You’ve probably seen ads for gigabit internet services promising blazing-fast speeds that will eliminate lag when gaming online and allow you to upload files in seconds. Upgrading to gigabit sounds tempting – after all, faster speeds are always better, right?
Not necessarily. In fact, some entry-level and most mid-tier internet plans are fine for most people, even if you work from home and collaborate on Zoom all day, or kick back at night watching movies. 4K while your kids stream music and videos. Every Internet Service Provider wants you to sign up for their fastest gigabit service, but upgrading to that tier can cost 78-80% over the lowest (or “slowest”) tier.
According to Ookla’s Speedtest, 195 megabits per second is the average fixed broadband speed in the US as of January 2023, which means that many homes enjoy higher speeds and many have lower speeds. Services like Disney+, Netflix, Sony PlayStation Plus, and Zoom are aware of internet speed limitations and have designed their offerings to work at much slower speeds, though you may still want a plan with speeds of 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps. If you wish. support streaming from multiple devices throughout the day.
But first we’ll dive into what gigabit internet entails, why you might be tempted to sign up for a high-speed plan, and why you don’t really need one.
What is gigabit internet? Concert+? Multispin?
Internet “Gigabit” is a misnomer. As with most advertised Internet speeds, gigabit Internet services advertise and provide until 1 gigabit per second, or 1,000 megabits per second. That means you don’t always see the blazing-fast speeds you might expect.
Here’s how Internet speed tiers typically break down:
High Speed Internet Service: This term technically refers to anything at 25 Mbps or higher, according to the FCC’s increasingly outdated definition. This is the low end for any broadband internet service, be it fiber, cable, DSL, or 5G wireless home service. Plans with slower speeds were common a few years ago, and while you can find some affordable connectivity plans that offer speeds as low as 50 Mbps right now, as of early 2023, most entry-level plans today offer speeds as low as 50 Mbps. from 75 Mbps to 300 Mbps. Areas limited to DSL service see download speeds of 100 Mbps or less.
Gigabit Internet Plans: These promise download speeds of around 800 Mbps to 940 Mbps and upload speeds of 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps (cable) or 880 Mbps to 940 Mbps (fiber). Until this year, ISPs focused on selling gigabit plans, but now they are heavily promoting gig+ and multi-gigabit plans.
Gig+ Plans: Such plans offer download speeds between 1200 Mbps and 2000 Mbps. They aren’t available everywhere, but Internet service providers are starting to push them harder.
Multi-Gig Plans: Expensive and rare, these plans allow you to download anything at speeds over 2000 Mbps (2 Gbps) and theoretically up to 10 Gbps.
(Note that the gigabytes we’re talking about here are gigabits per second, or Gbps, not to be confused with gigabytes or GB, which are commonly used to measure memory and storage capacity on PCs and SSDs.)
Is gigabit internet service really necessary in 2023?
Although faster sounds better, you shouldn’t sign up for a gigabit Internet tier before you figure out how you use the Internet and whether faster speeds would really help you with work or play.
Streaming 4K video requires only about 25 Mbps per stream, according to Disney+. The gigabit-level service provides speeds of around 900 megabits per second, so an extended family (up to 12 people) could stream 4K content to each of their devices at the same time and stay under that limit. Streaming 1080p HD videos like those on Sling TV or YouTube TV and most streaming services requires around 3 Mbps to 5 Mbps each. Even if you have multiple members in the household, you’re probably fine with a plan that offers 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps for Internet TV or movie watching.
Online multiplayer games like call of duty fortnite and League of Legends You need 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps throughput, but online games rarely send large data packets; instead, they send smaller data packets very quickly. So statistics like latency, packet loss, and jitter are more important in this context, but these factors vary from day to day, if not minute to minute. If you’re an online gamer, checking sites like Lag Report can give you a better idea of whether your internet connection is good enough to play. If you have strong Wi-Fi and a good router, your speeds are probably fast enough, even if your family members are streaming to their phones or tablets at the same time. However, for the best performance, you should connect your game console or PC to the router with an Ethernet cable.
What about working remotely or learning from home?
If you work from home, Zoom meetings are perfectly functional at speeds of 3.8 Mbps/3.0 Mbps (up/down) for group or one-on-one meetings, and the requirements are similar or less for services like Verizon BlueJeans, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Webex. Security cameras from companies like Eufy and Wyze need upload speeds of 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps if you’re monitoring your video streams in real time. As with Zoom calls, the upload speed of a camera system is often more important than its download speed. On cable Internet connections, upload speeds are often slower than download speeds, and overloading that stream can lead to dropouts and broken connections. Unless you’re uploading or downloading huge video files all day, one of the moderate plans, which offer 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps, should be fast enough.
How much does gigabit internet cost?
Considering that most online services don’t require faster speeds to work, we think plans that provide 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps are good enough for a household of three to eight people; Compared to gigabit internet, they cost significantly less per month. If you’re paying for gigabit internet but only using 300 Mbps at any given time, you’re wasting money by paying a lot for extra overhead you don’t need.
Using Xfinity, the largest cable ISP in the US, as an example, we determined that a current no-contract customer would pay $60 per month for the lowest tier, which offers 75 Mbps download speed and 75 Mbps upload speed. of approximately 10 Mbps. At the higher end, a plan that provides a download speed of 1.2 Gbps (1200 Mbps) and an upload speed of 35 Mbps costs $107 before taxes and fees. That’s an extra $564 per year, until rates go up (as they inevitably do). Xfinity offers a 200 Mbps plan for $77 a month and a 400 Mbps plan for $92 a month, both of which are much more acceptable than the $107 plan. Of course, you can find discounted gigabit internet plans either when you sign up as a new customer or threaten to switch providers, but we decided to leave that out of the equation because customer retention offers are variable and switching between ISP is a hassle and sometimes not possible unless you move.
Who really needs gigabit internet?
People who run video editing businesses would actually benefit from gigabit speeds, because they are downloading and uploading large multi-gigabyte work files all day. Companies dealing with large data sets would also benefit: think engineering plans and drawings for a car manufacturer, rather than, say, a text-based inventory system for a comic book store.
Gigabit internet may make sense for you in some cases: If you run a data-heavy business at home, work in video content creation, or are a database developer, you could probably use gigabit or faster speeds. In that case, look for gigabit on both the upload and download sides (symmetrical speeds, usually found in fiber networks).
People who regularly play new and trendy video games can also benefit from faster download speeds. For example, god of war ragnarok it’s an 80GB download on PlayStation 5 and 100GB on PlayStation 4, and with a 55Mbps internet connection, the best-case scenario for an 80GB download is over three hours. On a 940 Mbps connection, on the other hand, that download time would be just over 11 minutes. And even after the initial download of the game, many games have massive multi-gigabyte patches required to continue playing online or to fix bugs or other issues.
What is the difference between cable and fiber gigabit internet?
We recommend choosing fiber if it is available in your area. Fiber upload speeds dramatically exceed that of a gigabit cable Internet plan, offering 940 Mbps as opposed to 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps. However, your area may have only one high-speed Internet option, so your mileage may vary. Check the FCC’s broadband search site to see if additional Internet providers are available at your address.
What devices do you need to take advantage of gigabit internet or faster broadband?
We generally recommend having your own equipment, but if your ISP includes a router and cable modem, or combined gateway, as part of their gigabit service for free, give it a try; can solve your internet problems.
You may want a standalone Wi-Fi 6 router or mesh router system to take full advantage of gigabit service, or a Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 router for gig+ or multi-gigabit service. For more details, read our guide to the best routers.
Sometimes people think they need to upgrade their internet tier to gigabit service when in reality they need to upgrade the router and nothing else. Here’s one way to check: Is the Internet speed good in the room the router is in, but slow in a room where Wi-Fi signals need to go through more than three or four walls? Before upgrading your Internet service, take a look at a Wi-Fi 6 or faster mesh network system. Slow Wi-Fi can make you think your Internet service is slow, and a mesh system can often help solve the problem by spreading signals throughout your home.
If you decide to upgrade to gigabit internet, make sure your devices can really take advantage of those blazing-fast speeds. If you connect your streaming boxes or smart TV via Ethernet cables, you’re all set. For laptops and tablets, look for Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 6E, or Wi-Fi 6 connectivity at a minimum. On a professional desktop PC or laptop, look for a 2.5 GbE wired Ethernet port, or add one with an adapter, to take full advantage of multi-gigabit service; a PC or Mac with a Gigabit Ethernet port is sufficient for gigabit Internet. Check your device’s technical specifications on the manufacturer’s website to confirm that it will support gigabit speeds.
This article was edited by Caitlin McGarry and Arthur Gies.