Which Online Activities Use the Most Bandwidth?

Author: Kirstin Toms - MarCom/Thursday, June 11, 2020/Categories: Home Internet

All but the country’s most essential employees needed on job sites have been sent home to work remotely. Students have started homeschooling programs or distance learning through their school districts. Individuals are leveraging technology — including social media and video conferencing software — like never before to stay in touch with loved ones during the pandemic.

All these online activities are putting a strain on our nation’s bandwidth that was never expected. Internet speeds may suffer, especially during the normal workday. But you may be surprised by the amount of bandwidth common online activities actually use.

How Does Bandwidth Work?

Bandwidth is the maximum rate of data transfer your internet connection can provide. If your Consolidated Communications high-speed internet package delivers 25 Mbps of bandwidth, that defines how many devices on your network you can use at the same time without experiencing reduced internet speed, latency, or lag.

Any smart appliances in your home, including a smart refrigerator or smart speaker, may use bandwidth even if they aren’t actively in use. We talk about smart home appliances that could be reducing your home wireless internet speed here.

But you might be surprised to learn that many activities you think would use a lot of bandwidth make a negligible difference in your home’s overall internet use.

Streaming Video

It’s probably not surprising to learn that streaming video hogs more bandwidth than nearly any other activity you can do online. Depending on the resolution of the video, expect to use about 4 to 6 Mbps for a clear, low-latency picture — and much more if you’re streaming in 4K. It may be wise to minimize streaming if you have a spouse at home working or children participating in distance learning.

But there’s good news! You can still watch all your favorite Consolidated Communications TV channels on your TV with your set-top box without using any bandwidth at all. Check out these extra channels offered free with basic cable for a limited time.  

Streaming Music

Many people like having background music playing as they go about their day — whether in an office or working remotely from home. If you’re using your home’s Wifi to stream music through your smartphone or smart speaker, you could be using 2 to 3 Mbps of bandwidth. It might be best to use your home wireless internet connection to download the songs you want to hear directly to your smartphone at a time when the rest of your family isn’t using the internet. This way, you can play music during peak internet use times without using bandwidth.

Smart Speakers, Phones, and Appliances

Even when you aren’t using that smart speaker, it may still be hogging up to 1 Mbps of bandwidth. You may want to consider unplugging smart appliances and speakers when not in use, at least during the pandemic when you are trying to maximize your wireless internet speed.

Video Chats

Depending on the service and how many people there are on your conference call, video chats can use between 0.5-1 Mbps, which is probably not as much as you’d think for such a high-tech way of communicating.

Considering video chat platforms like Skype provide a lifeline for employees, friends, and family who are practicing social distancing, it’s a good investment of bandwidth.

Multi-player Gaming Through an Online Game System

Whether you’re battling it out with far-flung family and friends on Mario-Kart through your Nintendo Switch, building worlds in Minecraft, or trying to buy turnips in Animal Crossing, you’re using bandwidth if you’re playing multiplayer games online.

How much bandwidth? Not as much as you’d expect. Unlike bandwidth-heavy streaming applications, gaming only needs about 0.3 Mbps. Why? Most of the data already resides on your gaming console, so data transfer requirements are minimal.

Sending Email or Using Facebook Messenger

Email has been around as long as the internet itself, and unless you’re transferring large files, it’s not a bandwidth hog. A basic text email with no images or files uses about 0.08 Mbps. It may not be the most efficient means of communicating with a remote workforce, but it offers a “paper trail,” so to speak, of conversations, and is accessible to virtually anyone with a broadband wireless internet connection or a smartphone.

Now that you know which devices and online activities can reduce your internet speed, you can plan ahead. Increase your productivity by giving family members who are working or homeschooling priority when it comes to high-bandwidth activities.

You may also consider upgrading your internet package to provide more bandwidth for your whole family during the pandemic. Consolidated Communications is here to help.

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