Broadband speed (or Internet speed) is very important, because the faster your connection is, the more you can do online. It also means more people can use your broadband at the same time without interfering with each other. Nevertheless, the world of internet speeds can be confusing. Many people do not know what their internet speed is or are not sure what the numbers mean when they compare broadband plans. To get past these barriers, it is always better to know how broadband works, how to check your internet speed, and why you do not always get the super-speeds promised.
Making it simple, broadband speeds shows how fast data can come (downloads) and go (uploads) through your router (modem). Internet speeds usually are split between the download speed and upload speed because these are two different things: download measures the speed with which you can receive data from the web, and upload speed means how fast you can send data across the web.
It is common for a download speed to be much higher than upload speed. That is because people spend most of their time-consuming data by streaming movies and music, checking their social media, or downloading games, for example. The average user spends much less time uploading data by doing things like posting a photo or video on social media, sending out emails and so on.
Each broadband plan will advertise a maximum speed, but it is important to know that these are “up to” speeds and the real speed may vary.
Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps), and the higher the number of megabits your plan has, the faster the connection.
For instance, many broadband packages will offer speeds of up to 100Mbps. It’s possible to get even higher speeds of up to 1 000Mbps but these contracts are pricey and not necessary for average households.
A good broadband speed is very dependent on how you use your Internet. What would be considered a good broadband speed for a household of two people who use the internet rarely will be vastly different to the speed required for a household of heavy online gamers or Netflix addicts.
You need to understand your household internet usage before you decide what a good broadband speed is for you.
Your usage can be divided into three types:
- If you only use your connection a few times a month to check emails and surf the web a bit, it would be considered as light use and you may want to choose one of the cheaper plans with capped (limited) data.
- If you use broadband each day and spend time sitting on Facebook or other social media platforms, watching movies, or streaming TV, this would be considered as medium use. You may find that a package offering up to 30Mbps may not be appropriate, and you may go as high as up to 100Mbps.
- If you spend your day gaming, non-stop watching TV nonstop online, or regularly downloading music, movies and games often, you will need to prioritise speed, as this would be considered as heavy use. Most advice suggests you will need over 100Mbps.
The Broadband Compare free internet speed test allows you to test broadband speed that you receive. It works by testing your connection several times to give you an accurate assessment of your broadband speed.
There are numbers of things that can affect the speed of your connection, and could be causing low broadband speeds:
The type of your connection: There are three main ways of connecting to the internet: Fibre (UFB) which is not available everywhere but its coverage grows day by day, VDSL which is part fibre and provides a reliable connection, it’s also the most common connection; and ADSL which uses the same copper phone wire as VDSL. ADSL connections usually have the same price, but they are less reliable and often come with slower speeds than fibre or VDSL broadband.
Distance from the exchange: If you have ADSL or VDSL broadband, being further away from the exchange (cabinet) means your connection becomes less stable and the speed drops. This, however, is not an issue at all with fibre broadband.
The number of connections in your house: The more devices (computers, laptops, smartphones and smart TVs) you have connected to your router, the more it slows speeds. You can switch off devices you are not using, or consider upgrading your broadband plan, to speed it up.
Quality of cables and router: Old hardware can cause slow speeds, but many ISPs supply a new router as part of a plan. The placement of your router (modem) is also might be important: the signal will lose strength if it has to pass through walls. (Read more about free router from different broadband providers)
Weather conditions: It’s unlikely a bit of rain will knock out the broadband connection, but storms will affect phone lines and sub-zero temperatures can affect underground cables. All of this is more likely to happen with an old ADSL connection than with the modern fibre one.
Viruses: Computer viruses and malware will slow down your computer/laptop and they can also slow down your broadband connection. Check out some anti-virus software (there are many free ones) and perform regular scans to avoid this situation.
Time of the day: Obviously, you will find more people on the internet during 'peak' hours: starting around 5 pm until 11 pm. Download speeds can be affected during these hours, so it may be better to download huge files during the day or in at night. In the days of Netflix and Amazon Prime TV, this is less of an issue because everyone is streaming.
If you are not happy with the speeds you are getting, there are several routes to take to resolve the problem.
Talk to your current broadband provider and see if there is anything, they can do (or offer) to help improve your broadband speed.
If you are not happy with their reply then consider switching broadband to other providers. Keep in mind, this won’t always guarantee a faster speed because the capacity of your line could be low. Make sure you read their reviews when you shop around.