By Michelle Ricker June 17, 2021
Summary: If you’ve ever had to choose a high-speed internet plan, you know it can be complicated to figure out what speed you actually need. And, as we start to do more on our smartphones while we’re home, how does that factor into your internet plan? We’re answering all your questions, from what impacts internet speed to the difference between using WiFi or cellular data while home to what it means if you have a 5G-capable phone.
If you live in an area with loads of internet options, you can consider yourself lucky. Who doesn’t love options? But you want to be an educated consumer when it comes to the speed you need — and what type of internet is best for you. Plus, if you’re a smartphone user, you’ll want to consider how your phone usage relates to your internet speeds.
Sound overwhelming? Fear not. We’re here to break down the basics of what to look for in a high-speed internet service provider as well as what questions to ask. If you’re not sure what internet speed you currently have, you can either take a look at your latest statement or quickly run an internet speed test.
Internet speed is influenced by a variety of factors. First and foremost, the type of internet connection you have impacts the speeds you can experience. Fiber internet is the best high-speed internet option on the market but 5G and cable internet do also offer high speeds in some areas. Satellite and fixed wireless offer internet to more remote, rural areas, but do not have the fastest speeds. The moral of the story is, if fiber is available at your residence, that’s what you should get.
But beyond that, the biggest impact on speed is the number of devices. This can often be misconstrued as the number of people in your home, and while that can certainly increase the devices, a home of two and a home of four could still have 20 total devices. It really depends on your habits and how you use the internet.
If you’re using the full capabilities of your smartphone, consider how you use it at home when you sign up for your internet plan.
For one or two devices that are primarily used to surf the web rather than heavy streaming or gaming, 25 Mbps might be enough. However, if your household has six devices connected (including smart home technology like voice assistants or video doorbells), and enjoys streaming entertainment and live gaming, you may need 100 Mbps or more.
If your household needs to use multiple devices for data-heavy activities simultaneously — this is especially common when residents are working and schooling from home — you may need up to 500 Mbps. Or, if you have quite a few smart home devices that are connected to your network (up to 12) and you’re simultaneously streaming or gaming, you may also want to opt for 500 Mbps or more.
So, what does all this have to do with your mobile phone?
If you frequently use your cell phone for things that require a lot of data — like video calls, gaming, and streaming — while you’re on your home WiFi, you’ll want to take that into consideration when choosing a high-speed internet plan. If your internet plan can’t support those activities, you’ll either have to find something else to do or use your phone’s data plan. And that can get expensive — fast.
Now, there are two downsides to using your phone’s data plan while you’re home. First, it contributes to your monthly data limit. (Psst — most unlimited mobile plans have data caps. Typically after 20 GB of usage in a month, your speeds will slow to a crawl.) Second, it connects to nearby cell towers. Depending on where you live, those towers might be slower than your actual internet connection.
If you primarily use your smartphone to make (audio-only) calls and send text messages while at your house, this probably isn’t a problem for you. But if you’re using the full capabilities of your smartphone, consider how you use it at home when you sign up for your internet plan.
So we just mentioned that your mobile carrier probably has data caps. But what if your home internet provider has data caps, too? Internet data caps are becoming more prevalent and restrict the amount of information you can send and receive while online. If you reach your monthly limit, you’re subject to speed throttling (which slows down your internet) or hefty fees.
The activities that require high volumes of data on your phone (like video calls and streaming) also require high levels of data from your home internet. Not sure you much you’re using each month? Use a data calculator to find out.
If you’re a multitasking screen master who tends to be streaming on your TV while working on your computer and scrolling social media on your phone, all of those things contribute to your data caps. And they add up. Remember, graphics quality also contributes to your data consumption, too: Standard Definition takes considerably less data than 4K.
Sound like a lot to keep track of? We recommend choosing an internet service provider with no data caps. Why limit your internet?
If you’re on the cutting edge of tech and have a 5G compatible phone, it might not make a difference in how you experience your phone speeds at home. If you have 5G cell towers nearby, your phone might connect to those when it’s not using WiFi. But unless you have 5G home internet — which isn’t available in many places yet — your phone will be using the same WiFi you know and love for everything else you do at home online.
If you’re a multi-screen household, make sure you have the high-speed internet plan that works for you. Our favorite? Fiber internet with no data caps and no speed throttling. That way, you can use your phone all you want at home and never worry about extra data. If you’re ready to learn more and find the right connection for you, get in touch with EarthLink’s Internet Experts at 866-383-3080.
Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.
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