The internet has become a crucial aspect of our daily lives, from work to entertainment. With so many options available for internet service providers (ISPs), it can be challenging to decide which plan is right for you. It’s tempting to upgrade to the fastest gigabit internet service, promising lightning-fast speeds and eliminating lag when playing online games or uploading files. However, it may not be necessary for everyone. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what gigabit internet entails, why you may be tempted to sign up for it, and whether you really need it.
What is gigabit internet?
“Gigabit” internet is a term used to describe internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second or 1,000 megabits per second. However, this term can be misleading as the actual speed you receive may not always be that fast. Internet speeds are typically divided into high-speed internet service and gigabit internet plans.
High-speed internet service refers to anything at or above 25 Mbps, according to the FCC’s definition. This is the minimum requirement for any broadband internet service, whether it’s fiber, cable, DSL, or wireless 5G home service. Plans with slower speeds were common a few years back, but most entry-level plans today offer speeds of 75 Mbps to 300 Mbps. In areas limited to DSL service, download speeds can be at or under 100 Mbps.
On the other hand, gigabit internet plans offer download speeds of around 800 Mbps to 940 Mbps and upload speeds of either 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps (cable) or 880 Mbps to 940 Mbps (fiber). ISPs are now heavily promoting gig+ and multi-gig plans, with gig+ plans delivering download speeds between 1,200 Mbps and 2,000 Mbps, and multi-gig plans allowing you to download anything at speeds above 2,000 Mbps (2 Gbps) and theoretically up to 10 Gbps.
Is gigabit internet necessary in 2023?
Although faster speeds may sound better, it’s essential to understand how you use the internet before signing up for a gigabit internet tier. Streaming video in 4K requires only about 25 Mbps per stream, and most online services like Disney+, Netflix, and Zoom are designed to work with much slower speeds. If you have several household members streaming TV or movies, a plan offering 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps should be plenty fast enough.
Online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, and League of Legends require throughput of 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps, but it’s more important to consider factors like latency, packet loss, and jitter. Checking sites like Lag Report can give you a better idea of whether your internet connection is sufficient for gaming. For the best performance, connect your gaming console or PC to the router with an Ethernet cable.
If you work from home, Zoom meetings are functional at speeds of 3.8 Mbps/3.0 Mbps (up/down) for group or individual meetings, and similar requirements are needed for services such as BlueJeans by Verizon, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Webex. Security cameras need upload speeds of 2 Mbps to 5 Mbps if you’re monitoring their video feeds in real-time. One of the moderate plans, offering 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps, should be plenty fast enough, unless you’re uploading or downloading huge video files all day.
How much does gigabit internet cost?
Most online services don’t require faster speeds to function, and plans providing 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps are good enough for a three- to eight-person household. They cost significantly less per month compared to gigabit internet plans, which can be up to 78% to 80% over the lowest (or “slowest”) tier. For example, Xfinity, the largest cable ISP in the US, offers a 75 Mbps plan for $60 a month and a 1.2 Gbps (1,200 Mbps) plan for $107 before taxes and fees. That’s a difference of $564 extra per year, and you may not even use the extra overhead you’re paying for.
Who actually needs gigabit internet?
People who run video-editing businesses or deal with large data sets would benefit from gigabit speeds as they’re downloading and uploading large, multi-gigabyte work files all day. Similarly, those working in video-content creation or database development could use gigabit or faster speeds, looking for symmetrical speeds on both the upload and download side (usually found on fiber networks).
People who regularly play new, modern video games might also benefit from faster download speeds. For example, God of War Ragnarök is an 80 GB download on the PlayStation 5, and on a 55 Mbps internet connection, the best-case scenario for an 80 GB download is more than three hours. On a 940 Mbps connection, that download time would be just over 11 minutes. Even after the initial game download, many games have massive, multi-gigabyte patches required to continue playing them online or to fix bugs or other problems.
What’s the difference between fiber and cable gigabit internet?
Fiber internet is the better option if it’s available in your area as the upload speeds dramatically outclass those of a cable-internet gigabit plan, offering 940 Mbps in contrast to 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps. However, your area may have only one high-speed internet choice, so it’s best to check the FCC’s broadband-lookup 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?
To get the most out of gigabit service, you’ll likely need a Wi-Fi 6 standalone router or mesh-router system, or a Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 router for gig+ or multi-gig service. If your ISP includes a router and a cable modem, or a combined gateway, as part of your gigabit service for free, try it out; it may solve your internet problems.
It’s essential to ensure your devices can take advantage of those ultra-fast speeds if you decide to upgrade to gigabit internet. If you wire your streaming boxes or smart TV through 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 desktop PC or a professional laptop, look for a 2.5 GbE wired Ethernet port, or add one with an adapter, to get the most from multi-gig service.
In conclusion, upgrading to gigabit internet service may not be necessary for everyone. The internet speed you require depends on how you use the internet, and most online services don’t require faster speeds to function. Plans offering 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps are good enough for a three- to eight-person household, and they cost significantly less per month compared to gigabit internet plans. However, people who run video-editing businesses, work in video-content creation, or deal with large data sets could benefit from gigabit or faster speeds, looking for symmetrical speeds on both the upload and download side. It’s essential to ensure your devices can take advantage of those ultra-fast speeds if you decide to upgrade to gigabit internet.