Upgrading to the fastest fibre connection available from your service provider is tempting, but you could be spending money on bandwidth you don’t need.
Fibre can offer a massive increase in download and upload speeds over DSL and LTE connections, and users may opt for the fastest line – normally 1Gbps – to ensure they take full advantage of their access.
While the adage “faster is better” is normally a great fit when it comes to Internet connectivity, getting a fibre line over 100Mbps is overkill for many users.
Before ordering the maximum speed connection, there are a number of factors you must consider – as detailed below.
The more connected devices in your home, the heavier your household’s bandwidth requirements.
A fibre line over 100Mbps can provide enough bandwidth to multiple heavy Internet users, reducing latency and congestion, but this only applies to a household of heavy downloaders or media streamers.
Another issue with this level of Internet usage is the data cost, and the fibre package would either need to have a high data cap or an uncapped account – with limited shaping or throttling.
Most households would not use enough data to warrant 1Gbps of bandwidth, and multiple standard Internet users can comfortably share a single 100Mbps fibre line.
A 100Mbps line is also sufficient for gamers, as they can play online with a stable connection while other users stream videos or download files on the same connection.
Playing online games requires a minimal amount of bandwidth, and the only advantage gained by playing on fibre is a lower latency than DSL.
Streaming and Downloads
Top-speed connections really shine when it comes to file downloads, but a 1Gbps line provides diminishing returns for small file sizes.
For example: a 2GB file will take about 20 seconds to download on a 1Gbps connection. On a 100Mbps line, it will take about 3 minutes.
As a percentage difference, the discrepancy is enormous. In a real-world setting, though, a 2-minute wait will often have no consequences.
Unless high-speed bulk downloads or uploads are a priority, a 100Mbps line will be suitable for most files – including game updates, cloud synchronisation, and media downloads.
Live streamers also don’t need to break the bank for a fibre line, as most fibre connections should deliver enough upload speed to comfortably stream live video and audio – due to their symmetrical speeds.
With equal upload and download speeds available, users on a 10Mbps fibre line will not have the same experience as they did on a 10Mbps ADSL line – which is asymmetric and offers very slow upload speeds.
How much speed you need
While file downloads and uploads will continue to improve as your fibre line speed increases – until your hardware or accessed server causes a bottleneck – almost all other tasks will reach a point at which speed improvements are not discernable.
This includes web browsing, which will not see much improvement from 100Mbps to 1Gbps.
According to a report published by Engadget in 2016, a line speed of 5-10Mbps is sufficient for web browsing. This is due to the fact that most websites do not load a lot of large assets, and their load times are limited by server speed and geographic location.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a fibre connection faster than 100Mbps is how much bandwidth do your online tasks require. The list below details the bandwidth requirements of common online activities.
- Gaming (Battlefield 1) – 222Kbps
- Web browsing – 5-10Mbps
- Music streaming in high quality – Up to 320Kbps
- Netflix streaming at 4K UHD – 25Mbps
- Skype video call HD – Up to 1.5Mbps
- Downloads – Limited by server capacity and hardware speeds at 1Gbps.
So, before you buy that top-end line, find out what speeds you really need.