By Dan Howdle | Wednesday, July 1st 2020
Most broadband providers offer the first step on the fibre speed ladder at around 36Mbps. This is significantly faster than ADSL broadband, which typically maxes out at around 17Mbps and averages around 10Mbps. But what does 36Mbps really mean, and what can it do for you?
36Mbps might sound somewhat slow compared the the top speeds offered by Virgin Media, say – topping out at an insanely quick 516Mbps. But don't be distracted by Virgin Media's somewhat unnecessary bandwidth. 36Mbps is plenty quick for the average household, provided you don't have a lot of people streaming video all at once. Let's take a closer look.
You needn't worry about speed when it comes to simply surfing around the internet for things to look at, read, or interact with on social media. 36Mbps is many multiples the speed required for doing this, and everyone in your household can be doing this at once of a connection at this speed with no problems at all.
Text-only emails will be sent instantaneously with fibre. You shouldn’t have too much trouble sending emails with chunky attachments either. Most email clients have a limit for the size of a file you can send, and this limit is usually well below what an entry-level fibre service can comfortably send.
There isn't really a social media platform that requires a lot of bandwidth/speed. Most of them, in fact, are streamlined so they can be used on any connection and any device. If everyone in the household is using some form of social media, 36Mbps is multiples of the total speed you will need. It is more than enough.
Using a slow connection to send cash between accounts or pay bills can be a bit nerve-wracking, but you shouldn’t have any of these worries with 36Mbps broadband so feel free to budget, save and move money around as you please.
Streaming movies and TV is a more difficult question to answer when it comes to speed. At the lower end, streaming a TV show in standard definition – still used by ITV Player and a fee others – only needs about 2Mbps. Generally a high definition stream averages about 8Mbps, and a 4K UHD stream between 15Mbps and 25Mbps. High-end 4K stream requirements such as those from Apple TV+ and 4K live sports broadcasts can go as high as 40Mbps.
With a slower connection you might not get the best quality and you could run into trouble if several devices are streaming at the same time. But there’s no need to worry if you have fibre – it means you can watch films and TV or listen to music on the highest quality setting without interruption. So you can shake your thing to the latest Spotify tunes or bunk down with a box set without those annoying buffering breaks.
Many Netflix titles are available to watch in high definition (HD) or Ultra HD (UHD) and will automatically play in HD quality if your plan, device and internet speed support it. Netflix states that you need a steady internet connection speed of 25Mbps or higher to stream in UHD. So, while you might struggle on a standard broadband connection, a fibre service means you can watch Netflix on all its quality settings.
BBC iPlayer programmes stream at up to 2.8Mbps, depending on the quality. Its standard quality version is 1.5Mbps. So a 36Mb connection is more than enough.
If you’re using wi-fi or broadband, you need a speed of at least 2.5Mbps to watch NOW TV (for 3G or 4G mobile devices the minimum speed needed is 450Kbps). So you’ll be well catered-for.
Amazon suggests you need a 900Kbps broadband connection to watch Amazon Prime Instant Video in standard definition, and a 3.5Mbps connection to watch in high definition. So fibre will be more than sufficient to watch at both qualities.
Disney's exclusive streaming service demands a minimum of 5Mbps for high definition (HD, 1080p) content, and 25Mbps for 4K UHD streaming
Apple's own streaming service, featuring exclusive Apple-made TV and movies, is one of the most demanding out there. It has been praised for its exceptional image quality, but that comes at the cost of up to 41Mbps required for 4K UHD content, with 25Mbps recommended as the minimum. The service scales down depending on the speed you have available. Anything 8Mbps or better and you will be able to watch without problems
For standard definition (SD or 480p) YouTube requires at least 0.7Mbps, for high definition (HD or 1080p) you’ll need 2.5Mbps and for ultra-high definition (UHD, 4K or 2160p) you’ll need 15Mbps*. YouTube also streams some 4K content at 60 frames per second, for which you’ll need 40Mbps* or thereabouts
Music streaming service Spotify says 320Kbps is enough for its high-quality audio option. So you can quite easily listen to Spotify on the highest possible setting with a fibre connection.
Similar to Spotify, Pandora requires 300Kbps to stream its content in the best possible audio quality. So that’s easily achievable with a fibre connection.
There are four things you need for online gaming victory: gaming skill, a decent download speed, a sufficient upload speed, and a stable connection. While a 36Mbps connection is plenty on the download front, upload speeds can vary from 2Mbps to 10Mbps. However, even a 2Mbps upload speed should be enough for gaming, presuming your connection is reliable with minimal latency and packet loss. We'll leave the gaming skills for you to work on.
A decent download speed is necessary when you download new games directly to your console. You can download a game with any speed broadband, but the faster the connection, the quicker you can shoot baddies or goals, whatever floats your boat.
Most new games have a file size of about 40GB (but can be as much as 150!). 40GB will take about five-and-a-half hours to download on a standard broadband connection, but a fibre connection less than halves this time to about two-and-a-half hours.
If you’re downloading games and apps to your phone, it’s better to do it using your home wi-fi connection. It will be plenty fast enough and it will save on your mobile data allowance.
Serious gamers might want to set up a gaming server for multiplayer games, and 36Mbps is fast enough to do this. Your upload speed will determine how many people you can host. Even a relatively slow upload speed such as 2Mbps will allow you to host 10 people or so on Minecraft, but for larger groups you should look for the fibre broadband deals with the highest upload speeds.
The more devices connected to the internet and carrying out various tasks, the slower your connection will become. For example, you might be streaming a film in one room while your teenage kids are gaming or browsing the internet in another.
36Mbps is fast enough to support a number of phones, tablets, TVs and games consoles at the same time. However, there’s the outside chance you may run into problems if somebody starts streaming a film in Ultra HD while someone else downloads a new game and a third person hosts a Skype video conference.
Slower broadband connections are OK for working from home but a fibre connection opens up a world of opportunities. With this type of speed you can set up a proper office, run several computers, transfer big files between devices, and send work emails to your heart’s content.
Cloud services like iCloud and Dropbox rely on a fast upload speed, although your download speed will come into play when you want to retrieve files from the cloud.
Check your upload speed when you choose your fibre package – in most cases it will be sufficient to upload and transfer files.
Skype and other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services (including FaceTime) need a good upload speed as well as a good download speed. For basic calls, Skype recommends both upload and download speeds of 100Kbps. But you’ll need a lot more for group video chats – it recommends a 8Mbps download speed and 512Kbps upload speed for a seven-person video chat. A 36Mbps connection has you well covered for everything you want to do on Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and so on.
If you plan to do any of the following, then an entry-level fibre package might not be enough. You're going to need to up it to 63Mps, 100Mbps or possibly even more.
With a recommended download speed of 25Mbps, as soon as you start watching two or more Netflix streams at the same time, you’ll need a faster connection. 50Mbps will just about let you watch two UHD streams simultaneously but if you want to do any more than that – tweet about what you’re watching, for example – you’ll need a top fibre speed of 63Mb or more.
Setting up a gaming server to let a handful of your friends play Minecraft together is one thing. But if you want to expand your gaming gang to hundreds of people you’ll need a faster connection. You’ll also need to check the upload speed you get – some providers are more generous than others.
Running a small office with a few computers and uploading files to the cloud is easy on an entry-level fibre connection, but running a big company won’t be possible. The more employees you have on computers and other online devices, the more your connection will slow down. In short, if you’re responsible for the connectivity of a big corporation, you probably need business broadband and a 100Mbps or faster connection.