When you set out to shop for Internet service, like anything else you rely on every day, it’s helpful to understand the basics of how it works. Take buying a new car for example—it’s hard to know if all those bells and whistles are really worth it if you don’t understand what they actually do. When it comes to Internet service, knowing some of the basic terminologies will help you make educated decisions and choose the best service for your household.
Here, we’ve broken down a few of the basic terms you’ll want to know.
If you’ve been looking into Internet plans, chances are you’ve read or heard a lot about speed. After all, who doesn’t want fast Internet, right? The key here is knowing what to look for and how to decipher the numbers so your Internet service will support the activities you plan to use it for.
Megabits: A unit to measure Internet speed. Megabits, sometimes referred to as “Mbps” (megabits per second), refers to the time it takes your Internet connection to complete a task such as loading a webpage, streaming a movie, watching video clips, or sharing photos or digital files. Generally speaking, the higher the megabits per second, the more capacity you have for uploading or downloading (more on this below) data to, or from, the Internet.
Each Internet activity has different speed requirements, so the best way to figure out the speed you need is to use our handy Internet speed calculator or get in touch with a Solarus Customer Service Representative who can recommend the best speed for your family’s usage.
Download vs. Upload Speeds
Now that you know megabits are simply a speed measurement, let’s talk about how Internet speeds take shape in practice. When comparing Internet providers, you might be tempted to go with the company promoting the highest speed for the lowest price. But, here’s where it can get a little tricky. That speed you see in their advertisements is likely just a download speed. To ensure you get the best experience for your money, you need to consider both download and upload speeds. Both are measured in megabits per second; however, each supports different online activity.
Download speed is the rate at which data is transferred from the Internet to your computer or devices – like when you’re surfing the web or streaming Netflix. Upload speed, on the other hand, is the rate at which data is transferred from your device to the Internet.
Most providers promote their download speeds because, in all honesty, you are likely to download more often than you upload to the Internet. Many of us are predominately Internet consumers (browsing, online shopping, streaming tv). But, more and more, and especially in today’s “work and learn from home” applications, we’re all contributing to the Internet, too. Every time you share a photo to Facebook, send a file to a coworker, or participate in a Zoom, Skype or Teams call, you’re uploading data to the Internet.
It’s easy to see that data travels both ways and why both download and upload speeds should be considered when you’re choosing a plan. At Solarus, we’ll work with you to understand how the people in your home use the Internet, and help you to choose a plan that will ensure a quality experience, no matter what you’re doing.
Even the fastest car in the world would be limited by the road it’s traveling on. Not that you’d ever want to, but driving a Bugatti down a dusty dirt road would be entirely different than cruising down a wide-open superhighway. Internet performance is somewhat similar. Even if you invest in the fastest computer or the highest speed package you can afford, your overall experience will only be as good as the technology it’s riding over.
While there are a handful of Internet delivery methods, fiber-optic Internet is the reigning gold standard. Unlike phone lines (DSL) or coaxial cable which transfer data over copper wires using electricity, fiber transmits data by sending pulses of light over thin glass strands, or “fibers”. These light pulses carry binary data that makes up everything we see on the Internet, even the words you are reading right now. This complex technology enables data to be transmitted much faster and over much greater distances without any degradation. Fiber is fast enough to keep up with even the heaviest Internet use. It can support all your computers, tablets, gaming consoles, streaming devices, smart home technology and pretty much anything else you want to connect.
In addition to being faster, fiber is widely considered to be more reliable. It is immune to many of the environmental conditions that have a tendency to disrupt cable Internet and it’s delivered on a dedicated line to your home, which means you won’t feel any slowing during peak usage times. It’s also the only technology that enables equal (symmetrical) upload/download speeds.
When it’s available, fiber Internet is the obvious choice for both homes and businesses. That being said, building a fiber network is a fairly complex process that takes significant time and resources. For that reason, fiber is not widely available in many parts of the country.
Fortunately, Solarus has been investing in fiber deployment for over a decade. Today, over 70% of Wisconsin Rapids and surrounding areas are fiber-ready. Each year, during the construction season, we continue to upgrade older facilities and expand our fiber services even further.
A router is a device that enables you to connect multiple devices to your Internet service at the same time. It essentially works to direct (or route) traffic in the most efficient way. While routers come in both wired and wireless varieties, a wireless router houses the Wi-Fi technology that enables wireless connectivity.
While many people often use the terms Wi-Fi and Internet interchangeably, Wi-Fi is not the Internet. Wi-Fi is a technology that uses radio waves to create a wireless connection between the Internet and your device. It also provides access to your local network of connected devices, so you can send files to your printer or watch video feed from your Nest camera without being physically connected to them.
In today’s digitally connected environment, we understand the importance of wireless connectivity. Whole-Home Wi-Fi is included with Solarus Internet service, for FREE! After all, what’s the point of going wireless, if you have to sit next to, or on top of, your router to get a good connection? During installation, our technician will test various areas of your home to ensure connectivity. If you find there’s an area of your home where your Internet doesn’t perform well, we’re happy to come out and troubleshoot for you.
Ready to Choose an Internet Package and Provider?
While we don’t expect you to be Internet experts now (that’s what we’re here for), we hope this basic introduction will help you to feel more comfortable comparing Internet providers. If all of this still seems overwhelming or you’d like our help finding the Internet speed that’s right for you, we’re happy to help! Our Customer Service Representatives can walk you through the various speeds available in your area and help you determine which will work best for you. Learn more about what to look for in an Internet Service Provider, browse Internet plans, or contact us to get started!