 

Internet speeds are often described in different and confusing ways. Whether you need to know your Internet speeds for streaming, torrenting, Usenet, online gaming or anything else you love to do online, understanding the terminology is a key step.

Internet speeds are usually measured in 'Megabits per second'. You’ll often see this shortened to Mb/s or Mbps. These all mean the same thing. Note the small ’b’.

Confusion comes from MB/s or MBps. Note the capital ‘B’. This refers to megaBYTES per second. There are 8 bits to a byte, so the same Internet speed looks very different when expressed in Mbits per second (Mb/s or Mbps) vs Mbytes per second (MB/s or MBps).

To convert MBps into Mbps, divide the data transfer rate value by 8.

MBps vs MBps vs kbps Internet Speeds

Our table below shows the converted equivalent values side-by-side, along with recommended Internet speeds for different online activities. 

Scroll right for the rest of the table >>

Mbps

MBps

kbps

Comment

1

0.13

128

3

Sling TV’s recommended minimum constant speed for streaming video content on portable devices such as tablets and phones. Hulu’s recommended minimum speed for 720p HD streaming.

4

0.5

500

Often considered the minimum Internet speed needed for streaming.

5

Netflix’s recommended download speed for each HD stream. Sling TV’s recommended minimum constant speed for single stream of video content on a TV, PC, or Mac.

6

Hulu’s recommended minimum speed for 1080p HD streaming.

8

1,024

Usenet.Farm download speeds from newsgroups.

12

1.5

1,500

Streaming normal quality (less than 480p).

13

Hulu’s recommended minimum speed for 4K Ultra HD streaming.

24

3.0

3,000

Streaming SD quality (480p or better).

25

Sling TV’s recommended minimum constant speed for households that maintain Internet use on multiple devices.

40

5.0

5,000

Streaming HD quality (720p or better).

48

6.0

50

The minimum speed for a family of four according to CNBC.

100

200

25.0

25,000

Streaming Ultra HD quality (1080p or better).

300

37.5

Even if you have a 300 Mbps Internet connection, you can expect your max Usenet speed to be about 27 MBps.

500

1,000

125.0

= 1 Gbps (GB/s) really fast you lucky dog 🙂 


Minimum Internet Speeds Needed by Activity

Now that you understand the terminology, next is to look at the speeds needed for each activity. 

Streaming Netflix Speed

According to the Netflix website, you need 5 Mbps for each HD stream.

This means if you want to stream two HD streams at once (for example, one for you and another for the kids), you will need 10 Mbps.


Torrenting Speed

Whatever torrent search sites and torrent software you use, just make sure to use a torrent-friendly VPN to hide your IP address and download traffic.

By using a VPN, you will take a speed hit, but it’s never worth the risk of torrenting without a VPN just to download your files a little faster.  But there are still ways to make sure you’re getting the best VPN speeds possible:

  • Choose one of the best VPN services
  • Let your VPN app auto-choose the fastest VPN server to connect to
  • If you prefer to connect manually, connect to a VPN server close to you or with low ping

Maximum Usenet Speed

With the right Usenet provider, you can “max out” your Internet connection. Imagine utilizing 100% of your bandwidth to download the content you. Pretty sweet, huh?

Actually, you won’t quite get to 100%. You can expect to lose about 10% of your speed to overhead.

To get the best Internet speeds when using Usenet, follow these tips.

  • Choose a good Usenet provider, ideally with newsserver farms in multiple locations (for example, US and Europe)
  • Connect your computer to the Internet through an Ethernet cable instead of relying on Wi-Fi (see below)
  • Pay attention to the number of connections in the settings of your newsreader software
  • Automate your Usenet downloads overnight to take advantage of faster speeds during “off peak” hours

Read even more tips in our Usenet speeds post.


Online Gaming Speed

When gaming, your latency or ping matters a lot more than your bandwidth. For instance, when gaming, a 20 Mbps connection with 10 ping is actually better than a 200 Mbps connection with 100 ping.

That’s because online gaming doesn’t actually use a lot of data. But if your system takes too long to communicate with the server (high ping), you’ll experience lag while playing, which will place you at a huge disadvantage in competitive games that rely on fast reactions, like first-person shooters or MOBAs.

In general, Internet speeds of 20 Mbps to 50 Mbps are more than enough for most online games. However, you want your ping to be as low as possible. 

  • Great ping: Below 20ms

  • Good ping: 20 to 50ms

  • Okay ping: 50 to 100ms

  • Playable ping: 100 to 150ms

  • Once your ping creeps above 100ms and especially 150ms, you’re going to see noticeable lag and be at a distinct disadvantage in competitive games

So, how do you improve latency? Here are a few tips:

  • Use a wired Internet connect; if you’re stuck using wireless, move as close to your router as possible

  • Close all programs or downloads that may be using Internet in the background; if other people in your household are using the connection, this will also hurt your ping

  • Connect to the closest possible server; the further you are from the server, the higher your latency

  • Reset your router

  • Use a faster router or Ethernet cable

  • If all else fails, contact your ISP to troubleshoot

Unfortunately, since ping is so highly dependent on your distance from the server, you may be at the mercy of your location. If you play a game that doesn’t offer servers in your country, you may be lucky just to achieve latency in the 100ms to 200ms range.

Top Tip - Use a gaming-friendly VPN like PureVPN or better yet a dedicated gaming platform that optimize speeds such as Outfox


Internet Speeds are Slower Over Wi-Fi 

Plenty of people go to Speedtest.net, run the test and freak out that their speeds are slower than they are paying for.

But hold on.

Did you do the test while connected to Wi-Fi? Or did you - as you are supposed to - connect your computer directly to your router via an Ethernet cable?

If you did the speed test while connected over Wi-Fi, well no wonder you think your speeds are slow. Wi-Fi speeds will always be slower.

Even with a complete Gigabit modem set-up, the highest Wi-Fi speeds you can expect are under 500 Mbps. In most cases, you can expect actual speeds while using Wi-Fi to be between 175 to 300 Mbps.

So, if you want to max out your connection while streaming, torrenting or downloading from Usenet newsgroups, the best way is to connect your computer directly to the router via Ethernet cable.

That is not as convenient as a Wi-Fi connection, but you’ll get a big speed boost.


Make Sure You Are Getting the Speeds You Are Paying For

Don’t get stuck paying $70 a month for plan that’s supposed to be 250 Mbps, when you’re really only getting 60 Mbps speeds.

If this is you, it’s time to call your Internet provider and that they either discount your service or fix your speeds. In many case, they can resync your modem and improve your speeds, but it won’t happen if you don’t ask. 

But how do you know your home Internet speeds? Follow these steps to figure it out:

  1. Connect your computer to your router using an Ethernet cable

  2. Open your web browser

  3. Go to www.speedtest.net

  4. Press ‘Go’

Speedtest.net will then test your download and upload speeds, as well as your latency. This should only take about 60 seconds or less.

Now, compare these speeds to what you’re paying for. A slight difference is normal and not a big deal. For instance, if you have a 100 Mbps plan and your test showed 93 Mbps, this is fairly normal and the small drop could be due to the time you’re connecting, your hardware or software, or some other minor issue.

However, if your speeds are much lower, say 75 Mbps on a 100 Mbps plan, this is a problem – and it’s time to start troubleshooting.

First, try resetting your router and computer and reconnecting. You should also try the speed test at a few different times, since sometimes your speed loss is simply caused by connecting at peak hours.

However, if you’re still getting speeds that are less than what you pay for, it’s time to contact your provider and see what’s up.


Wrap-Up

So, we’ve covered the basics of Internet speed and latency, and looked at the ideal bandwidth for everything from streaming through Netflix to downloading from Usenet. 

In general, you don’t need extreme speeds to stream lower quality video, play online games, or even to download from torrents or Usenet. But if you want to watch movies ultra HD quality, download large files quickly, or have a lot of people in your household, you’ll need to upgrade.

Just make sure your ISP is actually providing the speeds that you’re paying for!

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