Everybody asks this question. How much speed do I really need? And it really does come down to doing the math. We have some formulas to help figure out if 1G is the speed your family needs to survive and thrive online.

First of all, who needs Gigabit service?

Gigabit service is really made for households that have several people with many devices all in use at the same time, and mostly if they’re all streaming content. Internet streaming speed especially comes into play when everyone wants to watch a different high-definition video on his or her own laptop at the same time. Endless buffering is a sure path to frayed tempers and testy nerves.

Internet service providers dangle the promise of lightning-fast access but what do all those numbers (Mbps, 1G) really mean? How many devices will your internet be able to handle before it hangs up in pinwheel purgatory? Here’s a look at the speeds you need for everyday activity and what that translates to.

Like we said, let’s do the math.

Pick an internet task

The Federal Communications Commission sets out a few handy rules for how much internet speed (megabits per second, also known as Mbps) you’ll need for various tasks:

  • Streaming online radio takes less than 0.5 Mbps
  • Streaming high-definition (HD) video takes around 5-8 Mbps
  • Streaming ultra high-definition takes 25 Mbps
  • Downloading a file takes 10 Mbps
  • Group video calls through Skype or Zoom requires at least 10+ Mbps
  • Transfer of large files demands 40+ Mbps
  • Online multiplayer gaming runs best with at least 4Mbps
  • Routine emails and social media use is very low demand and needs 1 Mbps

Uploading counts, too. Note that tasks such as videoconferencing where you’re an active participant uploading data, in this case your voice, or backing up your data to the cloud or web hosting require good upload speeds. Check on your situation as providers typically vary upload and download speeds. To get matching upload and download speeds, you’ll need fiber service into your home.

Add up your needs

The best way to determine your family’s internet usage would be to take an extreme use case and multiply it by the number of family members. For example, consider how many Mbps would be used if multiple family members are streaming content from separate devices, one person is gaming, and another is downloading and uploading files for work.

Consider this: You host twenty family members over Thanksgiving, and everybody wants to wind down after that turkey dinner by watching his or her favorite movie via HD streaming. In such an extreme case, you’re on your own — but how likely is that scenario, really? Speeds between 200 Mbps-1G should be more than enough to satisfy everyone’s appetite on Thanksgiving and through the rest of the year.

if you like the assurance of having that extra capacity if needed, you should definitely go in for 1G as you don’t have to double-guess the load.

Think about the future

Let’s be practical. Are you going to be working from home? Are you starting a business that you’ll run from home? Will you be doing web hosting? Are you taking classes online? Are your kids growing up and getting their own devices and having their friends over to watch movies? Does anybody in your family aspire to be a multi-player video games champion? These factors are game changers, requiring high speeds to give you smooth reception and greater bandwidth. And they signal it’s time to think about making the upgrade.