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Fidelity Blog: Post

What Makes a Broadband Connection (And How to Make the Most of It)

  • Posted by Blog Administrator - February 6, 2018

Last week we wrote about how important it is to have a reliable broadband connection, and why your local ISP is the place to get it.

So, now you know you definitely need broadband, but like, what does that mean?

Not to worry. We'll explain it all right here.

In the techy, telecommunication sense, broadband can get pretty involved. Here's the simple version of that complicated answer.

Anything that travels over the Internet is known as data, and all data is transmitted in packets through channels. The size of a channel, called bandwidth, determines how much data can be transmitted at once from one point to the other.

You might think, then, that so long as you have enough bandwidth and enough speed, you'll always have high-speed Internet. While these factors heavily affect how quickly you can access information, download files, or make online purchases, they're not the only factors to consider.

In this post, let's get to the bottom of what broadband really is, what factors affect your actual speed, and how to determine the optimal speed for your household.

Understanding the Relationship Between Bandwidth and Speed

As we've already briefly covered:

  • Bandwidth is the conduit through which all Internet traffic travels.
  • Speed is the rate at which the data can travel.

It's important to understand that broadband speed and bandwidth are not the same, and they're not necessarily equal, either. You can get faster speeds by increasing bandwidth, but increasing your speed won't get you anywhere fast without enough bandwidth.

Think of this system as a busy, backed-up highway. If you increase the speed limit from 65 mph to 85 mph, it really won't make a difference because there's nowhere for all those cars to go. However, if you open up another lane on the highway, more cars can get through.

What Factors Affect Your Broadband Speed?

Let's stick with the highway analogy, but this time, think of all the devices in your home as cars on the road. Like any other highway, the Internet, too, experiences rush hour. The more cars there are on the road, the slower the traffic can move.

If all of the devices in your home are connected to the Internet at the same time, they're all competing for bandwidth. Every device in your home pulls a certain amount of data, or takes up its own lane. So, the more devices you have connected at the same time, the slower your Internet traffic moves.

Some Things to Consider

Before you start thinking about bandwidth or speed, consider your Internet usage as a household. The number of people, the number of devices connected to the Internet, Internet activity, and streaming will help determine the optimal speed and bandwidth for your home.

Here are some general guidelines:

  1. You might need a lot of broadband if: you live, eat, and breath streaming. For real, you've seen it all. Every Netflix original, every hilarious fail video, and every adorable thing a puppy has ever been caught doing on camera. The gamer in your house is up into the wee hours of the night defending. You also probably have several people connected to the Internet on many different devices. These are households that will benefit from a faster broadband connection.
  2. You'll need a decent amount of broadband if: you're a pretty average Internet user. You peruse Facebook in your free time, stream TV shows after work, manage your email often. You're not doing anything too demanding online, but you are online every day, and it's an important part of your work and life.
  3. You'll just need a little broadband if: you only find yourself on the Internet when you need something specific. Maybe you thought of something so you turn to Google, or you check and reply to emails once a week. If the Internet is not a part of your daily life, you don't need that much broadband. However, you'll still need enough to ensure that when you do need to do something, it doesn't take you all day.

Let's Crunch the Numbers

These general guidelines will help you understand why different speeds exist and for what.

You'll still need to pick a number and decide on a speed.

To ensure that you get the most accurate speed, use our free bandwidth analyzer to determine the optimal speed for your household!

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