What is Broadband speed?
Broadband speed is how fast data can be downloaded and uploaded through your modem. Download speed is the rate at which data is transferred from the Internet to your computer. The upload speed is the rate that data is transferred from your computer to the Internet.
Your download speed is the most important of the two. It is the speed quoted by providers when selling packages. They usually quote 'up to' or maximum speeds, so the speed you actually receive is likely to be lower.
For all providers other than Virgin, the entry-level broadband speed is 17Mb. The speed for fibre optic broadband is typically 38Mb (or 52Mb for more recent BT Infinity packages), and the top fibre speed is 76Mb. Virgin Media use their own network, so their customers typically get speeds of 20Mb (for older packages), 50Mb, 100Mb or 200Mb.
How is Broadband speed measured?
Broadband speed is measured in Megabits per second, commonly written as Mb or Mbps. It essentially means the rate at which data is transferred either from (download) or to (upload) a website. The higher the number of megabits, the faster the connection.
How can I test my Brodband speed?
There are hundreds of free-to-use online speed test services that analyse your broadband speed in seconds. Without these broadband speed test tools there would be no way of holding your supplier to account.
If you want to test your connection for free right now, Which? offer one of the best.
To ensure you get an accurate reading, make sure nothing else is connected to the internet, this includes all devices and apps. Make sure no downloads are happening and if possible connect by cable rather than wirelessly. You may also want to run the test more than once via different websites to compare readings.
New Broadband Speed Advertising rules
Recently the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) introduced new rules aimed at ensuring broadband consumers are not misled by provider speed claims in ads.
Previously, providers had been allowed to advertise broadband speeds if they were available to ten per cent of their customers. The new standard requires that numerical speed claims in broadband ads - across all media including online and social media - should be based on the download speed available to at least 50% of customers at peak time (8pm-10pm) and described in ads as “average”.
The change in the rules has been welcomed by the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), which stated that it will bring "greater clarity" to broadband customers.
The new standard will help consumers better understand what’s on offer when deciding to switch providers. However, consumers also need to be aware that there are a range of factors that affect the broadband speed they are going to get in their own home depending on :
Where you live
The further away a property is from a telephone exchange the weaker broadband signal can become and the slower the actual connection. If you're a long way from the exchange, there's probably a lot of noise on your line, which is why your speeds may be less than adequate.
Extreme weather conditions can affect your broadband speed. High winds can knock out power lines, while extreme cold can cause ground heaves, which may break or tear existing copper lines. Also if no one is willing to venture outside due to the weather, then higher than normal user demand can cause severe slowdown.
Time of day
When lots of people are online at the same time it causes high levels of internet congestion, which leads to slower loading times. Peak internet times are usually between 6pm and 9pm. Also if a particular website is busy then it may load slower then usual.
Number of connections in your home
On home networks, all devices usually share the same single internet connection. The performance of each connection will start to degrade as more devices join the network and start using it simultaneously.
Quality of cables and router
Old hardware can cause slow speeds, even if you're getting higher speeds through your phone line, an older router may struggle to keep up. The placement of your router is also important: the signal will lose strength if it has to pass through walls. It is possible to extend the reach of your Broadband to cover different parts of the house, using a variety of readably available extenders and repeaters however these cannot increase the speed of the initial connection.
Viruses will slow your computer right down resulting in them potentially slowing your broadband down. During times of heavy computer virus outbreaks, the Internet can slow down. Many viruses spread by causing computers to send out hundreds or thousands of copies of the virus.
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