Internet, over the past few years has become a necessity. People started using it for almost everything from playing online games to attending online classes. With it playing such an important role, it is only obvious that everyone would want a fast and stable internet connection. But, a lot of people fail to get this as they are usually misinformed about various parameters to take into consideration while choosing the right connection for their needs. In this article I’m going to talk about everything you need to look at while choosing a connection, what usually effects your speed and some common misconceptions among people regarding internet speeds basics.
Few Basics Related to Internet Speeds –
While talking about Internet speed, the first thing you need to understand is bandwidth. Before getting into the actual stuff, look at this small example that would make the concept easier.
Let’s say you have 2 pipes, one narrow and the other wide. Now fill a bottle by pouring water through the narrow pipe and then do the same with the wider one. You can see that since the wide pipe has more space, more water flowed through it at a given time and hence the bottle was filled faster although there was no difference in the actual speed with which the water flowed. Now apply this to the internet.
The amount of space available in the pipe is called the bandwidth and the water is the data you are sending/receiving. So this bandwidth or the amount of data that could travel at once is usually specified in kilo bits per second (Kbps) or mega bits per second (Mbps).
Let’s say you have a connection with speed of 1 Mbps. This means that your computer can receive and/or send 1 mega bit or 1 million bits every second. That is quite simple but there is one more thing you need to know here.
A very common observation made by many users, maybe even you is :
“I have an X Mbps connection but my download speed is much slower 🙁 ”
Well, your speed is not actually slower but is simply measured different i.e it is measured in bytes per second (Bps) instead of bits per second (bps) that your ISP specifies.
Note that when specifying bytes per second a ‘B’ is used instead of ‘b’ (KBps, MBps etc). A byte is the combination of 8 bits and this is how data rates are usually measured over the internet. So if you are promised a speed of 2 Mbps, simply divide it by 8 (since 1 byte= 8 bits) and you get the real speed you could expect , which in this case is 256 KBps. In short, 2Mega bits per second (2Mbps) =256 Kilo Bytes per second (256kBps) .
Another thing that most people usually get wrong is ‘more bandwidth=better online gaming experience‘. While the bandwidth seems like a synonym to speed and all that you need for a fast connection, it is not always the case. Sure you can download a lot faster and stream smoother but while playing online games or making a voice call over the internet (voip) you might experience a lag even with high bandwidth connections.
This is because, in cases like these, you will only be sending small but important packets of data which would only take up a small part of your bandwidth no matter how much you have and all that matters here is how fast the data can travel back and forth.
This is where latency comes in. Simply speaking, latency is defined as the time taken by a small amount of data (packet) to reach its destination and make it back to the source. Latency is usually measured in milli-seconds (ms). So a connection with High latency and high bandwidth may still cause lag in games and some other applications while a connection with low latency and lower bandwidth could give you a smoother or delay less experience.
One important thing that effects your latency regardless of your type of connection is distance. This one is quite simple actually, the farther you are from the destination the more time it takes for data to travel and hence the latency increases. So if you are living in India and communicate with a server located in India, your latency will be very low but if it is with a server located far away like in the US, you will be getting a much higher latency.
Now that you know what the essential terms are, let’s talk about which connection would be ideal for you.
Basically it all comes down to 2 types: wired and wireless. Wired connections are usually established through DSL cables, co-axial cables, optical fiber cables etc. and wireless networks are established through various frequency bands. While both offer large bandwidths, wired connections have a lot better latency (much lower than wireless). Wireless ones like satellite connections have crazy latencies and must be avoided at all costs by gamers! Wired connections tend to be more reliable and also much cheaper so unless you are a person who travels a lot, it is highly recommended that you go for a wired connection.
Also, before you select your ISP, don’t just look at the download/upload speeds they claim to provide. Do some research by searching the web or asking other users about their latency, stability, reliability and customer service. Only when you are satisfied with all these, choose a plan that is right for you and subscribe.
If you have any questions regarding this, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as I can 🙂 .