How much bandwidth is ‘enough’ for basic Internet use?
Question by Joe Videtto /

What is the minimum bandwidth that results in a ‘productive’ online experience?

In the elementary school I work, bandwidths are often .5 to .8 M as measured by

I realize it’s an open-ended question – but is it possible for kids to play online games, view YouTube videos, or use Google Docs productively at such speeds ?

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Answers (12)
  • zeeshan khan

    If you surf a lot on the web and watch youtube and play game then you should at least have 50GB

    I only get 25GB and barely watch any youtube videos and the quota runs out quickly. It runs out 10 days before the new quota arrives! I only get 1 Mbps speed which isn’t enough for me. I am limited to a lot of things here.

    A for the speed, you should have around about 3 Mbps (at least). Usually you get good speed on unlimited internet plans. Eg. TPG offers unlimited internet for only $30 in Australia! Hopefully I’ll be getting that plan soon!

  • Joe Videtto

    Wow – these responses are really helpful – thanks !

    Regarding the variability of our current network speed, Bruce reminded me that when I took a bandwidth reading using, that that was for only 1 instance of 1 millisecond, and it doesn’t tell me what the ‘average’ speed is.

    Are there any tools that will tell me the AVERAGE bandwidth speed over a 30 or 45 minute time session (e.g. a typical user session) at a particular time in the day ?

  • Reý Aetar

    If you remove the “online games and youtube videos” from your question then 200 mb will be enough for google docs and a little productive surfing after enabling opera turbo and using adblock plus,
    But if you go for online games and youtube videos then more then 600+ gb with a 3mbps+ speed would be enough for your needs but may not be nough for your greeds

    you should chek one month with unlimited plan and make an average how much you need

  • muotechguy

    Bear in mind that whatever speeds are recommended here – 512k minimum, 1mb for good connection – need to be multiplied for the number of concurrent users. Since you mention school, I’m guessing a class size of say up to 30 children at any one time. Realistically, you need at least a 30mb connection then.

    In your situation, fibre optic is the only way to go, as ADSL will severely restricted on the upload side. I dont know where you’re located, but where I am in the UK, my 50mb down/ 5mb up fiber connection is only about $80/month, with unlimited data caps. I suggest nothing less for you.

  • Bumferry

    I live in the middle of the English countryside. the nearest town is 8 miles away, but because i work from home (tourist campsite) I offer a free wifi service for the campers. they are limited to 1mb speeds and having used myself it was just enough to watch BBC i-player (although using wifi inside a what amounts to a metal box is not really the best way to get the most out of wifi). Downloading took a while though. a one hour program would take around 6 hours to download.
    currently i am using my business wifi which gets me around 5-6mb speeds and i can stream low/medium strength quality shows and have been able to play online games (mainly star trek online) and watch live TV and youtube with very little or no lag.

  • Norman

    I think Joe is asking about the minimum bandwidth pal he should get from an ISP. They usually give you about 250 GB a month as a limit, but for basic stuff you can usually get by with about 50 to 100 GB a month, but i could never use so little so I recommend always getting the 250 GB plan

  • Bruce Epper

    In a networked environment, it is much more difficult to quantify what is necessary. First and foremost, network traffic for the most part is ‘sporadic and bursty’. This means that in most applications, such as web surfing and using Google Docs, there will be large amounts of time where the network usage is extremely low interspersed with times where there is a large, short-lived spike in traffic. For these types of usage, your current bandwidth availability should not pose a problem.

    Now, when you are streaming video from YouTube or other sites at low (default) resolutions, your traffic levels will remain elevated until the entire video has streamed to the computer doing the watching. If there are many users doing this at the same time, all of them will start having buffering problems and the video and audio playback related to these streams may stop temporarily while it waits for the data stream to fill the buffer again so it can resume playback. If the users are streaming even higher resolution (720p or 1080p), the problem becomes much worse for everyone on the network unless you are using QoS (Quality of Service) rules in your routing environment where it can be specified that high-volume streams from YouTube will have a lower priority than other network traffic. Large downloads (Linux distro, latest game, etc) will also cause fits on the network with low caps and/or narrow pipes.

    For example, when the latest Ubuntu (12.04 LTS) came out, I downloaded both the 32-bit and 64-bit version of each installer type (server, desktop, and alternate) over a 7Mbps pipe. As the only active machine on the network, it got to hog almost all of the bandwidth for itself and the downloads (just over 4GB of data) took just under 3 hours to complete. In a classroom setting, if just a single user at your data rates decided to download only one of these 6 CDs without QoS, it would effectively stop all other users from being productive at all for approximately 4 to 5 hours.

    Another way to avoid this type of situation is to use QoS on your network to cap traffic to/from any single IP address to ensure that one user cannot disrupt the entire network with a single download.

  • Mike

    Talking bandwidth 512Kbit would be enough for all of those tasks. The main drawback with such low bandwidth is the waiting time in certain situations.

    For example Battlefield 3 is playable with 512Kbit but the patches released are usually 1GB or more. You can play the game in general but whenever a patch comes out you’d have to wait approximately 5 hours until the patch is downloaded.

    If you are going to watching a 10 minute HD YouTube video it would take a lot of time to load enough data to play the video without buffering in-between.

    I don’t really see a problem with Google Docs since it’s all online ~ only if you are up- or downloading a large file the wait time comes into effect.

    Having that said nowadays the minimum you should opt for are 1Mbit (which is depicted by your speedtest). Usually you want to go with 4Mbit and more.
    All the data on the internet is getting larger week by week because storage costs drop at the same rate – nowadays it’s around $0.10 per GB of storage!

  • Susendeep Dutta

    To get a good and productive online experience,one must get a broadband internet connection.Usually,3.1 Mbps connection is good to view YouTube videos,play online games,use Google docs etc.Also,one must ensure that adequate data plan is provided with such speed.

    • muotechguy

      3.1mb is very specific! Why not 3mb?

    • Susendeep Dutta

      Because I’ve heard and seen it been offered by ISPs so that’s why.

    • Joe Videtto

      …By the way – I’ve just started a diet with the plan to lose 6 lbs 13 ounces by 11:13 pm, and 34 seconds in 61 days ; ) during months of no less than 30 days.

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