a blog from CenturyLink

A guide to comparing internet speeds

by | Apr 14, 2021


Whether you’re looking to upgrade your internet speed, starting service at a new home, or are reconsidering your bandwidth needs for remote work, there’s a good chance you’ve found yourself a bit confused while comparing internet speeds. We’ve got you covered with an internet speed guide that will help you sort out your Mbps from your Ethernet cable.

What exactly is internet speed?

Defining internet speed can be a little tricky, but it’s not impossible. Think of internet speed as similar to water pressure. Your shower may be operating at a trickle or at a full-on gush, depending on how much water pressure you have. Similar to increased water pressure helping you get the shampoo out of your hair faster, higher speed internet will allow you to do things online faster.

When it comes to watching videos on your smartphone, your internet speed matters.

Your computer, and other connected devices, transfer information in packets of data. Think of packets as similar to drops of water from the shower. The number of data packets exchanged over the internet over a period of time is your internet speed. The higher your internet speed, the higher the number of packets that can be exchanged at the same time.

How is internet speed measured?

No guide to comparing internet speeds would be complete without an explanation of how exactly internet speeds are measured. Internet speed is measured in units called megabits per seconds, abbreviated as Mbps. A megabit is a standard measurement of data. Mbps measures how many megabits can be transferred over an internet connection over the course of a single second.

Additionally, you will see internet speeds written as two separate Mbps measurements, typically expressed as something like 100/10 Mbps. This is because they are measuring two different speeds: the download speed typically appears first and the upload speed second. This means, in this example, that your internet speed when you are downloading data form the internet to your device will top off at 100 Mbps. Conversely, your ability to upload data would occur at a rate of up to 10 Mbps. Download speed is important for online activities like streaming movies or music, or downloading an app. Upload speed is important for activities such as posting video to social media, videoconferencing, gaming, or sending large files. Generally, people do a lot more downloading than uploading, which is why the download speed is typically much higher. But it depends on the type of internet user you are.

Using our 100/10 Mbps example again, how do we compare that to other internet speeds? It’s surprisingly easy. At this point, now that you know the basics, it’s a matter of simple arithmetic. An internet speed of 50/5 Mbps would be roughly half the speed of our 100/10 Mbps internet connection.

If your family loves to stream movies, you might love fiber internet.

One of the more recent technological developments in internet speed is the arrival of Fiber Internet, often called “Gigabit” service. A gigabit is ten times as large as a megabit. That means that gigabit internet operates at speeds approaching 1,000 Mbps at the network level. Once inside the home and divided up among devices and users, it tops out at slightly slower speeds, but with internet that fast, most users can’t feel the difference between, say, 750 Mbps and 900 Mbps. So if you’re really looking to super charge the internet speed in your home or business, CenturyLink Fiber may be the way to go.

How to choose the right internet speed

If you’re actively comparing internet speeds, you may have asked yourself how much internet speed you really need to accomplish your usual online activities. Thankfully, this isn’t too difficult to calculate. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has put together guidelines on the internet speed you need to accomplish a number of different online activities. The FCC’s Broadband Speed Guide makes it easy to get a rough idea of how much internet speed you need.

With fiber internet, you can to super charge the internet speed in your home.

However, it’s important to note that multiple online activities going on at the same time can eat up your available internet speed, or bandwidth. If you’re streaming an ultra HD 4K movie in one room while your daughter is simultaneously on a video call to her discuss her upcoming history assignment, you may run into trouble, depending on your speed of service. One common solution to this problem is to add an additional internet line to your home. That way you can have one internet line dedicated to, say, remote working. The other internet line will then be free for all the other online activity going on. Your 10 AM regular one-on-one with Cheryl will no longer interrupt your child’s distance learning happening in the other room!

After you’ve determined how much internet speed you need, the next step is to determine how much internet speed you currently have. The CenturyLink internet speed test can help you understand how much internet speed you’re getting with your current plan. This will provide you with a measurement of both your current upload and download speeds. If you think you may need more internet speed for your household or business, use our service availability tool to see what CenturyLink services are available at your location. You’ll easily be able to compare internet speed options and find the package that’s right for you. CenturyLink will have your household happily humming along at great internet speeds in next to no time!

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