Life in the WiFi fast lane: How internet speed works

Life in the WiFi fast lane: How internet speed works.

It's one of life's great mysteries. You plug in a little black box, wait with great anticipation while the light panel cycles from a flashing yellow to a solid green. You link your iPad, laptop, TV and smartphone to an invisible signal . . . and suddenly you have access to the whole world - even the universe and beyond for that matter - right in the comfort of your own home.

How Internet Speed Works

We are all familiar with an internet connection - you may even have a love hate relationship with it - but do you really understand how it works? And more importantly, do you know what determines the speed of your internet signal? Because more internet speed means more fun, right? 

Let’s take a closer look at this strange and sometimes puzzling invisible force that can have a direct impact on your ability to watch your favorite movies and shows, play online games with your friends, download and stream your favorite music, and even upload files for work from your home office..

Internet 101: a crash cyber course.

In the big scheme of things, the internet has only been around for a very short time - can you imagine life without it? But exactly what is it and how does it work?

Let’s go back in time to the late 1960s when the U.S. Department of Defense created a new network technology originally labeled the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET), with the purpose of connecting scientists and researchers across the country who were working on defense projects. Many of these scientists and researchers worked at universities and as more of these networks were integrated into the ARPANET system, the internet began to gain momentum.1 Pretty cool, huh?

So exactly how does this series of networks and signals work today? And how does it affect your internet service?

Let’s say you fire up your laptop and open the Google homepage. When you type in the web address of that page, your local router (remember the little black box with the flashing lights?) takes that request and forwards it to another router, and another router, and then another router (whew!) and so on until the request is ultimately transferred through one of a worldwide series of communication cables or through an extensive network of signal towers and satellites. Then after all of this, it finally lands with Google.2 

From there, the Google site sends you back a response signal that probably takes a different route through those communication cables on the way back but still arrives back to your home router, then back to your laptop. And, presto, your web page opens on your screen.3

Now, in the time it took you to read this explanation, you could have opened multiple pages, probably sent an email, and watched a YouTube video. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration, but as you are well aware, opening a web page just takes an instant. And when you think about everything involved in making that happen, it's truly mind blowing!

So this is all really awesome, but how does internet speed work?

Well okay, slow down for a second. Now that we understand the general concept behind sending, processing and receiving internet signals, let's move on to how internet speeds work.

You would think that you could track the speed on your home internet like you would in a car - so the faster your internet speed, the faster your internet works, right? Well, not exactly. Your internet speed is actually determined primarily by your internet bandwidth - that is, the capacity of data that can be sent through your router and internet network.

This bandwidth can be broken down and identified primarily through megabits per second (Mbps) and, with high-capacity internet networks gigabits per second (Gbps). So a number like 5 Mbps (5 megabits per second)  is an indicator of the bandwidth of your connection and ultimately this translates into how fast your internet is receiving and processing data, too.4

What do these numbers and bits really mean?

Typically, internet network broadband speeds are measured in megabits per second. So the higher number of Mbps you have typically translates into higher speeds and the faster your online experience should be. A higher number should translate into faster movie downloads and streaming (think Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime), web pages that load faster on your laptop, tablet and smartphone, and online gaming that is seamless and without interruption.

Internet Speed

To make this even more real, consider that the time to load a typical web page with:

1 Mbps = 0.8 seconds

2 Mbps = 0.4 seconds

4 Mbps = 0.1 seconds

6 Mbps = Instantly

Wait, let’s take this a step further:

100 Mbps – Great for busy households with multiple devices in use at the same time. 

200+ Mbps – Perfect for multi-device streaming of 4K UHD and music, plus multi-player gaming and large file downloading simultaneously on multiple devices

1 Gig – Ready to handle the latest technologies and heaviest network usage activities, including future technologies5

What’s the difference between high-speed internet and broadband?

The two references are actually connected in a way. Broadband started out as a term to describe high-speed communications and literally meant a bandwidth that is broad enough to handle tons of data, all at once. So basically, all high-speed internet service is built on some type of broadband technology.

Today, broadband has evolved into a word that means the fastest internet speeds available, and most internet service providers (ISPs) provide different levels of broadband service at different price points, depending on your and your family’s needs.6

If I choose one of the highest internet broadband speeds, I’m set – right?

  • In a perfect world, yes. In the real world, unfortunately not always. Even the highest broadband levels can be affected by such things as:
  • Heavy internet traffic during peak usage times of day
  • How many people and devices are accessing your home internet at the same time
  • Outside interference, such as a neighbor’s wireless internet signal
  • Home appliances, like your refrigerator or washing machine (crazy, right?)
  • A damaged router or other equipment issue

If you think your connection speed is slower than normal, it might be worth performing an internet speed test - you can find smartphone apps and online links for this. While broadband is not a fail-proof solution for staying connected to the internet and getting all of the cyber performance you need, it is generally a good investment for nearly all of your internet needs, and also offers solid download speeds and upload speeds.

Gig-Speed Internet: A Game Changer

As mentioned earlier, revolutionary gig-speed internet is one way to ensure that your 4K UHD, music streaming, multi-player interactive gaming and virtually everything else never comes to a crawl through your internet system. Just how fast is this relatively new technology? We’re talking about 1,000 Mbps here – or 1 million bits per second!7

Although gig-speed internet is not available everywhere in the U.S., it is available through Suddenlink, so be sure to ask us about it.  

The future of internet speed. 

Keeping you supplied with the internet bandwidth you need to handle both current and future technologies is a top priority for ISPs across the nation, and recent technology statistics are proof of this. A 2018 Ookla study found that average U.S. internet speeds are more than double the international average and this is due in large part to over $275 billion in infrastructure investment by cable ISPs.

Says Ookla: “High-speed internet and gigabit speeds are literally changing people's lives. Constant connectivity impacts the way everyone lives, works, learns and plays, which is why America's broadband networks are continually upgraded to meet consumers' digital needs.”8

Suddenlink helps you quench your need for internet speed.

With broadband and the best internet plan packages available to meet the specific needs of your household, Suddenlink is a leading resource for affordable and fast internet connections. So get ready for fast-paced, fiber-optic powered download speeds, upload speeds, and online gaming. And plan to stream the big game on your tablet, prepare to download that Netflix movie, and never miss an opportunity to scan the internet for the things you like most.

Internet speed should no longer be an issue in this day and age, and with Suddenlink you won't have to give it a second thought. That should be a comforting thought as laptops, tablets and smartphones continue to get faster and more comprehensive.

No matter what you want to do with your internet connection both now and tomorrow, we’ve got you covered with the technology you need for the fast-paced life you lead!

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