What broadband speed do I REALLY need?

We are constantly hearing about some inner city areas getting internet speeds of  “100Meg” or (100MBps) to give it its correct term.

So why is it that we can still use the internet with a piffling 1Meg and what speed do you REALLY need?

Ok, so here’s a very quick guide that will answer many queries in one go…

Basic internet surfing and emails can work fine with speeds between 1/2Meg and 1Meg. If there are photos on these emails, they’ll take a few minutes but you’ll be fine.

As soon as you need to start using online video or audio, you need a bit more speed:

  • Radio (less than 1/2meg)
  • Basic video such as low resolution YouTube (around 1/2meg – 1meg)
  • BBC iPlayer and other online TV channels (1meg – 1.5meg)
  • BBC iPlayer and other online TV channels in High Definition (HD) (3.5meg – 5meg)

So why do we need 100meg?! Honestly, for general home use, we really don’t need any more than 6meg. Even if you’re an avid online movie and tv user, most of your use will not exceed 6meg until there are several users on the same account all trying to access the net at once, then up to 10meg is plenty for most homes.

Two constantly overlooked aspects are monthly data allowance and ‘contention ratio‘ (we’ll come back to that one in a minute!)

Data Allowance: Most home users will not exceed 5Gig (Gigabytes) of data in a month for general surfing, emails and a few YouTube clips, but if you are starting to watch more and more TV or constantly have the radio on via the web, then check your monthly data allowance to make sure you won’t be over your limit and pay more (it will be quoted in GigaBytes (GB)).

Contention Ratios will also have an effect on your web TV use. Lets say for ease of use, you have 10meg…typically, most telephone internet providers will share your connection with 25 other customers. Now this won’t affect normal surfing as the data is shared out very cleverly but if 25 of you are all trying to watch web TV at the same time, someone’s going to lose out. But as this is still very rare, this is not a cause for concern.

Now 3G & 4G can be shared with many many more users, sometimes as many as 300 at any one time so these are more prone to ‘buffering’ where there are fewer mobile masts.
The better satellite providers have a contention ratio of 50:1 and some still have ‘up to’ 300:1
The wireless broadband provider in Pembrokeshire TFL-Group have a contention ratio of only 5:1 on their domestic packages.

So when you are feeling ‘hard done by’ that you are only getting 5meg… DON’T, sit back and enjoy iPlayer :o)

You may also find the Broadband Usage Calculator handy provided by Which?