Surfing the Internet, streaming films and series, a video conference in the home office or online gaming – at home the Internet connection is used for a number of activities. And depending on how many people live in a household and what they use the Internet for, an Internet connection with a correspondingly high bandwidth is required.
But what exactly is bandwidth, how can it be determined and how much bandwidth does a household really need? We explain this and more below.

What is the bandwidth?

The term “bandwidth” refers to the data transfer rate in an Internet network. Bandwidth is usually measured in bits per second (bps) and indicates how much data can be transmitted over an Internet connection at the same time.
The bandwidth is therefore also a direct indicator of the possible upload and download rates that can be achieved with the Internet connection. Because a higher bandwidth enables faster data transmission and therefore correspondingly higher upload and download speeds.

All applications on the Internet, such as streaming, require a correspondingly high bandwidth or download speed in order to function smoothly.

A notice: Bandwidth is not to be confused with internet speed. The bandwidth provides information about the potential capacity of the Internet line. Internet speed, on the other hand, means the actual transmission speed achieved in a specific network. While the bandwidth is a stable amount and is always available, the actual Internet speed determines how much of the bandwidth can be actively used at the moment.
The Internet speed can be influenced or impaired, for example, by the network load, the quality of the router signal or the device used.

What is bandwidth
The term “bandwidth” refers to the data transfer rate in an Internet network – Image: © Romana #685500905

Calculating the bandwidth – that’s what matters

How much bandwidth a household needs depends primarily on two different factors:

  1. The type of internet use (surfing, streaming, gaming, etc.)
  2. The number of people in the household or the number of devices used that are connected to the Internet (simultaneously).

The more complex the Internet applications (gaming requires more bandwidth than streaming, for example) and the more devices use the Internet at the same time, the more bandwidth is required. But how do you calculate this?

In order to calculate the required bandwidth, the download rates of the various Internet applications are considered. Since the download rate or download speed (the amount of data that can be downloaded at the same time) is directly related to the available bandwidth, it can also be used to calculate the bandwidth.

Calculate bandwidthCalculate bandwidth
The more complex the Internet applications and the more devices use the Internet at the same time, the more bandwidth is required – Image: © BritCats Studio #375784288

Streaming and gaming: requirements at a glance

In order to determine how much bandwidth a household needs, it is important to know what the bandwidth requirements are.

To surf the Internet, open websites or check emails, you usually only need around 2 Mbit/s for the download.

The same applies to music streaming, because here, too, high audio quality is achieved with a comparatively low bandwidth. And video conferencing programs are also frugal and run stably with download speeds of 1 Mbit/s or more.

However, the requirements are already higher for streaming series and films. Around 3 Mbit/s are required for standard definition films and around 5 Mbit/s for HD films. If you love detailed cinema and want to stream in UHD or 4K, you will need around 20 to 25 Mbit/s in the download to be able to stream smoothly.

Gaming also has similarly high requirements as 4K streaming, although you have to differentiate between two scenarios: downloading video games and online gaming. Basically, 16 to 20 Mbit/s is completely sufficient for a simple game download – but for video games with a size of 70 GB or more, this download rate often leads to hours of waiting. If you would like to download and play your newly purchased games quickly, you should ideally have a bandwidth of 40 to 50 Mbit/s or higher.

For video games with online functions, such as multiplayer mode or games that are streamed and played in real time via a cloud (cloud gaming), you should ideally also have a download rate of around 50 Mbit/s. This ensures that even demanding games run smoothly when used online.

Streaming requirementsStreaming requirements
Around 3 Mbit/s are required for standard definition films and around 5 Mbit/s for HD films – Image: © Gorodenkoff #520824298

Calculate concrete bandwidth – here’s how it works

In order to calculate the bandwidth required for a household, you have to look at both the number of users and the individual Internet applications. Each application can be converted into an estimated bandwidth requirement using the required download rate.

A calculation example for a household with three people:

  • Person 1 – Im Internet surfen (2 Mbit/s) + Streaming in SD (3 Mbit/s) = 5 Mbit/s
  • Person 2 – Online-Gaming (50 Mbit/s) + Musikstreaming (2 Mbit/s) = 52 Mbit/s
  • Person 3 – Surfing the internet (2 Mbit/s) + video conferencing (2 Mbit/s) = 4 Mbit/s

All three people together would need a bandwidth of around 61 Mbit/s when using the Internet at the same time.

In this way, the required bandwidth can be determined quite easily, although a small bandwidth buffer should always be planned in case more applications are used in parallel than planned.

However, there are also basic recommendations that you can follow. Around 50 Mbit/s of bandwidth is recommended for one-person households, so one person can run demanding programs on a PC or smart TV at any time.

For small families or shared apartments, however, a bandwidth of 100 Mbit/s or more is recommended. This means that simple internet applications can be used easily on multiple devices at the same time. However, if it is known that at least two family members like to play online games and two others like to stream in UHD, this recommended bandwidth is of course not sufficient. It is therefore always important to look at your own usage habits, compare different internet tariffs and then book the right tariff with a correspondingly high bandwidth.


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