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Understanding Your Internet Plan: Download Speeds

Signing up for an internet plan can be a real pain. There are so many different options and features that it can be very easy to get confused. In order to help you make the best choice for your tastes, here is an explanation of how download speeds actually work and what they mean for the average user:

Download Speed

When you see compared internet plans, the first thing that they will likely list is the download speed (sometimes accompanied by the upload speed). Depending on where you live, you might have to choose between anything from 2 to 100 Mbps. If you've ever tried to download a file and it is only downloading 2 or 3 MB per second, then you might be confused. After all, doesn't your plan say that you should get 20 Mbps?

Megabits vs Megabytes

The most important thing to understand is that Mbps is not the same thing as megabytes per second, the measurement that you likely see whenever you are downloading a file or streaming. Mbps refers to a very similar unit of measure called Megabits per second. The relationship between the two is pretty important to computers and programming in general, but the gist of the matter is that there are 8 megabits in 1 megabyte.

Therefore, if you get 20 Mbps in your internet plan, you can expect to get download speeds in the neighborhood of 2.5 megabytes per second. At that rate, you will download a 1GB-movie in about 7 minutes. With a 10 Mbps plan, your download would take roughly twice as long. Conversely, if you were to upgrade to a 40 Mbps plan, you would download everything twice as fast.

Typical Examples

It can be pretty hard to figure out which plan is best for you if you don't know how much you actually download each day.

For example, say you watch Netflix for an hour. According to their website, standard definition streams use 1 GB per hour and HD uses 3 GB per hour. If you have a 20 Mbps plan, then you have access to about 9 GB in cumulative downloads over the course of an hour. From this perspective, you could simultaneously watch 3 HD Netflix streams throughout your house with relatively uninterrupted quality on a 20 Mbps plan.

Or, what if you want to stream some music? Two popular music bitrates are 96 kbps and 320 kbps. At 96, you'll only use about 345 MB over an hour of nonstop play. At 320, you will spend proportionately more data, 1.15 GB to be exact.

Ultimately, you should carefully consider exactly how much you use the internet, including periods of heavy usage and averages over time. This can help you find an internet plan that provides all your needs while not breaking the bank. For more information about internet service, contact a company like Reserve Telecommunications.