Categories: Internet


Why is your internet so slow? The potential reason behind it could be network strain.

Why is your internet so slow? The potential reason behind it could be network strain.

As online technology advances, you may encounter difficulties keeping up with your internet speed. Today’s internet faces two challenges; the first is the increase in the number of internet-connected devices in average households or businesses. Security systems, smart appliances, thermostats, and streaming devices are all connected to the same network as your gaming console and laptop. The current trend of working from home, which continues beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, is also a factor, especially in rural areas.

Secondly, data-intensive technologies such as 4K streaming, virtual reality (VR), and video conferencing demand high-speed connections and substantial bandwidth.

Internet speed is typically quantified in kilobits and megabits per second (Kbps and Mbps). According to the FCC, a minimum speed of 3 Mbps for uploads and 25 Mbps for downloads is recommended for “high-speed internet services.” A 3 Mbps upload speed suffices for basic work-related tasks like video calls, document uploads, and email checks, and it’s even suitable for basic online gaming. However, newer technologies such as VR applications may necessitate download speeds of up to 50 Mbps, while 4K movies require at least 25 Mbps.

The influx of data from numerous connected devices and data-heavy technologies can not only slow down your home internet but also strain the broader network, leading to sluggishness even for users who aren’t directly contributing to the problem.

What affects network speed and bandwidth?

The primary causes of network strain stem from emerging digital technologies that demand significant data usage. As these technologies become increasingly prevalent, they exert additional pressure on the existing network infrastructure. Below are some of the main contributors.

Streaming video

With the increasing shift towards internet-based streaming over traditional DVD, cable, or broadcast TV, there’s a growing demand for bandwidth. However, not all video streaming necessitates a high-speed connection.



According to Consumer Reports, a standard-definition (SD) stream requires a connection speed of 1 Mbps, while high-definition (HD) videos are more data-intensive, requiring 8 Mbps. For 4K streaming, which is now widely offered by major services like Amazon and Netflix, download speeds of 18 to 25 Mbps are necessary.

Streaming poses challenges particularly when multiple devices are concurrently active on the same network. For instance, if you’re streaming a live event while your spouse is watching a video and your children are gaming online, it can strain your network even if your internet speed is above average. If similar scenarios unfold across households within the broader network, it could potentially slow down the entire system provided by the internet service provider.

VR technology

Cutting-edge technologies such as virtual reality (VR) consume even more data compared to top-quality video streams. Even a basic VR system requires a download speed of 25 Mbps, equivalent to the demands of the finest 4K video stream. These data requirements pertain to the type of VR headsets currently available to consumers.

For enhanced visual clarity in VR experiences, download speeds of up to 100 Mbps may be necessary, while the most immersive VR encounters can demand over 600 Mbps.

Such speed prerequisites pose substantial challenges to home internet networks. With projections indicating a 15% annual increase in VR technology usage over the next decade, internet service providers could encounter difficulties managing the escalating demand on their existing networks.

Addressing this issue may entail measures by ISPs to augment bandwidth capacity. Simultaneously, developers of VR technology must explore methods to reduce the data demands of their devices.

Additionally, connectivity remains a crucial concern—stable and reliable network connectivity is imperative for VR operation. While home Wi-Fi connections may suffer from network strain or outdated routers, leading to connectivity issues and dropped data packets, cellular coverage tends to offer more stability and reliability. Consequently, VR users might consider connecting their devices via Bluetooth to a smartphone equipped with a high-speed unlimited data plan, ensuring a smoother VR experience.

Online gaming

Online gaming presents unique challenges as it demands continuous data transfers to gaming platforms that must respond in real-time to the player’s actions. Gaming consoles are generally modest in their speed requirements. To play most console games online, a minimum download speed of 3 Mbps is sufficient. However, speeds below 20 Mbps may result in issues such as input lag—delay between control inputs and on-screen movements.

Moreover, game consoles can consume substantial data with large game files or updates, potentially monopolizing your internet network during downloads.
The primary concern with online gaming arises when sharing a network with others engaged in data-intensive activities.

Remote working

Remote work can strain internet networks in various ways. Essential tools like video conferencing, file sharing, and cloud-based software are vital for home offices, often requiring high-speed connections. For instance, video conferencing platforms may necessitate speeds of up to 5 Mbps or more, depending on factors like the chosen application, meeting size, and network congestion.
Additionally, many professional software systems now operate in the cloud, enhancing collaboration and alleviating local memory concerns. However, uploading large files or data collections to the cloud can lead to bandwidth issues.

Meanwhile, enterprises must handle the increased traffic from remote workers while also utilizing bandwidth for security systems and other essential functions.

Impact of network strain on a home internet connection

The strain on your home network can stem from limitations in your modem and router, as they may struggle to cope with the data demands. Typically, these devices are designed to handle the data volume and speeds provided by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). Some ISPs may mandate the use of their own modems and routers or approved third-party equipment. However, engaging in high-bandwidth activities or having numerous internet-connected devices can overwhelm the router and modem, resulting in slower speeds than usual. In some instances, devices may even be disconnected from the network or encounter difficulty reconnecting.

How to improve bandwidth and minimizing network strain:

There are various methods to alleviate strain on your home network:

  1. Adjust picture quality settings on your devices or streaming accounts. By manually disabling 4K streaming when unnecessary, you can significantly reduce bandwidth usage.
  2. Implement maximum upload and download rates on your devices. While this might slightly impact picture quality or lengthen transfer times, the difference is often negligible compared to the significant bandwidth savings.
  3. Disconnect embedded systems from your network. While home security systems are essential, connected appliances like smart refrigerators can consume bandwidth without providing significant convenience.
  4. Consider upgrading to a faster service from your internet service provider (ISP). Although faster services typically come with a higher cost, it may be worthwhile if you’re experiencing issues due to network strain.

Addressing network strain requires ongoing attention, but implementing these simple measures can help maintain the efficiency of your home network.