3 Mbps is almost as slow as it gets. Your online life would not be a lot of fun at this speed! Even general browsing would be pretty slow here, let alone downloading or streaming.
You’d be able to get away with a couple of internet processes but you’d be very limited. We’d know because we spent some time experimenting with this speed to find out what it can do.
So join us as we reveal the results of those experiments. Let’s get into it.
How Slow Actually is 3 Mbps?
Pretty slow… There are only five countries in the world right now with an average speed of 3 Mbps or less (Turkmenistan, Syria, Cuba, Yemen, and Afghanistan) . So if you’re not based in one of those locations, you should probably be able to do better.
Browsing the internet is going to take a lot longer than it should do at 3 Mbps. And that’s not the only issue. Here’s a breakdown of the kinds of things you would (or would not) be able to do at this speed [spoiler: it ain’t much].
It’s worth noting that the following information is based on principle. Realistically, a few other things will have an impact on the following numbers. These include device background processes, proximity to the router, and more.
So, the real numbers are likely to be even less than these. Yikes.
- 3 audio only Zoom calls
- 3 online gaming sessions
- 4 Spotify Premium streams
- 1 Netflix HD stream
- 3 days and 14 hours to download Gears of War 4 (117 GB)
Streaming on 3 Mbps
To find out what kind of streaming you’d be able to achieve, we looked at the two big players: Netflix and Spotify.
Netflix claims to support streaming on its standard definition plan at 1 Mbps . So in theory, this would mean you could stream three movies at the same time with 3 Mbps.
They also claim that the requirement for an HD (720p) stream is 3 Mbps. So there’s a chance that this would be possible under a 3 Mbps plan.
But we’re not so sure if either of these would be practical in real life. Our own tests showed that Netflix’s streaming requirements are actually a little higher than they claim, so you might need to kiss goodbye to HD at this speed.
The audio-only story doesn’t look much better. Spotify’s Premium subscription users will need a bandwidth of 0.64 Mbps to be able to access that quality . Based on that, you’d be able to stream four tracks simultaneously with 3 Mbps.
Gaming on 3 Mbps
One of the most demanding internet processes nowadays is gaming. Because of the quality of games these days, more bandwidth is needed than ever before. It’s estimated that you’ll need a minimum of 1 Mbps to game effectively  but some games will need more than this.
We technically need to look at a second figure here, upload speed. Because you will be uploading your own gaming actions to the server, this figure comes into play. Usually, the upload speed will be around one-tenth of your download speed. But under 10 Mbps, this doesn’t come into play.
So, we’ll assume that you could still get 3 Mbps here. Just bear in mind that this may not actually be the case in practice.
Based on this, you might just about be able to get away with three gaming sessions at 3 Mbps. But expect to encounter some lag, and make sure you switch off all other devices connected to the network.
Downloading on 3 Mbps
Gamers will also need to consider how long things will take to download when they pick their new internet plan. That’s because games are some of the largest files going, and downloading them at 3 Mbps will not be a fun experience.
Let’s take a look at Gears of War 4. This game is big, but it’s not even in the top 10 at 117 GB. But at 3 Mbps, it would take a mind-numbing 3 days and 14 hours to download. You could take a minibreak in another city only to come back and see it still downloading!
Video calls on 3 Mbps
Once again, we need to look at upload speed for video calls because you’ll be sharing your image and voice as well as streaming those of other people. So, take the 3 Mbps with a pinch of salt… it might not be quite as high as this with 3 Mbps.
If it is, you’ll just about be able to make a 720p HD Zoom call. The minimum requirement for this is 2.6 Mbps for a group call , but you will fall short of 1080p HD which demands 3.8 Mbps.
The min required upload speed for the standard definition is 1 Mbps (or 600 Kbps for a 1:1), so you will need at least this to be able to make a video call period. Otherwise, it’ll have to be audio-only.
3 Mbps Compared to Other Internet Speeds
In order to really understand the speed of 3 Mbps, it’s best to take a look at how some other speeds perform. Of course, 3 Mbps could be slower (slightly), but more importantly, it could be a heck of a lot faster. Here’s how.
1 Mbps Internet – The bottom of the barrel
If you’re stuck on 3 Mbps, at least that’s three times as fast as 1 Mbps… It’s not much of a consolation but consider how slow 1 Mbps is with us for a second.
You’d just about be able to get a single Spotify stream at this speed. Netflix says you’ll be able to stream in standard definition at 1 Mbps but we’re not so convinced that’s the case.
Browsing would be really slow on most web pages as well. So, you’re kind of out of luck at this speed. But the worst-looking number is the download speed times. Downloading Gears of War would take a miserable 10 days and 20 hours.
So if you’re planning on downloading that game at this speed then you’re going to need a pretty extensive list of things to do to keep yourself occupied while you wait…
50 Mbps – Enough for one or two people
One of the most common internet plans in most parts of the world is 50 Mbps. It represents pretty good value and should be enough for a couple of people. At this point, things will certainly be bearable.
50 Mbps would allow you to stream two Netflix movies in Ultra HD at the same time. A decent gaming session would be achievable and you could happily enjoy an HD Zoom call.
And at last, you won’t need to wait for several days in order to play your new video game. Gears of War 4 will take a more sensible 5 hours and 12 minutes to download at 50 Mbps.
200 Mbps Internet – A large family will be happy here
Now we’re talking. 200 Mbps is faster than the average download speed in the US which sits at 150 Mbps at the time of writing. A lot of people will be trying to get their hands on this kind of speed and for a reason – it’s enough for most families, even larger ones.
We’re basing that decision on the fact that it’s enough for as many as eight simultaneous Ultra HD Netflix movies. So, everyone can enjoy some movie action.
One hour and 18 minutes is all it’s going to take to download all 117 GB of Gears of War IV. That’s quick enough to not test the patience of even the most demanding gamers.
1000 Mbps Internet – Fast internet for the whole office
These days, more and more people are lucky enough to get their hands on Gigabit internet plans, or 1000 Mbps. In fact, it’s possible to get multi-Gigabit plans now, but let’s check out 1000 Mbps for a second.
Here, pretty much every internet process you could want to do at home would be a walk in the park. You could have all sorts of HD Zoom calls, Netflix streams, and more. That would be a nice place to be!
Gears of War 4 will download crazy fast here, just 15 minutes and 36 seconds. That’s what 333 times 3 Mbps looks like by comparison! Read on to find out how you can get
How to Test Your Own Download Speed
We’re about to do some internet speed troubleshooting to try to get you out of the 3 Mbps abyss. But before that, if you haven’t already, you’re going to want to run a speed test for reference.
Our favorite one is from Ookla. It’s free, it’s easy to use and it only takes a few seconds to tell you loads of info. This includes your download speed, upload speed, and your latency in ping (ms). That’s all good stuff to know!
Boost Your Way Out of 3 Mbps
Let’s face it, 3 Mbps is probably not where you want to be. So here are some handy tips for going faster. If you want to find out more tips after, check out our ultimate guide to boosting your internet speed here.
Consider changing your plan
Okay, so there aren’t going to be 3 Mbps internet plans in many parts of the world. But it certainly could be a speed cap that’s keeping your internet speed low right now. So your first port of call here is to reach out to them and see if they can upgrade you.
Remember also that there will probably be more than one internet provider in your area. So shop around! Check out a comparison site for a list of the kinds of plans you can get based on your ZIP code.
The sad fact of the matter is that your location in the world really affects how fast your internet can be. Maybe you really are limited to 3 Mbps. Or maybe you can get a Gigabit internet plan and not even know about it!
Reset your router
If you ran your speed test and it’s coming in quite a bit lower than the plan your provider has said you’re on, it’s time for plan b: resetting the router. A lot of the time, this process will give your internet a speed boost as it will refresh the router from being bogged down by ongoing processes.
First of all, give it a hard reboot. Turn it off for ten seconds then turn it back on again. This is the least invasive method. If that doesn’t help, try the actual reset. You should see a small reset button on the back or the side of the router – hold it down for 10 seconds (you might need a pin).
The second option will reset all your internet settings including your custom name and password, so make sure you change those back again after.
Check out QoS
A cool internet setting to utilize if you haven’t already is something called QoS. It stands for Quality of Service and it lets you pick a handful of devices to receive more network attention, boosting speed and lowering latency.
You won’t get QoS on every router, so check the settings to find out if it’s there. You’ll usually be able to see it on the router’s smartphone app if you have one. Or, try entering “192.168.1.1” into your URL bar to access your network config page.
Upgrade your hardware
Maybe it’s the router itself that’s causing you grief. If your router is old, has low speed or range or any combo of these things, it might be time to go for something new. We’ve been studying the best routers to give you an idea of what to go for in the current marketplace.
3 Mbps FAQ
Got questions about internet speeds? Here are some of the most common in them, so look ahead for the answers.
What’s the deal with Mbps?
We’ve been measuring internet speed (especially in the form of ISP plans) in Mbps for some time now but previously, it was done in MB/s. However, a few years back the internet providers decided that they needed a new scale that flaunted their plans a little back.
So, they effectively multiplied MB/s by eight and renamed it 8 Mbps. Sneaky!
Is 3 Mbps common anywhere?
Not really. There are only five countries where the internet average speed is less than 3 Mbps right now. You’ll be able to get a much faster speed than this in the vast majority of the world.
How can I get better speed across a wide area?
You might be struggling with 3 Mbps in the far corners of your home but getting decent speed near the router. If that’s the case, you have a couple of options. First of all, you could upgrade your router. Routers have a variety of signal ranges so a change may be a good idea for you.
The other option is to pick up a Wi-Fi extender. This help boosts the signal range of your home network. The other, better option is to upgrade your whole home to Mesh if your home is 3000 sq ft or more. We put together a guide on the differences between these options and you can read it here.
Last Thoughts on 3 Mbps
If your home internet speed is all the way down at 3 Mbps, you’re probably going to want to do something about it. Struggling with streaming and video calling and not being able to game isn’t much fun. Slow browsing makes things even worse.
Luckily there are a few things you can do, so check back earlier in this article for some tips. If it’s your provider causing you grief and you’re in the US, check out our provider’s guide.