200 Mbps is one of the most common entry-level internet speed tiers offered by internet service providers.
The 100–200 Mbps speed range is considered “fast,” but not “very fast.” In other words, it is an average speed in urban and suburban areas. It’s particularly common as an entry-level speed for cable providers like Spectrum.
200 Mbps is enough for the majority of households, presuming 2–4 users with regular habits like Facebook, Netflix, and the occasional video call. 200 Mbps is sufficient for 4K streaming, but may cause issues if you attempt to stream to multiple devices at the same time over WiFi. Overall, the most common problem with 200 Mbps internet plans is the WiFi range in the house — not the internet speed itself.
What is "Mbps?"
“Mbps” stands for Megabits per second. You don't need to understand what "bits" are to choose a good internet service. All you need to know is that internet speed is measured on a scale of 1–1,000 Mbps for residential connections.
In some cases, a very slow dial-up or DSL connection might be measured in "Kilobits per second" or "Kbps." A kilobit is 1/1000 of a megabit, so this refers to speeds that are between 0–1 Mbps.
Speeds faster than 1,000 Mbps are measured in gigabits per second, or "Gbps." Service faster than 1,000 Mbps is extremely uncommon in 2020, but you'll commonly see the term "gigabit" advertised, because the fastest home connections are around 1,000 Mbps (which is one gigabit).
There are some situations where you should consider a speed above 200 Mbps. For example:
- More than four people using the connection.
- Home office support.
- Extensive cloud-connected home security systems.
- Need to stream high-definition video to multiple flatscreens.
Note that for home office and video chat, you should look for higher upload speeds as well, to support video and streaming in two directions (versus streaming entertainment, which mostly uses your downstream bandwidth).
Table of Contents
In this guide, we'll cover:
- How internet speeds are measured
- An overview of common internet speed tiers
- Which factors influence internet speed
- How to check your internet speed
- How to tell how good an internet connection is
- The difference between download and upload speeds (and why it matters)
Context: How Internet Speeds Work
Internet speed is usually quoted as a single number such as “25 Mbps” or “200 Mbps.”
However, this can be a bit misleading when you’re trying to compare plans — because it doesn’t represent upload speed, ping, or other factors that matter for your internet connection to feel “fast.”
Here are some quick definitions:
- Download speed: the rate at which your internet connection can download data from the internet. (Example: streaming a movie on Netflix.)
- Upload speed: the rate at which your internet connection can upload data to the internet. (Example: emailing a file to a co-worker.)
- Ping/Latency: Ping is a measure of latency, meaning the milliseconds it takes for your computer to send and receive data to a website. (Example: the time your connection takes to send a request to Netflix for a movie, then receive the first packet of data back to the laptop to begin the stream.)
What Are The Most Common Internet Speeds?
Here are the most common internet speed tiers advertised by internet providers, and some information on who each is enough for:
5 Mbps internet: slow, but enough for strict budgets
There was a time when a 5 Mbps connection would have been considered to be lightning fast. This is not that time.
Even single user households are going to find 5 Mbps limiting. Streaming video will often stop to buffer over and over again.
Most online gaming will be impossible because of the requirements for large amounts of immediate data moving back and forth between the server. A game like the latest Call of Duty is around 100GB as a download too – something that will take more than a day to download at this speed.
The only people who will appreciate 5 Mbps are those who only ever use e-mail — and even they’re going to get tired of waiting around for operating system and anti-virus updates.
Watching video in anything more than SD (Standard Definition) will be challenging on a 5 Mbps connection.
If more than one person is using this connection at the same time, even internet browsing is likely to slow to a crawl.
25 Mbps internet: low-end, sufficient for basic use in apartments
It’s workable for 1–2 users if don’t have any ultra-demanding applications for your internet like 4K streaming or an expansive cloud-connected security system.
You can stream video most of the time though some HD video might require a little buffering every now and again.
You can certainly do most kinds of computer gaming though you’re still going to have to wait a while to get large files downloaded to your computer.
You will probably find; however, the upload speeds are much lower – typically around 3Mbps and if you want to upload video to YouTube or share large files with others – this can quickly become a real drag.
Sharing a connection at this speed is certainly no big deal for internet browsing, e-mail, etc. but if a family of 4 is all hoping to watch something different on Netflix tonight, good luck with that.
This is a decent but not future proof connection for a one person household or at a push for a couple with relatively minimal demands for the internet, but larger families will definitely want something faster.
50 Mbps internet: mid-tier, sufficient for basic family home use
Things are starting to get a little faster now and couples and singles with reasonable expectations of their internet speed should be happy at this level.
Certainly, you’ll be able to stream video simultaneously and download a game about 10 x faster than you would at the 5 Mbps level, of course, this still isn’t lightning fast but you’ll only be waiting an hour or two instead of a whole day and patch days won’t mean giving up on gaming entirely.
You will get a slightly higher uploading speed too and while this is still probably not going to be enough if you need to push a lot of work to the cloud or to YouTube, etc. during the day – it’s going to be enough for most users where uploading isn’t a huge portion of what they need their internet connection for.
There’s even a decent level of future proofing here for smaller households.
Larger families might find this to be their minimum acceptable internet speed – it’s not going to be great when everyone is trying to stream video at the same time and somebody’s downloading a game but assuming slightly more judicious timing – you can probably get away with 50 Mbps, if you’re willing to work within the limitations.
100–200 Mbps internet: fast, enough for majority of homes
This would be our recommendation for every household – 100–200 Mbps is the speed where nothing is a problem for any ordinary sized family and for heavy internet using singles and couples.
You can easily simultaneously stream video and even HD shouldn’t be a real problem (unless, again, you need to stream over 4-5 channels of HD at the same time).
Playing games is very easy and downloading them is pretty fast too. It’s certainly a huge step up on the 5Mbps standard.
You will be given more uploading bandwidth too and all but the heaviest users of the uploading functionality should be happy with this and if you need more upload bandwidth, you probably already know this.
One important thing to consider is the price point and we’ve found that 200 Mbps connections, for the moment at least, seem to be the best value pricing in California. You can get faster speeds but they don’t tend to be included in the big value bundles from internet providers – which means they will cost quite a bit more even if the official price for them is the same as a 100 Mbps connection.
500 Mbps internet: very fast, enough for advanced use
We’re now getting into the kind of bandwidth ranges that would once have powered large enterprise’s internet connections!
At this point, even a large family is going to be able to get pretty much all the bandwidth that they could use.
From an individual perspective, you’re now talking about a speed where you will be able to get that huge game file down in minutes not hours!
Professionals needing room to upload are going to be well served with connections in this range too. Although cable plans in this range might not have equally fast uploads, the upload will almost always be much faster than the base-level plans.
There is a good expectation that this kind of bandwidth will future proof you against changes in data volumes for the next 2-3 years at least (there will probably some form of super, super, HD arise after 8K video becomes a standard but not for a long time to come).
1,000 Mbps internet: fastest residential option on the market
This is the fastest internet connection that you can get as a Californian consumer and it’s certainly the “best” if you need that much bandwidth but most of us don’t.
It would take some fairly incredible internet usage to need to exceed the speed of this connection. At an official download rate of 1 GB every 8 seconds – it would take 800 seconds or just under 15 minutes to download a game like Call of Duty! You can easily stream HD video on multiple devices too.
Even heavy uploaders are going to find their needs are covered with this speed.
It is also “future proof” for the foreseeable future.
If you can get a good deal on this speed of internet connection, then you might want to go for it but you can probably save money, go for something a bit slower and still meet all your current needs for internet speed.
Why Is There A Difference Between Upload And Download Speeds?
Technically speaking, there doesn’t need to be a difference – a connection is physically capable of giving the same upload speed as download speed but, in reality, because there is normally much less demand for uploading speed in most households than there is for downloading, the ISP tends to partition the line so that uploading is given less of a priority and thus, the maximum upload speed tends to be lower than the download speed.
If uploading is critical to your use of the internet – you need to ensure that you ascertain what exactly you’re getting as an upload maximum speed before signing a contract for internet services.
What Factors Influence Internet Speed?
There are four major factors that influence the speed of your internet connection: the Internet Service Provider (ISP), the technology used to provide the connection, where the data you want to access is being served from and oddly, the time of day.
- The ISP: the ISP is responsible for managing the data flow over their whole network, which means they can both speed up and slow down any given connection at any time for any reason (there are good reasons for doing this commercially but that’s no consolation when your speed shrinks away)
- The technology used: fixed line is slower than 3G, which is slower than DSL and that’s slower than fiber and so on… basically, there are physical limits to connection speeds and they come from the type of technology that is used to create that connection
- The location of the data: it’s faster to get data from another user in the same town as you than it is to get data from the opposite side of the world. Data is rather like snail mail in that respect
- The time of day: your ISP is most likely to downgrade your bandwidth when they’re busy, business online tends to reflect the time of day, for consumers almost everyone gets home and then goes online in the early evening, so internet speeds tend to drop at this time until people start going to bed then they rise again
Is 200 Mbps enough for gaming?
200 Mbps is enough for most online or PC gaming. It might be slow for downloading game files from Steam (a little over two hours to download a 9GB game), but it won't pose issues for your experience playing or even streaming the game. With gaming, the thing that matters most is ping/latency. Try to get a fiber or cable connection if possible, and avoid DSL, which has more "lag" and deteriorates your gameplay experience.
Why The Speed You See On Your Computer Screen Is Often Not The Speed Of Your Connection
As we noted, internet speeds are measured in bits. However, most computer speeds are measured in bytes. That is data transfer on a computer is measured at 1/8th the rate of your internet connection (because there are 8 bits in 1 byte).
So, if Windows is telling you that your download is coming at 2.5 MB/s this is actually 20 Mbps. This can be quite confusing and thus, it’s probably better if you want to measure the speed of your internet connection to rely on a proven measure of internet speed and not measure it with your on screen reporting tools.
How To Check Your Internet Speed
Measuring your internet speed is very easy. There are many websites offering free speed tests online. One of the most popular is Oookla’s speedtest.net these sites work by sending a small amount of data to the internet and measuring how fast that data comes back.
It’s important to note that your internet speed will vary across the course of the day and that while these speed tests tend to be accurate for small volumes of data they may not reflect the speed of large amounts of continuous data transmission.
What Is Broadband?
The FCC considers broadband internet to offer 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. This is a fairly useful number because it means that you can say that anything above this is “fast” and anything below it is “slow”.
That doesn’t mean, however, that if your connection is less than this speed that it is useless – far from it. There are many uses of the internet where even 1 Mbps would be fast (think of sending an e-mail or browsing through Reddit) from a user perspective. However, a connection which is not “broadband” is likely to be frustrating with respect to some uses.
What Would Most People Consider To Be Good Internet Speeds?
We think you’re talking about a baseline of 25 Mbps and working up to 100 Mbps or more. It really depends on how many people there are in your home and what their needs for internet are.
A person living by themselves and only using e-mail and some basic internet browsing doesn’t need the same speed of connection as a family of 8 who all want to watch different streaming TV shows all night long.
We’ve got a breakdown of different internet speeds in California and who might find them useful a little later in this article.
How Important Is Good Internet Speed?
Good things come to those who wait, they say. But the truth is that waiting drives us all crazy, in a busy world – we don’t want to wait 10 minutes before we can start to watch a movie, we don’t want to hang around for a day (or more) to play a new computer game, etc.
Thus, internet speed does matter. If you want to enjoy using the internet at home, you want an internet connection that supports the way you want to use it (at least for the vast majority of the time – you’ll probably be prepared to put up with some minor frustration if you upload exactly one 20 Gb video file every 3 years).
So, let’s take a closer look at each internet speed and what it can do for you.
Summary: 200 Mbps internet is good enough for the average household
Overall, 200 Mbps internet is going to be more than enough for the average home of up to 5 people. With 200 Mbps internet, you’re more likely to run into issues from Wifi setup than from the internet connection itself.
If you live in a large or unusually-shaped home, consider getting a mesh router like the Eero or Google WiFi.
Regardless of your internet speed, but especially with 100 Mbps plans, it’s important to wire in your streaming devices like Roku-connected flatscreens. This will help you avoid taxing the WiFi network, and ensure that high-bandwidth traffic like your 4K Netflix stream is prioritized and doesn’t give you buffering issues.