While FCC defines 25 Mbps as the benchmark speed for broadband internet and basically says that 25 Mbps is the download speed that differentiates ‘’good’’ from ‘’bad’’ internet, many people would not agree. In this article, we will try to answer the question from the title and see how fast 25 Mbps actually is. Is it good for 4K streaming or online gaming? What about Zoom and Skype calls? Is it enough for a family of three or four? Read this article, and find out if 25 Mbps is good enough for you.
Basic Internet Speed Terminology
To get a better understanding of internet speeds in general and decide what’s good enough for you, you need to know a few basic things about the internet. We will explain the differences between bandwidth, speed, and throughput, tell you how they are measured, and analyze the advantages and speeds that various internet connection types deliver. We will also tell you a few words about internet coverage, average speeds, and internet prices in the US.
Difference Between Bandwidth, Throughput, and Speed
There’s a lot of confusion when it comes to speed and bandwidth. These terms are used interchangeably by many people. Even ISPs tend to use terms like “speed” or “faster” when actually talking about bandwidth. Let’s keep it simple.
Bandwidth is the measure of your internet connection capacity. More precisely, bandwidth tells you the max capacity or the max amount of data that your internet can handle per unit of time. It’s measured in Megabits per second (Mbps).
So, when you say that your internet plan has 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, you are talking about your connection bandwidth. You are not talking about speeds.
Throughput is very closely related to bandwidth. It’s also measured in Mbps, but it’s a more realistic measure of your internet connection capacity. It tells you the real-life connection capacity, not the max capacity. Your throughput doesn’t have to match your bandwidth. Ideally, they will match, but what’s ideal in life. Usually, throughput will be slightly lower than bandwidth.
We use terms speed, faster, and slower when talking about internet connection much more often than bandwidth and throughput, even though we are actually referring to bandwidth and throughput. And that’s not a problem. At least, not in everyday informal conversation.
Bandwidth and speed explained
So, now you know that speed is not the same thing as bandwidth. But what is internet speed? Speed, in terms of internet connection, is the measure of the responsiveness of your internet connection. It’s basically latency. It tells you how fast your internet connection communicates with the servers. If it takes longer for a webpage to start loading, the connection is slower. If the webpage starts loading the moment you hit ENTER, your internet connection is fast. In other words, if your latency is low, the internet connection is fast.
Bandwidth VS Latency
Difference Between Mbps and MB/sec (or MBps)
Mbps and MBps are both used to measure data rates, but they are not the same units. Mbps stands for Megabits per second, and MBps or MB/sec stands for Megabytes per second. The formula is simple: MBps = Mpbs x 8 (because one byte has eight bits).
Mbps are used to measure internet bandwidth (or speeds, if you want). You can see this unit when doing an internet speed test or when looking for the best internet plan for your needs. In our title, Mbps stands next to the number 25 because that’s how ISPs advertise their plans. Instead of 25 Mbps, we could also say 3.125 MB/sec (28/8).
When downloading files or when transferring files, data rates will be expressed in MB/sec, not in Mbps.
Types of Internet Connection
Internet connection type determines the max speeds you can get, as well as other characteristics of your connection (like latency).
There are six types of internet connection (excluding mobile internet), five of which are used are currently in use. Those connection types are:
- Fixed wireless
- BPL (Broadband over Powerlines)
Cable and fiber are the most desirable broadband connections because they offer the best experience and the highest speeds. The advantages of fiber internet over cable are much higher upload speeds (up to 1 Gbps) and lower latency.
What 25 Mbps over fiber looks like
In areas where cable and fiber internet infrastructure don’t exist, people usually get to choose between DSL and fixed wireless. These two connection types offer significantly lower speeds and usually higher latency than cable and fiber. Depending on the quality of your infrastructure, you may get a different kind of DSL (ADSL, ADSL2, ADSL2+, SDSL, VDSL, VDSL2). All these different types of DSL offer different max speeds. In some cases, they will be symmetrical. In other cases, they will be more or less asymmetrical. Depending on the type of available DSL connection, fixed wireless could be a better choice in certain scenarios.
What 25 Mbps over VDSL looks like
In places where there’s no DSL or fixed wireless internet, the only option left is satellite. Satellite internet is the least popular option, and it’s not just because of low speeds – it’s much more because of reliability issues, high latency, and high price.
What is Broadband Internet?
You may think that having any kind of internet access counts as having broadband internet, but that’s not the case. FCC is the institution that defines broadband internet by defining the benchmark speeds for broadband internet.
The current definition of broadband internet is 6 years old. It defines broadband internet as any internet connection that provides download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. The previous definition of broadband internet, before 2015, had much lower benchmark speeds – just 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
FCC still thinks that the current benchmark speeds meet the definition of advanced telecommunication capabilities. So, the definition is still in effect.
Broadband Internet Coverage in the US
While 25 Mbps doesn’t seem like much to people living in cities and suburban areas with good internet infrastructure, people in rural America often have to use the internet at speeds that are much lower than the FCC benchmark speeds. In some places, the best plan you can get is just 10 Mbps or 12 Mbps. Believe it or not, there are people in the US that are subscribed to speeds like 5 Mbps or even 3 Mbps. But let’s not get too pessimistic too fast.
According to the FCC Broadband Deployment Report, a large percentage of US citizens have access to broadband internet. This report states that 95.6% of people have access to 25/3 Mbps or higher speeds. The report was issued in January 2021, but the data is from 2019. It’s fair to assume that the situation has improved over the course of two years. So, back in 2019, only 4.4% of people didn’t have access to broadband speeds. 4.4% doesn’t sound like a lot, but that’s more than 14 million people. The situation is, expectedly, worse in rural areas where 17.3% of people don’t have access to broadband speeds.
The same report states that only 2.2% of people (which is more than 7 million people) don’t have access to 10/1 Mbps. Again, the situation is worse in rural areas where 7.5% don’t have access to speeds higher than 10/1 (or don’t have internet access at all).
The fact that someone has access to broadband speeds doesn’t mean that he/she is subscribed to a plan that includes 25/3 Mbps or higher speeds. In November 2019, Microsoft published its own research about broadband internet availability and usage. We can easily compare the findings from the FCC report and from this research because they are both based on data from 2019. This research shows that even though FCC states that only 14.4 million people in the US don’t have access to broadband speeds, much more people use the internet at speeds lower than 25/3. 157.3 million people, to be precise.
We are all aware that the situation is probably better now since the usage of the internet has increased significantly over the past two years, mostly due to the pandemic and all the changes in our lifestyle. We can only assume that much more people in the US now use the internet at speeds higher than 25/3 Mbps.
Reasons for poor broadband internet coverage in rural America
Average Internet Speeds in the US
Average speeds in the US are growing constantly since 2007. The growth was moderate at first, at least from today’s perspective, but the speeds in the US have “exploded” with the introduction of fiber and 1Gig cable plans.
From 2007 to 2017, the average internet speed in the US increased from 4.7 Mbps to 18.7 Mbps.
In just 3-4 years, the average internet speeds in the US raised to 99.3 Mbps, according to highspeedinternet.com. If you consult other sources, like one of the most popular internet speed tests in the world – Ookla Speedtest, you will see even higher average speeds (203.8 Down and 73.9 Up). The median speeds by states published in the same report show a bit more realistic picture. These speeds vary from 51.4 Mbps in Wyoming to 158.2 Mbps in New Jersey. Still, all these speeds are much higher than broadband benchmark speeds.
Average speeds in the US in September 2021 (source – Ookla speedtest)
All these results tell us that the average speeds are going up rapidly and that most people use internet at speeds higher than 25 Mbps. But that still doesn’t change the fact that there are millions of people all over the US that still use internet at speeds much lower than 25/3. One research from satelliteinternet.com shows that there are still areas in the rural US where average speeds are lower than 10 Mbps.
Internet prices in America
Compared to internet prices in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, the US has very high internet prices, higher than other developed countries like Germany, Norway, Denmark, or Switzerland. The internet is more expensive in the US than in Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and China. It’s not the most expensive in the world, but the price of the internet is still one of the most important reasons why we don’t use it at much higher speeds.
Internet in the US is, generally speaking, more expensive in rural areas than in cities and suburban areas with good internet infrastructure. It’s particularly expensive when you consider the price per 1 Mbps. If you live in a rural area with poor DSL infrastructure you will have to pay the same amount of money for 10 Mbps as someone living in a city pays for 100 Mbps fiber connection.
AT&T users living in rural areas, for example, have to pay $45/month for any DSL plan between 10 and 100 Mbps. What they are going to get depends on the quality of infrastructure. On the other hand, AT&T customers subscribed to fiber can get 500 Mbps for $45/month.
One of the reasons why people in rural areas are forced to pay more is poor internet infrastructure. ISPs have to invest more in infrastructure and, consequently, people living there have to pay more. But that’s not the only reason. It’s probably not even the main reason. The problem with rural areas is the lack of competition. ISPs don’t see any interest in expanding their services to rural areas because there are not enough potential customers there.
Why is internet in the US so expensive and so slow
Speed Recommendations for Different Online Activities
To find out what you can and cannot do with 25 Mbps, we consulted some reliable sources and took a closer look at their recommended speeds for all kinds of online activities. We will start, again, with the FCC recommendations.
In the Speed Guide published by the FCC, you can find the required min speeds (per device) for all the usual online activities, starting with basic things like email checking and social media. According to this guide, you shouldn’t have problems doing any online activity with 25 Mbps. But you can’t do two demanding activities at once. For example, you can’t watch 4K videos on two devices at once. Also, you can’t watch a movie in 4K on Netflix and download some large files for work. When it comes to bandwidth-demanding activities, you can only do one at a time.
FCC also published a Household Broadband Guide. This document is supposed to help you determine what kind of plan you need for your household, but we don’t think it’s very helpful. FCC simplified things a bit too much. They created three internet use profiles (light, moderate, and high) and assumed that there are only up to 4 connected devices (or users) at a time. According to their table, 25 Mbps is enough for a household with up to 4 devices (of 4 simultaneous users) if the internet use is light. It’s also good enough for a household with up to 3 simultaneously connected and used devices if the use is moderate, and it’s enough for one device if the use is high.
The problem with this assessment is the number of connected devices. FCC assumes that the max number of simultaneously connected devices in our households is 4. The average number of connected devices in US households in 2020, according to Statista, was 10.37. In an average US household, you have at least two phones, two computers, at least one tablet, and one TV. Smart speakers, smartwatches, video game consoles, and TV boxes are also quite common. So, the number of devices simultaneously connected to our wi-fi is much bigger than 4. They don’t all require high bandwidth, but they still require some bandwidth to work, even if they are not actively used. Some other sources claim that the average number of connected devices in US households in 2021 is 25.
If you ask us, 25 Mbps is good enough for one or two persons and up to 4 devices, but that doesn’t mean that you can do whatever you want on all four devices at the same time. In some cases (like when watching 4K movies on Netflix), you can’t even use two devices at the same time. Even a simple activity like email checking could cause buffering or image degradation if you are streaming Netflix videos in 4K. Still, we don’t think that 25 Mbps is the worst thing that could happen to you. There are areas in the US where people can’t get more than 3 Mbps or 5 Mbps.
Let’s now check out some popular streaming services (music and video) and see what services you can use with 25 Mbps. If you need a quick answer – you can use them all but, depending on the audio/video quality, you may have to use only one at a time.
Audio streaming doesn’t require too much bandwidth. Some audio streaming services offer Hi-Res audio streaming and have a bit higher bandwidth demands (TIDAL, Apple Music, Amazon Music), but even those services are not a problem. 25 Mbps can handle Hi-Res audio streaming. Other popular services, like Spotify and Deezer, have fairly low requirements, so you can stream music on multiple devices simultaneously with 25 Mbps.
Video streaming is significantly more demanding than audio streaming, especially if you are aiming high. But even HD or 4K streaming should not be a problem with 25 Mbps.
YouTube is, by far, the most popular streaming platform in the world and in the US. It doesn’t have too high requirements for 4K streaming – you need 20 Mbps. So, you should easily watch 4K videos on YouTube with 25 Mbps.
Netflix offers streaming in SD (720p), HD (1080p), and 4K. It demands 25 Mbps for 4K streaming, which means that you’re going to need your entire bandwidth if you want to watch videos in 4K, and you mustn’t do anything else while watching 4K videos on Netflix. If you, on the other hand, don’t have a 4K TV, you can limit your video quality to 1080p.
Amazon Prime Video requires less bandwidth than any other streaming platform, You will need only 15 Mbps for 4K video streaming. So, even if you stream in 4K, you will have some 10 Mbps left for other activities.
Hulu won’t put a strain on your internet connection – it requires just 16 Mbps for 4K streaming. So, you will have 8 Mbps for other activities.
Apple TV+ and Disney+ have the same requirements as Netflix. They only offer HD and 4K content. The min required speed for 4K streaming is 25 Mbps, while you need just 5 Mbps for HD streaming.
HBO GO, HBO Now, and HBO Max offer video streaming in HD only. There’s no 4K content on these platforms. You will need 5 Mbps for these services, so 25 Mbps should easily handle 4-5 simultaneous HBO streams.
With 25 Mbps, you can make all kinds of calls using popular services like Zoom and Skype. You can do 1-on-1 and group calls, and you can easily receive videos in HD.
Now, when it comes to the quality of video that you’re going to send, you need to check your upload speeds. If you are subscribed to fiber, you shouldn’t worry – with 25 Mbps upload, you can easily send video in HD. If you are using some other kind of connection, you may have problems sending video in HD. In most cases, whether you’re using DSL, cable, or fixed wireless, your upload speed will be at least 3 Mbps. That speed meets the min requirements for Zoom group calls in HD (3 Mbps) and exceeds Skype requirements for HD calls (1.5 Mbps upload).
Generally speaking, traditional online multiplayer gaming and online gaming on consoles don’t require too much bandwidth. FCC recommends 4 Mbps download for traditional multiplayer online gaming and 3 Mbps download for consoles. Some game consoles have even lower requirements (PS4 requires at least 2 Mbps).
Based on these recommendations, you would conclude that you can easily play online games with 25 Mbps. Even online gaming with 10 Mbps or 5 Mbps should work. But it’s not that simple. Online gaming is not just about download speeds. You also need some decent upload. Most importantly, you need low latency. Without low latency, you can’t play any game, even if your internet speed is much higher than 25 Mbps.
FCC doesn’t give recommendations for a relatively new type of gaming called cloud gaming. Cloud gaming services work in a similar way as video streaming platforms. The game is not rendered on your PC – it runs on a game server, and the video is sent to you. That’s why you need much higher download speeds for this kind of gaming. Below, you can see some of the most popular cloud gaming services and required speeds for 720p, 1080p, and 4K gaming (if available).
Is 25 Mbps Good Enough for You?
As you were able to see from this article, 25 Mbps is fast enough for many things, but not for doing multiple things on multiple connected devices at once, especially if the activities are bandwidth-demanding.
So, you can watch videos in 4K and you can play Stadia games, but not both things at the same time. But, theoretically, you can watch YouTube video in HD on one device (5 Mbps), play games online using your console (3-5 Mbps), and still have enough bandwidth left for other things. To conclude, 25 Mbps is not that bad. We always want more, but if you can’t get more than 25 Mbps, you can live with that kind of speed. You just need to organize your bandwidth use.
In the table below, you can see estimated download times for different file types and file sizes.
Q: Is 25 Mbps fast enough for Netflix?
A: Yes, 25 Mbps is good enough for Netflix, even if you want to watch in 4K. You can easily watch Netflix videos in SD (3 Mbps needed) or HD (5 Mbps needed). Small piece of advice – if you want to stream Netflix videos in 4K, it’s smarter to use wired connection since 25 Mbps is just bare minimum for 4K.
Q: Is 25 Mbps good for gaming?
A: Assuming that you have at least 1 or 2 Mbps upload and that your latency is low, the answer is yes. 25 Mbps is good for traditional multiplayer online gaming. It’s even good enough for cloud gaming, or at least for some platforms.
Q: Is 25 Mbps good or bad?
A: It’s both. As explained a few moments ago, you can do lots of things with 25 Mbps, but you can’t do them at once. You can’t download a large file and watch a 4K movie on Netflix at the same time.
Q: Is 25 Mbps good for working from home?
A: You should be fine with 25 Mbps. It’s fast enough for conference calls, and it can download files in a relatively short time (it takes less than 6min to download 1 GB).
Q: Is 25 Mbps good for Ps4?
A: Assuming that your upload speed is decent and that the latency is low, you can easily play PS4 games online with 25 Mbps.
Q: Is 25 Mbps good for zoom?
A: You need 3.8 Mbps download to receive Zoom calls in HD and 3 Mbps upload to send video in HD. If your plan is 25/3 Mbps, then you can easily make Zoom calls in HD. Even if your upload speed is lower, you can make Zoom calls, but you will send your video in 720p (1.2-1.8 Mbps) or HQ.
Q: What is considered good WIFI speed?
A: It depends on who you ask. FCC tells that 25/3 Mbps is the minimum speed that everyone should have access to. They don’t say that this is the min speed that can be considered good and that everything below 25/3 is considered bad, but that’s not far from the truth.
With 25 Mbps you can do any everyday activity you can think of. The only problem is that, depending on what you want to do, you may have to use only one device at a time, and all the other devices should be disconnected so that the entire bandwidth is dedicated to that one thing. That’s why we think that 25/3 Mbps is not really enough for an average household. In that case, our recommendation is 100/10 Mbps or even better 100/100 Mbps.
Hey, I’m Jeremy. I hold a bachelor’s degree in information systems, and I’m a certified network specialist. I worked for several internet providers in LA, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Seattle over the past 21 years.
I worked as a customer service operator, field technician, network engineer, and network specialist. During my career in networking, I’ve come across numerous modems, gateways, routers, and other networking hardware. I’ve installed network equipment, fixed it, designed and administrated networks, etc.
Networking is my passion, and I’m eager to share everything I know with you. On this website, you can read my modem and router reviews, as well as various how-to guides designed to help you solve your network problems. I want to liberate you from the fear that most users feel when they have to deal with modem and router settings.
My favorite free-time activities are gaming, movie-watching, and cooking. I also enjoy fishing, although I’m not good at it. What I’m good at is annoying David when we are fishing together. Apparently, you’re not supposed to talk or laugh while fishing – it scares the fishes.