Internet Speed Explained: How Fast Is Fast?

In this age of digital media downloads comprising the latest apps, multi-gigabit games and Blu-Ray movies, internet connection and download speed makes all the difference in what service plan you choose. Opt for an insufficient plan, and you may find yourself downloading email at an infuriatingly moderate pace, or trying to download the latest episode of your favorite A&E show unsuccessfully between dropped Internet connections.

In the arena of computing, the way that internet speeds is defined is with the use of the term bandwidth. It refers to the data transfer rate; or, how much information per second your computing device can extract from the data transfer lines that connect you to cyberspace. The standard unit of measurement for internet speeds (bandwidth) is bps – bits per second. In the early days of the web, this went through the phone lines for many residences, at a painfully slow (by today’s standards) 56 kbps.

The New Age of Bandwidth

Current internet speeds are at least a thousand times better than what the phone line modems offered in the past, and are measured usually in Mbps. While Kbps is good for fast email and non-intensive web-browsing, you would need to get into the Mbps bandwidth range to start really experiencing all that the web has to offer.

internet-speed-bandwidthAs you might have guessed, the more bandwidth you use, then the more you pay an Internet Service Provider for the package containing it. As such, it is important to structure your plan around your web-browsing needs, as well as taking into consideration how many mobile devices you plan on having connected via router to the same data stream. Companies usually tailor their offerings to the needs of the average present day family and individuals; keeping economy and performance in mind with several different packages.

Here’s a short run-down of bandwidth speeds and how they’re delivered:

  • T1 connection affords you very good bandwidth up to about 1.5 Mbps
  • the popular Ethernet cable connection can deliver a bandwidth of 10 Mbps
  • there are several types of wireless; the 802.11b is good for internet speeds of 11 Mbps
  • wireless 802.11g is much more capable, delivering a whopping 54 Mbps – more than adequate for any web-based application; in fact, you’re probably paying too much for this unless you have specialized needs
  • fast Ethernet has a max bandwidth of 100 Mbps
  • the last wireless – currently – is 802.11n, which can attain internet speeds of 600 Mbps
  • Gigabit Ethernet is exactly what it says – a thousand Mbps of data transfer speeds
  • there’s also 10 Gbps Ethernet and the recent 100 Gbps Ethernet

Most of these bandwidths have no business in residential properties, being much too fast to have any practical use – streaming movies and high-intensity games becomes feasible once you get close to the single digit Mbps range.

Comcast Digital as an Example

Depending on your needs, you can opt for the very capable 3 Mbps economical package, which has base offerings of voice, email, web protection and much more. If you require more bandwidth, there’s the 6 Mbps Performance Starter option; lastly, there’s the so-called Blast! Package that provides you with a whopping 30 Mbps to take full advantage of blazingly-fast movie downloads, HD streaming and video games. All packages come with Comcast’s XFinity Internet and television, meaning you never have to miss an episode of award-winning TV shows like Dexter, Homeland and The Walking Dead.

Additionally, the unique XFinity platform allows multitasking for the tech-savvy and connected family; it enables everyone in the house to enjoy their private devices – whether they are laptops, tablet pc’s or smartphones – all at once without the annoying slowdown you would get with less capable services. The speeds remain the same in every room in your home, no matter how many connections are being made simultaneously.

All of these connections would be worrisome without the patented Identity Guard software that serves as a proven buffer against outside threats to your family’s information and network. This full suite of protection against all manner of cyber threats; from the most largely innocuous free-loaders trying to use some of your bandwidth for free, to the more serious problems with malware, viruses and spam. The best part is that it all comes with XFinity at no extra charge.

Lastly, you receive a personalized dashboard on a central control device with XFinity Connect, which a single point of contact from which to access all your digital devices and social networks. It’s a full-service hub that keeps you safely connected and in tune with your digital world.