Spectrum offers three internet-only plans: standard internet, Ultra, and “GIG.”
The standard Spectrum internet plan is best for most homes, currently offering 200 Mbps download for $49.99 per month + a $10 monthly WiFi router fee. The Spectrum Ultra plan boosts the download speed to 400 Mbps for $69.99 per month. The Gig plan has the fastest download rate, 940 Mbps for $109.99.
However, each plan has some caveats that affect the price — ranging from the WiFi router leasing fee to the impact of promotional rates on long-term customers. In this post, I’ll break down the performance and pricing differences in plain English.
Spectrum Standard vs Ultra vs GIG Summary
|Plan Name||Download||Upload||Promo Price||Final Price|
|Spectrum Internet||200 Mbps||10 Mbps||$49.99/mo||$69.99|
|Spectrum Internet Ultra||400 Mbps||20 Mbps||$69.99/mo||$94.99|
|Spectrum Internet GIG||940 Mbps||35 Mbps||$109.99/mo||$129.99|
There are two important things to note in this table:
- Spectrum upload speeds are much slower than the download speeds (and are notably not mentioned in most of their marketing materials online). With Spectrum, the fastest upload speed you can get over a cable connection is 35 Mbps.
- Spectrum pricing changes dramatically after the 12-month promo period (noted when you buy, but in tiny fine print).
- Spectrum Standard: This is the best plan for most customers, since 100–200 Mbps is sufficient for a family of four streaming video and using social media on daily basis. The WiFi router costs extra.
- Spectrum Ultra: This plan is only $12/month more, when you factor in the free router. It's worth it if you have multiple household members streaming HD and 4K video from Netflix, Hulu, etc. It also doubles your upload speed, which can make a big difference on video calls.
- Spectrum GIG: This plan is substantially more expensive, and while you get gigabit downloads, the upload is still capped at 35 Mbps. Therefore, this plan really only makes sense for "power users" who can actually do something with all that bandwidth. 95% of users will never notice the difference.
Spectrum Ultra vs GIG upload speeds
Spectrum’s internet-only plans offer a maximum upload speed of 35 Mbps, via the $109.99 per month GIG plan. The standard Spectrum internet plan only offers 10 Mbps upload, while the Ultra plan offers 20 Mbps upload.
I’m writing this post over Spectrum internet, on a standard plan in Los Angeles, and I usually see 5–9 Mbps upload over WiFi. Plugged into the router via ethernet, I generally get more than they advertise, around 12–15 Mbps… but this is still crazy low when you’re running a home office, doing video calls, uploading large files for YouTube, etc.
The reason for low upload speed on Spectrum internet is that for most customers, the primary use case of internet is for streaming video from Netflix, Youtube, and other Over-The-Top services, and scrolling high-definition images on social media. These services required high download speed to render visual content quickly.
The only regular activities that require high upload bandwidth are video chat and file uploads — and for most customers, the occasional glitch while running a video chat is preferable to buffering on Netflix.
If you need faster than 35 Mbps upload speed, it’s worth checking for a fiber internet provider in your area. If no fiber provider is available, you can sometimes get faster upload speed by purchasing business internet from wireless providers — but this is usually quite expensive, even relative to the priciest Spectrum GIG plan.
Standard vs Ultra vs GIG promotional pricing comparison
Let’s look at the pricing for standard internet vs the upgrade options with Spectrum.
All Spectrum plans come with “promotional pricing” for the first year of service. After the first year, the price rises to a “final price” that’s as much as 40% higher than the promotional price.
This table shows the difference between the prices when you average the promotional and final price over two years of service:
|Plan Name||Down/Up||Promo/Final Price||Avg price over 2 years||Price increase|
|Spectrum Internet||200/10 Mbps||$49.99/$69.99||$60/mo.||+40%|
|Spectrum Internet Ultra||400/20 Mbps||$69.99/$94.99||$82/mo.||+36%|
|Spectrum Internet GIG||940/35 Mbps||$109.99/$129.99||$120/mo.||+18%|
These prices assume you’re buying your own router rather than leasing. For the Standard plan, your cost goes up to $70/month over two years when you factor in the WiFi cost.
As you can see, the cheaper plans come with larger cost increases. If you’re going to be a customer for more than 2 years, the price difference between Spectrum Standard + the WiFi router and Spectrum Ultra (which includes a free router) is only $12/month. So the question is: is it worth $12 per month extra to double your internet speed?
Standard vs Ultra/GIG Modem and Wifi router Fees
Spectrum makes their modem/router pricing very confusing compared to most internet providers.
On the Standard 200 Mbps plan, you can either buy your own router or lease it from Spectrum for a $10 per month fee. They advertise this plan as having a "free modem," but the modem does not provide WiFi unless you also get a router. You need both (or a good combo device) to get WiFi in your apartment.
The Ultra and GIG plans both include the modem and router for free. This makes a big difference on the Ultra plan, since it makes the final cost for first-year customers comparable.
Spectrum WiFi router options by plan
Spectrum standard plans offer a basic leased router, with the model varying based on what’s available locally. Ultra and GIG plans come with a higher-quality dual-band router (usually Arris) with a wider range in the home and less overheating issues. The Ultra and GIG plans also come with a free modem, which is capable of handling bandwidth up to 1,000 Mbps.
The router and modem provisioned by Spectrum depends on the stock locally, so you may wind up with a more advanced router than your plan in some cases. They will never give you a lower-rated router than your plan, since this would result in inability to deliver the speed being paid for.
Does Spectrum Ultra have data caps?
Spectrum Ultra does not have data caps. In fact, Spectrum does not use data caps on any plans at this time. This was required as part of their merger with Time Warner Cable. They currently have some requests in at the FCC to get data caps approved again, so this may change after 2021.
Is Spectrum Ultra worth it?
For most customers, the answer is no: while the price difference is small each month, it adds up to $100+ annually, which is not enough to justify the difference of downloading a large file in 30 seconds rather than 1–2 minutes.
Is Spectrum GIG worth it?
The issue with Spectrum GIG is that the upload speed is still quite low at 35 Mbps. If it was raised to at least 50 Mbps, this would be a really compelling plan. But as-is, there aren’t many users who can really benefit from a firehose of download bandwidth paired with a trickle of upload… it seems likely that this plan is more about boosting the “fastest speed” shown in brand marketing materials than actually bringing an offer that competes with fiber options like AT&T Fiber or Sonic.