Is your internet a bit sluggish? We’ll help you test your broadband speed and – if it’s bad – explain your rights
Hopefully, you’ve taken our broadband speed checker test by now. To help make sense of the results you’ve just been given, we’ll be explaining both what qualifies as a good broadband speed, and when you should consider making a switch. We’ll also go over the recent Ofcom legislation that changed how you can deal with poor broadband speeds, and lastly, we’ll be going over what the technical jargon actually means.
READ NEXT: Best cheap broadband deals
What is a good broadband speed?
Well, that depends on what you want to use your broadband for. Broadband providers might try to entice you with promises of triple-digit download speeds but in reality, day-to-day internet usage doesn’t require such astonishing numbers.
These days broadband speeds are measured in Megabits per second (Mbits/sec), with the headline figure (up to 100Mbits/sec) referring to the download speed. At the bare minimum, you’ll need a 2Mbits/sec connection to browse the web, or a 5Mbits/sec connection to stream video at an acceptable quality. Of course, it’s likely that you’ll also want to view HD streaming services, and will, therefore, need nearer 10Mbits/sec.
For online gaming, 5Mbits/sec should be enough for most games, as the ping – the delay between data leaving a server and arriving at your computer – is more crucial than absolute speed. However, you’ll need much more if you’re keen on the idea of streaming your gameplay to sites such as Twitch, while game downloads and updates will make you glad of a 20Mbits/sec or above connection.
For 4K video streaming, you’ll generally need something in the region of 15-25Mbits/sec, so you’ll want to forgo a standard ADSL connection and opt for a fibre broadband package instead.
What should I do if my broadband speed is slower than it should be?
It used to be the case that many internet providers such as Sky Broadband, BT Broadband, and Virgin Media Broadband would avoid promising their customers a specific broadband speed. Instead of saying, ‘you will have a broadband speed of XMbits/sec’ they’d word it as, ‘you could have a broadband speed of up to XMbits/sec’. This accounted for fluctuations in service and protected against complaints from customers who sat at the lower end of the speed spectrum.
As of 1 March 2019, however, Ofcom has introduced new regulation that dictates what broadband providers are allowed to advertise. The official guidance on the subject reads:
“When you buy a broadband service (at the ‘point of sale’), you should be given some important information without having to ask for it.
Under the new code, speed estimates provided to customers at the point of sale should reflect the speeds that they are likely to experience at peak times. This speed will take account of the fall in speeds that occur during peak-time network congestion, and is more reflective of the speed a customer will receive at the point in the day that they are most likely to be using their broadband service. Peak times will be measured as 8-10pm for residential services and 12-2pm for business services.”
We’ve emphasized the important bits in bold. What this means is that in future, any advertised speeds will be accurate representations of what you can expect when you actually use your internet connection: in the evening after work, when the entire neighbourhood is also online. No more “up to XMbits/sec.”
In addition, the new Ofcom regulations ensure that broadband providers advertise a minimum speed. Customers who find that their connection consistently drops below these minimum speeds are entitled to a payment-free exit from their contract, provided the problem is within the provider’s network and cannot be fixed.
Currently, the following broadband providers are required to comply with these new regulations:
We suggest using our test to draw comparisons between advertised and actual speeds. If you find that you’re suffering at the hands of bad internet, and are planning to make the switch with immediate effect, we have a comprehensive guide to the best broadband providers in the UK to help you make the right decision.
Best broadband deals in your area
How do I check my broadband speed?
By using our handy broadband speed checker, of course! You’ve almost certainly done it by now already, but if not, go ahead: scroll to the top of this article and then click the button beneath the Speedometer which says ‘Start Test’. It will then takes a few seconds to examine your broadband connection and give you three individual results, which we mentioned earlier. We’ll break down exactly what those results say about your broadband speed.
What do the results of my broadband speed test mean?
The test breaks down your broadband speed into three separate readings, which are as follows:
This is the one that matters most. First of all, it is important not to confuse Mbits/sec (megabits per second, normally written as Mbps) with MB/sec (megabytes per second). The former is a measurement of bandwidth over a connection, while the latter relates to file sizes. They are connected, of course, because the more Mbits/sec your Internet connection handles, the faster you can download a file of so many MB. To figure out your actual MB/sec speed, the trick is to divide your Mbits/sec by eight.
A 16Mbits/sec internet speed therefore means a download speed of 2MB/sec, while a 38Mbits/sec fibre-optic broadband will allow download speeds of just under 5MB/sec. A high-performance 100Mbits/sec broadband speed will give you a download rate of around 12MB/sec. If you’re feeling confused, take it from us: that’s pretty darn fast.
This figure tells you how quickly (or slowly) you can upload files such as photos or videos onto the internet. Don’t worry if your upload speed is much, much slower than your download speed, as that’s the case with all broadband connections and is inherent to the way they’re delivered. Broadband connection speeds are generally designed to be asymmetric, as most people need to download far more data than they upload, and therefore don’t require the same speed in both directions.
The Ping is the reaction time, or the time it takes to get a response back to whatever device you have connected from your ISP or any server that you connect to through your broadband. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms), and unlike download and upload speeds above, the lower the better. Anything above 60ms is worrying, and that’s sort of the bare minimum that you could expect. PC and console gamers will be after the lowest possible reading, as fast-paced games need low response times – 20ms and below is excellent.
How does the Expert Reviews broadband speed checker work?
Our speed checker tests the real-time connection of your local network by simulating downloads and uploads using your broadband connection. Do bear in mind that results will fluctuate based on a range of extraneous variables, most prominent of which is the number of users in your home using the broadband connection and the number of devices, applications and services you have using it at the time.
Its speed is also affected by the number of users in your local area, and how much data they’re downloading at any one time. So, to get a true reading of your broadband speed we recommend you test it at several times during the day, including peak times such as the early evenings where the most people will be online. If you stream Netflix, download music and games, and trawl through Reddit most evenings, test it out then. This will give you an idea of the download and upload speeds you’re getting at the times that matter to you.