A 100Mbps Internet Connection May Not Be Enough For You
Our recent iMoney Broadband survey showed that majority of Malaysians opted for a 100Mbps home broadband plan. This is a reasonable choice, as it offers the best balance between download speed and price.
There is no question that a 100Mbps line is more than enough to cater to a household’s internet needs; be it watching YouTube, playing games, or just browsing social media.
However, this may not be true over the next few months. We are starting to demand more and more from our internet bandwidth. Content streaming is moving towards more video in Ultra High Definition (UHD) or 4K resolution. Games are becoming larger and larger, taking a long time to download.
Streaming content is putting a massive strain on the internet’s capabilities. Image quality is constantly improving, and people are demanding higher resolutions from their videos. After all, YouTube already allows content creators to upload videos in 8K (a resolution that few can even watch due to a lack of 8K displays).
Netflix (and its competitors) are also gaining a lot of traction here in Malaysia. Like YouTube, its content is always better viewed in higher resolutions. The following table is a breakdown of Netflix’s recommended internet speed for watching movies.
- 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
- 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality
This doesn’t look like much. After all, HD quality is fine for most people and a 100Mbps connection is more than enough for this. You’ll only still be using five percent of your total bandwidth to watch your favourite K-drama in glorious 1080p.
However, the price of 4K displays is rapidly coming down. It’s not impossible to an Ultra HD quality television or monitor going for around RM1,000 online. A price that is reasonably affordable as a one-off purchase that will last several years.
In that case, there is no reason to be watching 720p content (Netflix doesn’t differentiate between HD and FHD) on a display that can produce an image five times sharper. But that’s fine, 25Mbps is still lower than the 100Mbps you already have.
But then, your movie streaming is not the only thing on this network.
Avid gamers face a similar situation with the explosion of digital distribution. People no longer need to walk out to a store to buy video games; instead getting everything over the internet. It’s just a matter of clicking on a few buttons and your game begins downloading.
Of course, there is the waiting time for the game to download; which varies depending on how much content there is. It could be a small 1GB and take only a matter of minutes. Or it could be that latest game everyone is talking about and is a whopping 80GB download that takes all day.
Calculating how long download takes is rather straightforward. One megabit (Mb) is equal to 0.125 megabytes (MB). This means that a 100Mbps connection could potentially download a maximum of 12.5MB per second. In other words, a 1GB (equal to 1,000MB) will take about 80 seconds.
Sounds fast right? But these are ideal conditions that only appear as theoretical absolute maximum speed that can be squeezed out.
Anyone that has done an internet speed test at home knows that they have never gotten 100% of the download speed from their broadband package subscription. This is not something to complain about, seeing that there are a number of factors that result in reduced speeds.
For example, most homes use wireless networks to keep all their devices connected. This introduces problems like signal strength and interference. Concrete walls are very good at blocking WiFi signals, and routers don’t always have the power to extend a signal to the whole house.
In fact, wireless connections tend to result in lower connection speeds than using a cable simply due to how physics works.
How much this affects your connection is not consistent. It depends on your individual circumstances, and possibly even how far you are from your internet exchange node.
Internet service providers generally promise a minimum constant speed of 90% of what you are paying for, as an average. However, due to the other factors outside their control, your mileage may vary. In general, you should check your setup if you are always seeing less than 90% of what you’re promised.
Thus far, we have assumed that you are only one person with one device using the internet at a time. Real world studies have shown that people tend to use multiple devices at once when consuming content. Doing things like watching movies while also scrolling the internet on their smartphones.
Majority of Malaysians don’t live alone either. This introduces more devices that will end up sitting on the same WiFi network.
Think of it this way, most people will own at least two internet capable devices: a smartphone and a computer. In an average household of four people, this means there will be at least eight devices demanding their share of the internet.
Basically, you could see that 100Mbps drop to 90Mbps due to technological limitations, then get divided up eight ways to everything on the network. How much bandwidth a device gets also depends on what it is trying to do (and its priority on the network), but let’s assume each gets an equal share of 11.25Mbps.
Now that 1GB download that would take 80 seconds takes 12 minutes, and that 60GB game now takes 12 hours!
If your connection dips for even a moment, you’ll end up facing your Netflix resolution dropping to standard 480p definition, or end up watching the buffering animation. And you’re not going to be watching anything in 4K unless you manage to get the house to yourself.
Is 100Mbps enough?
There is no doubt that a 100Mbps connection now is perfectly fine. After all, we survived on much, much less only a year ago.
What we are saying is that it may not be enough in the coming years. Gamers are becoming extremely familiar with the idea of a “day one” patch. This is when newly released games require additional downloaded content that can sometimes be several gigabytes in size.
Similarly, the demands of the internet are increasing. More content creators on YouTube are releasing higher resolution videos that demand more bandwidth. Netflix, and its’ competitors, are also encouraging more 4K content streaming.
The idea is that if you’re going to be locked into a 24-month home broadband contract, it had better be able to cater to your needs for the entire duration. So, while you think 100Mbps is enough now, you may not hold that opinion in another year.