Download Speed vs Upload Speed

Download Speed vs Upload Speed

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When searching for internet providers, the options can be overwhelming. Each provider offers a variety of plans, each with different download and upload speeds at different price points.

With more people working from home than ever before, understanding your needs for both download and upload speed is crucial to picking the right plan. Let’s break down the basics: download speed vs upload speed. What’s the difference? 

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What is download speed?

Download speed is how fast data travels from the internet to your computer. Most of the most common online activities require getting data to your device — loading webpages and images, listening to music, downloading files, streaming your favorite shows, etc. Streaming requires especially fast download speeds are especially helpful when streaming since you won’t waste time and get frustrated with buffering. 

What is upload speed?

Conversely, upload speed is how fast data travels from your computer to the internet. Things like sending emails, uploading media files, and live video calls are all activities that utilize upload speed. Historically, this has been less important for home use, but it’s a key factor to consider if you’re working from home or regularly uploading large files like photos and videos to your social feeds.

Symmetrical Speeds

When your download speed and upload speed are equal, they are called symmetrical speeds. Symmetrical speeds are most commonly offered by fiber internet providers. When your download and upload speeds are different, they are called asymmetrical speeds.

Many providers prioritize download speeds over upload speeds because most of what we do on the internet involves getting data to our devices.

If you work from home or content creator that frequently uploads files to the internet, you will want to pay attention to this feature of your internet plan. Sub-par upload speeds can be the difference between you uploading a work assignment on time or keeping up with your online posts. 

Bandwidth vs Speed

Before getting started on your search, it’s good to have a baseline understanding of what you’re purchasing.

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Plans are designed around the amount of bandwidth you will receive from your provider, measured in megabits per second (Mbps). So, when looking at a plan that says you’ll receive 25 Mbps, that is the maximum amount of data your internet connection can handle at one time. The more users and devices you sharing a single connection, the slower the speed at which you can upload and download data will be.

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Internet Speed

The other important factor is speed. Internet speed is the rate at which data can be downloaded or uploaded, or downloaded to a given device (also measured in Mbps). Again, when comparing internet plans, the speeds listed are only the potential peak speed you might receive. Most internet plans come with asymmetric speeds, since more users consume content rather than upload it.

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Ping Rate

A ping refers to a small packet of data sent from your computer to test latency (the speed of the connection between your devices and the network). Once complete, you’ll get a ping rate (also known as a ping time), which is a measure of latency, represented in milliseconds. The higher the ping rate, the slower your internet connection is.

What internet speed do I need?

In general, internet plans offer anywhere from 1 Mbps to 1000 Mbps or more of bandwidth. Anything above 25 Mbps is considered usable for modern applications, but speeds below 200 Mbps can be challenging for a large household.

To get a sense of your internet needs, take our quick speed calculator quiz. It’ll help you determine what download speed and upload speed you need. You can then compare those results against your current service by running an internet speed test to see if you need to upgrade your internet plan.

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Take this 2-minute quiz to guage exactly what internet speed if right for you.

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If you find that your current speeds aren’t fast enough to support your daily online activities, use our zip search tool to compare providers near you. We work with top-rated providers to find the best deals available.

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Nick Welch
Nick has spent years navigating the ever-evolving terrain of the telecom and privacy security space, leveraging his extensive knowledge to create insightful content that addresses common internet-related queries and challenges. Away from work, Nick enjoys spending time outdoors with family and his dog. On weekends you can find him hiking local trails or taking on new running routes.