Difference Between 3.0M and 5.0M High-Speed Internet

By Steve Lander

Faster connections enable you to go beyond simple Web browsing.
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Internet service providers frequently offer different levels of Internet service that are differentiated by their download speeds. A 3.0M Internet connection provides 3 megabits per second of data bandwidth while a 5.0M connection offers 5Mbps. While you can do more with a faster connection, you might not always need the extra speed.

Upload and Download Speeds

Depending on your Internet provider and the type of service it offers, your upload and download speeds may be different. Service advertised as 3.0M or 5.0M provides that much bandwidth on the down stream, but the upstream can vary. For example, one Missouri-based wireless provider offers 256Kbps of upstream bandwidth with its 3Mbps service and 384Kbps with its 5Mbps service. A DSL ISP in Florida offers 640Kbps upstream with its 3Mbps service and 768Kbps upstream with its 5Mbps service tier.

Cost Factors

Generally speaking, more bandwidth costs more money. The charge for upgrading from 3Mbps to 5Mbps can vary depending on your ISP, your contract and the type of service you use. However, assuming that you'll pay between $10 and $25 more per month for the faster service is a rule of thumb.

Typical File Sizes

If all that you download is simple documents, upgrading from 3Mbps to 5Mbps won't make a big difference. A 3Mbps connection can transfer a 50KB word processing file in roughly 0.13 seconds. The 5Mbps connection does it in 0.08 seconds. When you step up to a 4MB song file, though, the download times are 10.7 and 6.4 seconds. A 1.5GB movie takes 68 minutes on a 3Mbps connection and 41 minutes on a 5Mbps connection.

Typical Bandwidth Requirements

The speed of your Internet connection also affects your ability to stream data in real time. For example, according to Skype both 3Mbps and 5Mbps connections are more than fast enough for a one-on-one video call, and a group call with five people would work with a 3Mbps connection. A call with over seven people, though, requires at least 4Mbps of bandwidth, making it incompatible with a slower connection. While standard-definition video will work fine with either speed, a high-definition video from Netflix requires approximately 6.2Mbps of bandwidth, meaning that neither connection will be adequate to transfer HD video at its best quality. Hulu Plus requires 3.2Mbps of bandwidth for the best video quality, according to "Home Theater" magazine, so it also needs the 5Mbps connection.