Buying an internet connection used to be easier, back in the days of one-size-fits-all internet technology. But, as many will remember, dial-up internet was very slow. Nowadays, your connection will be faster, but you are faced with a number of decisions before connecting. The speed of your connection plays an important role in what you choose, and how much it costs.
In this guide, we’ll consider the different speed options available, and more importantly, which speeds are better for the different types of homes we live in.
The essential info
Before diving into the specifics of each technology, it is important to understand Megabits Per Second (Mbps). The speeds of all internet plans are measured in Mbps, and it relates to the speed that you can both upload and download data from the internet.
This is referred to as bandwidth, and while we think about this in terms of how fast a connection is, it is also the way we describe the capacity of a connection. Multiple users on the same network share the bandwidth. So, for example, if you have a 100Mbps connection then several people can all be using it at the same time up to a the maximum capacity. You can have multiple Netflix movies streaming at the same time and not notice the difference.
It’s also important to note that while we’ll be referring to the advertised maximum speeds of the different connection, real-world obstacles will often mean that the actual speed in the home may be slower.
When signing up for an internet plan you may have a choice of speeds between basic 3Mbps plans up to super-fast 1Gbps download speeds.
1Gbps: the fastest speed available in most areas and the surest way to future proof your connection. Large families and share houses will make use of the capacity of this connection speed to get lots of people online at the same time.
It’s also a good option for businesses, as these connections may offer matching 1Gbps upload speeds, which is great for backing up business systems and sharing large files with colleagues and clients.
Up to 300Mbps: one of the more uncommon connections available. 300Mbps speeds are similar to the faster speeds and are suitable for large families.
Cable Internet connections can offer speeds up to 1Gbps but only in a small number of locations.
Up to 100Mbps: while much slower than a full-speed Fibre connection, 100Mbps is still a good option for smaller households with standard internet usage. Fast enough for watching a movie or streaming music, and more than enough for everyday web browsing.
With upload speeds of about 30Mbps, a solid VDSL connection could be a cost effective option for a small to medium sized business.
Up to 24Mbps: Though much slower, ADSL plans tend to be far cheaper than plans using faster technologies. But be aware, limitations of the technology do mean that real-world speeds in your home are likely to be about half of the advertised 24Mbps.
A good idea for single occupant homes, or for a couple who snuggle up to watch streaming video on the couch.
Wireless Internet speeds
Seen by many as an alternative to the fixed-line connections, wireless internet uses the same wireless frequencies as smartphones. But rather than using a phone, you connect using small, battery-powered modems.
Up to 100Mbps: the maximum speed of a wireless connection varies significantly depending on which provider you choose to buy your service from. T-Mobile currently offers the fastest connection, at 90Mbps. However, it is unlikely many people will see speeds like this. As you probably know from using a smartphone, the speeds vary greatly depending on the coverage in your area.
Even with reliability concerns factored in, wireless internet is a great substitute for anyone who doesn’t want, or can’t get, a fixed-line broadband connection at their home.
Which should you choose?
As much as we'd love to recommend that everyone sign up to a fast, reliable Fibre Internet connection, the truth is that you will be limited to whichever technologies are available at your address.
Regardless, you will find that the price of the technologies are pretty much the same when you compare plans with the same speeds. Plans with 100Mbps downloads tend to start from about $50 per month for internet-only.
To see which technology is available at your address, click here and run an address check.