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In this
guide:

How to test your broadband speed

To find test your broadband connection speed, click ‘start’ below:

Download
Mbps
Upload
Mbps
Ping
ms
Jitter
ms

Understanding broadband speed test results

You’ll get a few different bits of information when you run a speed test. Here’s what they all mean:

Download Speed

Download speed measures how fast your computer receives packets of data. This is the most important figure you'll see as it the strongest indicator of how quickly you can download and stream files or load websites. Download speed is measured in Mb/s (megabits per second) and is the figure that broadband providers use to advertise and measure their various deals. When you see, for example, '50Mb/s Broadband' advertised, that's referring to download speeds.

Upload Speed

Upload speed is the opposite, and measures how fast your computer uploads data online. Most people won't need their upload speed to match their download speed. If, however, you frequently use your computer to share files with others, especially large ones, then you'll want to pay close attention to your upload speed.

Latency

Latency refers to the amount of time it takes for a signal to go from transmitter (A) to receiver (B) - effectively it is the lag (which is another name for latency often used by gamers) between information being sent, and that same information being received. The overall measure of latency comprises two parts, 'Ping' and 'Jitter':

Ping

Ping is often used interchangably with latency, but more correctly it is a measure of latency, normally expressed in ms (miliseconds).

Jitter

Jitter refers to to the fluctuation of latency - you might be recording an average ping of around 80ms, but occasionally it might jump to something much higher (or dip lower). Jitter tends to be lower with wired connections than with wireless connections.

Why is my internet so slow?

Slow internet is frustrating, especially when it’s avoidable.

There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing unsatisfactory download speeds. To identify exactly what is causing your connection to struggle, and therefore to work out how to fix it, you first need to work out whether:

  1. your connection is simply too slow to use, or
  2. whether the download speeds you’re receiving are lower than what you were advertised.

If your connection is just not fit for purpose, you should definitely look at switching to a faster plan if one is available, and if your contract is coming to a close. Click here to view a chart that will show you long different types of file take to download or stream at different connection speeds, to get an idea of what you’ll need based on your usage.

If the speed you’re getting is much lower than what was advertised, then you should try and diagnose the issue (click here see some tips on how), and then get in touch with your internet service provider if the issue persists.

What kind of broadband speed do I need?

It's easy to get hung up on broadband speeds - the faster it is, the better, right? Well… not necessarily. The truth is that not everybody needs their broadband to be at the upper end of the speed scale. Although prices are coming down, top-end fibre packages are typically the more expensive broadband options out there, and many users don't do anything online that requires, or benefits from, speeds of 100Mb or more.

For these users, it would be a bit like buying a year's gym membership, then only going once before throwing in the towel - why pay for something if you're not going to use it?

Download Speed Chart

Here’s a helpful chart to give you an idea what kind of speeds might be appropriate for you:

File typeSize (MB)4Mbps8Mbps16Mbps32Mbps50Mbps100Mbps
Single song510s5s2.5s1.25s0.8s0.4s
YouTube clip1020s10s5s2.5s1.6s0.8s
YouTube clip (HD)501m 40s50s25s12.5s8s4s
Album1003m 20s1m 40s50s25s16s8s
TV Show (HD)45015m7m 30s3m 45s1m 52s1m 12s36s
Film70023m 20s11m 40s5m 50s2m 55s1m 52s56s
Film (HD)150050m25m 30s12m 30s6m 15s4m2m
Film (full DVD)45002h 30m1h 15m37m 30s18m 45s9m 22s4m 41s
Film (Blu-ray)10,0005h 35m2h 47m1h 24m42m26m 40s13m 20s

Do I need fibre optic broadband?

You should take the time to consider what speeds you actually need from your broadband deal before making any switching decisions. With that in mind, here's a handy list of reasons to consider 'superfast' fibre optic speeds.

Superfast broadband is worth considering if you:

  • Have a large family or shared house (e.g. a student house), with several people using the web simultaneously
  • Have lots of connected devices - laptops, tablets, mobiles, console, smart TV, for example
  • Regularly download movies, music and TV to watch offline
  • Use film and TV streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video, and NOW TV
  • Watch a lot of on-demand TV services like BBC iPlayer in high-definition (HD) or don't want as much buffering
  • Download and play video games that require an internet connection
  • You currently have ADSL broadband, and find it just isn't fast enough for your needs

If a few of these apply to you, you should look at fibre broadband packages. The faster the package, the smoother these activities are likely to be.

However, if you live alone, or you just use the internet for light browsing, social media and email, for instance, it's worth considering cheap internet providers.

Either way, do your homework and make sure you've weighed up your options before signing up. Compare broadband deals to find the perfect balance between speed and affordability.

What affects the speed of a broadband connection?

Types of Connection: Standard and Fibre Broadband

Firstly, let’s quickly explore the two most common types of broadband connection; FIBRE and ADSL. Whichever you use will dictate your upload and download speeds; i.e. the rate at which your ISP delivers data to you (download), or the rate at which your ISP receives data from you (upload). Mobile data uses wireless technology, and many phone carriers also offer wired solutions as described here.

A FIBRE connection with your ISP will comprise transmission of data via fibre optical cable. This is the fastest available today.

An ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) connection uses existing copper cables and can achieve upload and download speeds suitable for households and small businesses. Copper cables exist in most residences and businesses as they have been used for standard telephone services for decades.

Physical Infrastructure

Most fixed line broadband connections reach your home via your telephone line. Broadband companies will vary in which technology they use, which results in different maximum connection speeds. If your provider uses a copper telephone cable, then the length the cable has travelled before reaching your home will affect the internet speed you are receiving. Put simply, the further the cable has to go, the bigger the slowdown. Fibre optic connections don’t really suffer from the same problem.

Often, broadband in rural areas tends to be slower than in cities because providers are slower to bring higher speed fibre connections out to harder to reach areas of the county.

What other factors may affect my speed?

In addition to permanent speed limits due to copper cables, many broadband services are affected by slowdowns during ‘peak times’ when, due to the nature of working hours, a higher than usual number of people are attempting to access the internet. When using the internet at off-peak times, such as during the night when most customers are asleep, you’re much more likely to receive the best possible service.

The slowdown you experience depends on your provider and their own investment in network capacity. The more expensive providers will often be more capable of dealing with peak time traffic as their infrastructure is designed for businesses and large offices. If you are currently experiencing slow speeds during peak times and require a faster connection during the working day be sure to use our site to compare broadband deals to find the package best suited for your needs.

Understanding Advertised Broadband Speeds

It used to be the case that most providers would simply advertise the maximum possible speed available from the broadband connection, that which could be achieved over the very shortest lines, or only theoretically under ‘laboratory conditions’. As such, broadband deals would be advertised as ‘up to 20Mb’ (or even ‘up to 24Mb’) for phone line broadband and ‘up to 40Mb’ or ‘up to 80Mb’ for fibre services when virtually no-one would be able to achieve these speeds.

A provider that made money by spreading less capacity over more lines, and so giving slightly slower speeds than their competitors at peak times, would be able to advertise their service with the same (or even higher!) ‘up to’ speeds as a competitor whose peak time performance was better.

Since the 1st of April 2012 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have enforced guidelines that require advertised up to speeds to be consistently available to at least 10% of the users of that service. With these rules in place ‘up to’ speeds have dropped to a range of ‘up to 13Mb’ to ‘up to 16Mb’ for phone line broadband and ‘up to 38Mb’ or ‘up to 76Mb’ for most fibre services.

It's now possible to see which providers will experience more of a slowdown at peak times due to congestion or over-subscription, as their advertised ‘up to’ speed will be lower than that of other providers offering similar services.

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Found what you need?

We hope that this guide had all the information you were after but if not,
you can find out a bit more about the kinds of broadband deals available here:
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