What is Gigabit Internet and does anyone really need it?

You’ve probably seen ads for gigabit internet service that promise blazing speeds that will eliminate lag while playing online games and allow you to upload files in seconds. Upgrading to gigabit seems tempting. After all, faster speeds are always better, right?

It is not necessary that. In fact, some entry-level and mid-range Internet plans are fine for most people, even if you work from home and collaborate all day on Zoom, or if you wind down at night streaming 4K movies while your kids stream music and videos. Every ISP wants you to sign up for their faster gigabit service, but upgrading to that tier can cost anywhere from 78% to 80% over the lowest (or “slowest”) tier.

195 Mbps according to Ookla’s Speedtest Average fixed broadband speed in the US As of January 2023, that means many households are using speeds higher than that, and many are using speeds lower than that. 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, although you may still want between 100Mbps and 500Mbps. A Mbps plan if you want. supports 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 really don’t need one.

What is gigabit internet? Gig+? Multilingual?

“Gigabit” Internet is a misnomer. As with most advertised internet speeds, gigabit internet services advertise and deliver until 1 gigabit/s, or 1000 megabits/s. That means you won’t always see the super-fast speeds you might expect.

Here’s how internet speed tiers are typically divided:

High speed internet service. According to the FCC, this term technically refers to anything with a speed of 25 Mbps an increasingly outdated definition. That’s the low end of any broadband Internet service, whether it’s fiber, cable, DSL, or wireless 5G home service. Slower speed plans were common a few years ago, and although you can find some of them affordable communication programs Currently offering speeds of 50 Mbps in early 2023, most current entry-level plans offer speeds between 75 Mbps and 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 either 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps (cable) or 880 Mbps to 940 Mbps (fibre). : Until this year, ISPs focused on selling gigabit plans, but now they’re heavily promoting gig+ and multi-gig plans.

Gig+ plans. Such plans provide download speeds between 1200 Mbps and 2000 Mbps. They are not available everywhere, but ISPs are starting to push them more.

Multiple game plans. Expensive and rare, these plans allow you to download anything at speeds up to 2,000 Mbps (2 Gb/s) and theoretically up to 10 Gb/s.

(Note that the gigs we’re talking about here are gigabit/s or Gbit/s, not to be confused with gigabytes or GB, which are commonly used to measure memory and storage capacity in PCs and SSDs) :

Is gigabit internet service really necessary in 2023?

While 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 will actually help you work or play.

Streaming video in 4K only requires about 25 Mbps per stream, according to Disney+. The gigabit-level service provides speeds of around 900 Mbps, so an extended family (up to 12 people) can stream 4K content to each of their devices at the same time and still stay under that limit. Streaming 1080p HD video, like on Sling TV or YouTube TV, as well as from most streaming services, requires about 3 Mbps each. Even if you have several family members, you’re probably fine with a plan that offers 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps for watching TV or movies on the Internet.

Online multiplayer games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, and: League of Legends 5 Mbps to 50 Mbps bandwidth is required, but online games rarely send large data packets; instead, they send small packets of data very quickly. Therefore, statistics such as 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, check out sites like: Lag report can give you a better idea if your internet connection is good enough for gaming. 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. For best performance, however, you should connect your game console or PC to the router via an Ethernet cable.

How about working remotely or studying from home?

If you work from home, Increase meetings 3.8 Mbps/3.0 Mbps (up/down) are perfectly functional for group or one-on-one meetings, and the requirements are similar or lower to services like Verizon’s BlueJeans, Google Meet , Microsoft Teams, and Webex. Security cameras from companies like Eufy and Wyze need 2Mbps to 5Mbps upload speeds if you’re monitoring their video streams in real time. As with Zoom calls, the upload speed of the camera system is often more important than the download speed. With cable-Internet connections, upload speeds are often slower than download speeds, and overloading that stream can lead to stuttering and dropped connections. Unless you’re uploading or downloading huge video files all day, one of the moderate plans that offer 100 Mbps to 500 Mbps should be fast enough.

How much does gigabit internet cost?

Given that most online services don’t require faster speeds to run, we think plans with speeds between 100 Mbps and 500 Mbps are good enough for a household of three to eight people; they cost significantly less per month compared to gigabit internet. If you’re paying for gigabit internet, but you’re only using 300Mbps at any given time, you’re wasting money by paying too much for extras you don’t need.

Using Xfinity, the largest cable ISP in the US, as an example, we determined that a current out-of-contract customer would pay $60 per month for the lowest tier, which provides download speeds of 75 Mbps and upload speeds of: about 10 Mbps. . At the top, the plan, which provides download speeds of 1.2 Gbps (1200 Mbps) and upload speeds of 35 Mbps, costs $107, excluding taxes and fees. That’s an extra $564 a year until prices 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 nicer than the $107 plan. Of course, you can find gigabit internet plans at a discount 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 ISPs is a hassle and sometimes not possible unless you move.

Who really needs gigabit internet?

People running video editing businesses will really benefit from gigabit speeds as they download and upload large, multi-gigabyte work files all day long. Businesses that deal with large data sets will also benefit. think blueprints and engineering blueprints 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 several cases. If you run a data-intensive home business, work in video content creation, or are a database developer, you can probably use gigabit or faster speeds. In that case, look for gigabit on both the upload and download sides (symmetrical speeds typically found on fiber networks).

People who regularly play new, modern video games can also benefit from faster download speeds. For example, God of War Ragnarok 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. Compared to a 940 Mbps connection, that download time will be just over 11 minutes. And even after that game’s initial download, many games have massive, multi-gigabyte patches needed to play them online or fix bugs or other issues.

Photo: Arthur Gies

What is the difference between fiber optic and cable gigabit internet?

We recommend opting for fiber if available in your area. Fiber download speeds dramatically exceed those of a cable-Internet gigabit plan, offering 940 Mbps as opposed to 30 Mbps to 50 Mbps. However, your area may only have one high-speed Internet choice, so your mileage may vary. Check it out FCC broadband search site to see if additional ISPs are available at your address.

What devices do I need to use gigabit internet or faster broadband?

We usually recommend having your own hardware, but if your ISP includes a router and cable modem or combo gateway as part of your free gigabit service, give it a try; it can solve your internet problems.

You’ll likely want a Wi-Fi 6 standalone router or mesh router system to get the most out of gigabit service, or a Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7 router for gig+ or multi-gig service. Read our guide to the best routers for more details.

Sometimes people think they need to upgrade their internet to gigabit service, when in fact they need to upgrade the router itself and nothing more. Here’s a way to check. Your internet speed is good in the room where your router lives, but slow in the room where Wi-Fi signals have to travel through more than three or four walls. Before you upgrade your Internet service, consider a Wi-Fi 6 or faster network. 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 around your home.

If you decide to upgrade to gigabit internet, make sure your devices can actually take advantage of those super-fast speeds. If you connect your streaming boxes or smart TV via Ethernet cables, you’re all set. For laptops and tablets, look for at least a Wi-Fi 7, Wi-Fi 6E, or Wi-Fi 6 connection. Look for a 2.5GbE wired Ethernet port on a desktop or professional laptop or add an adapter to get the most out of your multicast service. A PC or Mac with a Gigabit Ethernet port is sufficient for gigabit Internet. Check your device’s specifications on the manufacturer’s website to confirm that it will support gigabit speeds.

This article was edited by Caitlin McGarry and Arthur Gies.

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