There are many factors to consider when choosing an internet service plan. Customer service is important, but so is getting the right type of internet, the right speeds, and sufficient data allowances. It’s good to start by understanding the different options that are out there and the different circumstances they are best for. In this article, we will explain all of the different types of internet service and the features that differentiate them.
Be sure to call ISPs before moving to a rural location (or buying a property) to make sure you can get the internet service you need!
Overview of Internet Service Plan Considerations
- Speed requirements vary based on how you use the internet AND how many people use it simultaneously
- “Broadband” internet can apply to many different internet delivery methods
- “Broadband” does not always mean the best speed or service
- Phone lines, cable lines, wireless signals, and satellite signals are the four main internet delivery methods
- Fixed wireless internet is a great way to get fast and reliable internet service in rural locations
What Internet Speed Do You Need?
When it comes to internet speed, you hear most about download speed. That is the speed it takes you to retrieve something from the internet. In some cases, you also need to consider upload speed. Upload speed is the speed at which you send information to the internet. Megabits per second (Mbps) describes internet speeds.
|Usage Habits||Download Speed||Upload Speed|
|Light Use/Browsing||1-5 Mbps||1-3 Mbps|
|Students||5-10 Mbps||1-5 Mbps|
|Telecommuting||5-15 Mbps||3-5 Mbps|
|Online Gaming*||1-5 Mbps||1-5 Mbps|
|HD or SD Video Streaming; Smart TV||5 Mbps per Screen||NA|
|Ultra-HD or 4K Video Streaming||25 Mbps per Screen||NA|
Generally speaking, upload speeds are 1/10th of download speeds. For telecommuting and gaming, you may want more upload speed for Zoom meetings and multiplayer online games. The FCC Household Broadband Guide is a great resource to help you understand your internet needs. Keep in mind that Webformix plans are not broadband per se because fixed wireless internet is a little different, more on that later.
Webformix internet service plans consider all of these factors and can be customized to add more upload speed if needed. There are no data caps, no contracts, and no hidden fees.
Best Internet Service Plan for Gaming
When considering what type of internet service plan you need for gaming, it is important to know the different types of games and the different requirements they have. As we note above, 5 Mbps or more is enough to download a game from the internet. When you play a game that is downloaded, you do not need much download speed, but you do need more upload speed since you want your actions to occur “in real time.”
If you play games that are streamed, it is similar to streaming video! That means significantly more bandwidth is used. The best internet plan for gamers is going to depend on the type of games. You’ll want to think of streamed games as similar to video streaming and be aware that those types of games will leave less bandwidth available for other devices and internet users in your household.
Best Internet Service Plan for Streaming Video
Streaming video in standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD) takes up about 5 Mbps of download speed per screen. That means if two people are streaming video simultaneously, it requires about 10 Mbps, or 15 Mbps for three streams. So when you pick your internet plan you must consider if your kids are streaming cartoons while you are streaming Netflix because that would require 10 Mbps instead of 5 Mbps.
When it comes to watching a video in ultra-high definition or 4K, you’ll need a very robust internet service plan that offers at least 25 Mbps download speeds. If internet plans with such high speeds are not available to you, you can change the video settings to adjust the video quality to SD or HD if Ultra-HD or 4K consume too much bandwidth.
Unlimited Bandwidth vs Data Caps
Data caps are a limit that an internet service provider places on internet usage. These caps are intended to discourage excessive use by “throttling” (limiting) the amount of data you can transfer online. A data cap of 1 terabyte (TB) usually is not problematic for most users. That is enough data for you to binge 99+ hours of Netflix in high definition (HD) three times in a month. One hour of video streaming can use up to 3 GB of data in standard definition (SD) or high definition (HD) (4k video streaming uses roughly 7 to 14 GB of data per hour).
However, some internet service plans have data caps at lower levels that can be problematic. What’s worse is that you can get charged extra for going over your data cap if you are not careful. Unlimited bandwidth internet plans are internet service plans that do not have data caps and will not throttle your internet speed. Be very careful when choosing plans because an ISP may advertise that they provide unlimited bandwidth, but it may not apply to all of their internet service plans!
Latency vs Internet Bandwidth
To determine what you need in an internet service plan, you need to consider your habits for downloading, uploading, streaming, and overall internet bandwidth use. We’ve talked about speeds and bandwidth, but you should also be aware of a factor called latency. Latency is a delay in data transfer that impacts online gaming and streaming. If you have a lot of latency, it may take videos a long time to buffer or take a long time for web pages to load. In addition to your use habits, you’ll need to consider the number of people and the number of devices in your household as well. The more simultaneous internet users there are in your household, the more capacity your plan may need (and the more latency may be an issue).
Causes of Latency
- Satellite internet where the signal needs to travel a long distance
- “Oversubscribed” DSL internet where too many subscribers in a particular area using the internet at the same time
- Too many simultaneous internet users in a household at the same time (may be fixed by increasing service tier)
- Connecting to the internet via WiFi instead of direct connection to the router via ethernet cable
What Types of Internet Service are Available?
You’ll notice that the main difference between all of the different types of internet service is mainly in how they move data. Some work through phone lines, others through cable lines, satellites, or communications towers. Each type of internet has its pros and cons, but not all types are available in all locations.
Dial-Up Internet Service
Dial-up is old fashioned internet that works via phone lines. It is not in current use except in very rare circumstances. Dial-up internet is very slow and should only be used as a last resort.
Broadband Internet Service
Broadband internet generally refers to any high-speed internet access that is always on and faster than dial-up access. The FCC requires it to have at least 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed (Mbps means Megabits per second). Wireless Internet, DSL, Cable, Satellite, and Fiber-Optic Internet are all types of internet services that are capable of offering broadband internet services. Whether you actually get “broadband” speeds from the “broadband” company depends on the actual service plan you select.
The Webformix Super Power User plan is considered to be broadband, but our more popular plans are not “broadband” even though they run on the same infrastructure.
DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) Internet
DSL can be delivered simultaneously with wired telephone service on the same telephone line since DSL uses higher frequency bands for data. With DSL, a DSL modem is hooked up to a phone line which the phone company connects to a DSLAM (concentrates customers). The customer needs to be located within range of the DSLAM which usually encompasses a few residential blocks. DSL can be available in rural locations, but the farther you are from the DSLAM, the slower your speeds will be regardless of the plan you select. You may also experience latency issues if the DSL company does not have enough bandwidth to accommodate all of its users at peak usage times.
Cable Internet Service
Cable internet is a form of broadband internet access. It uses the same infrastructure as cable television and is usually integrated into the cable television infrastructure. It works in a similar way to DSL but has the potential for faster speeds. The main difference between DSL and cable internet is that DSL connects to a phone line. Since fewer people have landlines, cable internet is available through your cable connection (coaxial cable).
Fiber-Optic Internet Service
Fiber-optic internet, or “fiber,” is one of the newest advances in internet technology. Simply put, it is super fast! Fiber internet is unique because it transmits information in the form of light rather than electricity. Unfortunately, availability is limited.
Satellite Internet Service
Satellite internet is an option mainly used for rural areas. While some satellite internet services are capable of “broadband” speeds, there may be issues with latency (delay in information transfer). To get the internet to your location, signals are sent to satellites in space. Then the signal returns to you via a satellite dish at your location. Satellite internet can be faster than DSL, but cable internet and wireless internet are generally faster than satellite since no space travel is needed.
Fixed Wireless Internet Service
This is where Webformix comes in! Wireless internet service utilizes communications towers. It can also be called “fixed wireless internet,” or “wireless broadband” and is abbreviated as “WISP.” Wireless internet is an option for rural locations and small towns. The only catch is that you need to have a line of sight to the location of the communications tower the WISP is established at. Wireless internet speeds are comparable to other broadband services. Many fixed wireless internet companies are small local businesses as well, so by using their services you are supporting your local community.
Mobile Wireless Internet
Large cell phone companies do also offer mobile wireless internet. Unlike fixed wireless internet, mobile wireless uses portable hubs. They can be somewhat spendy and do not always have the most dependable and fast performance. Quality and consistency are better with fixed wireless internet service.
5G Wireless Internet Service
If you have seen companies offering “5G Wireless Internet,” be careful to get the specifics. 5G is short for 5th generation LTE technology, but some unscrupulous companies will use the term for 5 GHz (radio frequency). Cell phone companies may offer 5G mobile wireless internet, and it is possible to get 5G fixed wireless internet. However, 5G fixed wireless internet is not common currently.
Specifically, there is no 5G internet service or cell service in Bend, OR, or Grants Pass, OR at this time. Hypothetically, a company could put up their own 5G tower in the area, but that would be cost-prohibitive. Be sure to ask what exactly internet companies mean by “5G,” check to see if there are actually any 5G towers in your area, and see who is authorized to operate on those communications towers.
Deciding on an Internet Plan
If you are having a hard time deciding on your options, the first thing to do is find out the type of internet services offered to your location. Next, you can note how many people will be using the internet, how many devices will be used at the location, and what type of uses (gaming, streaming, telecommuting). With that information, you will be well prepared to call up the internet service providers and compare what they have to offer you.