The onset of coronavirus in early 2020 made social distancing necessary. To keep business continuous, many companies had their employees work from home. All over the country, people upgraded their home Internet plans to accommodate services such as video conferencing and office devices connected to home networks.
As office buildings reopen, employees who have been working from home may wonder if they should keep their work-from-home Internet service. How important is Internet speed? Will you need the same speed at home when you return to the office?
When we talk about Internet speed, what we are really talking about is bandwidth. This is how wide the transmission signal is for your Internet connection. Thus, when you see a figure such as 25 Mbps, 100 Mbps, or 1,000 Mbps (also known as 1 Gigabyte), this refers to how much data is able to be transferred per second.
More bandwidth can make it seem like web pages are running at faster speeds, but actually, it’s that the data has more room to move. The more data that’s moved at once, the faster web pages load. When upload and download speeds are comparable, interactive programs, such as online games or video calls, become more efficient.
Bandwidth is also important for smart homes. There are so many devices that rely on WiFi connections that it’s easy to forget which ones are in the house. Devices as varied as printers, tablets, lightbulbs, and thermostats use tiny bits of bandwidth to make your home more convenient and efficient. Some devices even use larger amounts because they store information, like doorbell cameras. All of it adds up and can make your Internet seem slow.
Going back to the office doesn’t have to mean slowing your home Internet speed. In fact, one thing social distancing showed us all was how useful the Internet actually is. It kept people together, ensured students could continue school, and provided hours of entertainment when people couldn’t go to the movies or other venues. These activities require the same type of speed that one might need to upload large files or have video conferences with an employer.
The Internet itself is getting more sophisticated every day. Web pages are becoming more complex, incorporating video and interactive coding. Streaming services are increasing the definition of the video they show, with 4K rapidly becoming the norm.
More devices are also being made “smart.” Television sets can be talked to, and refrigerators can get online to order food when you run out. Millions of people are also able to monitor their children and pets from anywhere with WiFi as a result of cameras and toys that allow interaction. People with medical conditions can also be connected to health aides and doctors for faster response in case of emergency.
It cannot be stated enough that as more items rely on WiFi, homes will need more bandwidth to support them. Even small amounts of bandwidth can add up, and more smart home products and services emerge with every new appliance or device. Having room in your home network for more smart devices isn’t just an indulgence anymore; it’s a necessity.
Online jobs have been blossoming for over a decade, and no small part of that has been due to improvements in bandwidth capabilities that have widened the number of occupations that can primarily use the Internet to operate.
For some people, going back to work means returning to a part-time job or a hybrid job that divides time at the office with remote work. A few offices took the opportunity to close almost entirely, reducing office space to human resources and other essential jobs, allowing the rest of the workforce to work from home. This has cut costs for many businesses in the form of reduced utilities and rent.
It has also created numerous work-from-home jobs that were previously located in offices. A variety of jobs—from customer service and tech support to marketing, finance and insurance—have become almost entirely remote. This makes jobs available to people who need flexible schedules or have situations that prohibit leaving home for work. It also means workers returning to brick-and-mortar businesses still have opportunities to work online.
For students, the 2020 school year ended online. Apps like Zoom and Blackboard were already helping college students take classes online, but their potential took off during the coronavirus pandemic. The value of online classes was especially noticeable since social distancing meant people had a lot of time on their hands. It wasn’t just the kids who were learning and self-improving during 2020.
Online classes almost always include file uploads. Some also have video lectures, video conferences, and other multimedia presentations. These compare to the conferences one would have when working from home as well as the upload of project files to supervisors and collaborators. Some online classes don’t even have formal meetings, so if you work full time, you can take your classes while cooking dinner.
The Internet was long viewed as mostly for entertainment because there are a lot of fun things to do online, but a lot of the devices that use WiFi also use your bandwidth.
Streaming and video are the most intensive uses of bandwidth, requiring larger chunks of data so your video is continuous. Interruptions in data flow during a video cause it to freeze or lag. Many television sets and cable services connect to the Internet so they can accept smart commands or download updates.
TVs, cable services, and personal computers are also increasingly being used for online streaming services. As more streaming services emerge, the formats they use are more detailed, giving viewers a clearer picture. Sports streams show almost exclusively in 4K because the fine resolution makes following the action seem like the viewer is in the stands.
Video games are also a common use for the Internet. While cell phones and tablets have small game apps, personal computers, laptops, and gaming consoles have games that might be gigabytes in size and have downloadable content released regularly. To play with people from around the world, many gamers also use communications apps, which allow them to talk online as though on a phone call. Some gamers even stream their play so others can watch.
Even for people returning to brick-and-mortar jobs, maintaining work-from-home speeds is an investment in the future. Fast, reliable broadband provides so many opportunities for the entire family that it pays for itself. When a single service can bring entertainment, convenience, education, security, and safety, it’s easy to budget for the best.