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Is 36Mb fibre broadband fast enough?

By Emma Lunn
Tuesday, April 10th 2018

Most broadband providers offer download speeds averaging 35Mbps or 36Mbps as their entry-level fibre broadband product (previously advertised as up to 38Mbps). There are a couple of exceptions: Virgin Media’s basic fibre product is 50Mbps and BT’s also averages 50Mbps. So is an entry-level fibre speed enough?

With Virgin offering top speeds of up to 362Mbps, 36Mbps sounds comparatively slow. However, for the vast majority of households, around 36Mbps will be perfectly adequate for streaming, surfing and shopping on several devices at the same time. Read this guide to find out whether it is enough for you.

36Mb is good for:

  • Browsing the internet
  • Emails, banking, shopping
  • Streaming HD/4K TV, movies and music
  • Gaming and hosting games
  • Connecting 6-10 devices

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36Mb will struggle with:

  • Multiple UHD (4K) streams
  • Running a busy gaming server
  • Running a large company server
  • Large amounts of uploading
  • Connecting more than 10 devices

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What you can do with 36Mbps broadband

Browse the internet

An internet connection of around 36Mbps will make browsing the internet an uninterrupted joy. Not only will web pages open instantly, but video and music sites such as YouTube and Spotify will play in the highest possible quality setting.

Send emails and receive emails (with attachments)

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.

Keep up with social media

Most social media sites aren’t particularly bandwidth-heavy. So whether you’re tweeting, posting to the ‘gram or updating Facebook, 36Mbps will be more than enough. Funny cat videos and the latest banging tunes will load and play without interference.

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.

Stream HD TV, HD movies and music

Using streaming services to watch TV or movies and listen to music is one of the most data-intensive activities you can do online. The likes of Netflix and Spotify have recommended speeds for viewing or listening at specific quality.

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.

Netflix

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 stanard broadband connection, a fibre service means you can watch Netflix on all its quality settings.

BBC iPlayer

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.

NOW TV

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 Prime Instant Video

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.

Spotify

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.

Pandora

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.

Play multiplayer games

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.

Download new games

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.

Set up a gaming server

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.

Connect 6 to 10 devices without problems

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.

Set up a small office

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.

Using cloud computing services

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.

Use VoIP services

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.

The point at which you'll need a faster fibre speed of 63Mbps or more

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.

Watch multiple UHD streams at the same time

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.

Run a busy gaming server

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.

Run a large company server

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.

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