Download speed is actually talking about your bandwidth, specifically your downstream.
This is the part of your connection that receives data from the internet.
Your download speed is relevant for almost all online activity as everything you see on the internet has to be sent to you through the downstream.
Instead of making data move faster, a higher bandwidth (what is listed as higher ‘download speed’) means more data can move through your broadband connection at the same time.
The download speed is the maximum amount of data that can be sent to your connection, so a 17Mbps ‘speed’ means you can receive a maximum of 17 megabits of data every second.
Similarly, if you have fibre broadband capable of ‘up to 76Mbps’, that means you can receive a maximum of 76 megabits of data every second.
A higher download speed increases the maximum potential speed of your home broadband.
What does 'upload speed' mean?▼
Your upload speed is how much data your connection can send at any one time. While your computer will constantly send small amounts of data to websites and servers, your upload speed will only really come into play if you’re trying to publish files online.
Putting a video on YouTube or a photo on Facebook will require you to upload your files, so a faster upload speed will make this happen quicker.
Unless you spend a lot of time uploading files, you probably aren’t going to get a lot of use out of a high upload speed connection.
What is full fibre/FTTH/FTTP?▼
Full fibre, FTTH and FTTP are one and the same thing. FTTH stands for Fibre to the Home, and FTTP stands for Fibre to the Premises.
FTTP is a more popular term and you’re likely to see this one being used than FTTH.
The most common way of describing this type of broadband is to call it “full fibre”.
So what is it?
It is a fibre broadband connection that uses only fibre-optic cables, that is not mixed with slower copper wiring, to deliver a broadband connection right into your home, and not via a green street cabinet.
This contrasts with the older technology of Fibre to the Cabinet (FTTC), sold as “up to 38Mbps” or “up to 76Mbps. Fibre to the Cabinet does use a mix of fibre-optic cables and copper, and delivers home broadband through your closest green street cabinet.
Full fibre can produce speeds of up to 1,000Mbps – commonly called ‘gigabit broadband’ and written out like this: 1Gbps.
Speeds are ‘symmetric’, which means that you can get similar upload and download speeds.
By contrast, older technology like ADSL or Fibre to the Cabinet can only produce ‘asymmetric’ speeds, meaning that uploads are 10 times or more slower than downloads.
These full fibre networks are still being built as we speak, so not everyone in the country will be able to get full fibre to their home just yet.
In fact only 2% of the population can get full fibre. More progress is expected throughout 2018 and into 2019.
What is streaming?▼
Streaming means listening to music or watching a movie in real time rather than downloading a file to your computer or tablet and watching it later.
To successfully stream films, TV or music as you will on Netflix, Amazon Prime or Spotify, your home broadband speed needs to be running fast enough to show the streaming data.
Usually ADSL standard speed broadband – up to 17Mbps – is not quick enough or reliable enough to stream TV or music. Fibre to the Cabinet broadband – up to 38Mbps or up to 76Mbps – is the recommended minimum speed for streaming.
To help with streaming, the data files of your music or movie are compressed to use as little broadband bandwidth as possible.
Most broadband deals come with unlimited data, so there are no limits on the amount of data you can use every month.
Listening to music can consume around 0.5-1MB per minute while watching a YouTube video can consume about 4-5MB per minute.
Sometimes there can be an interruption to streaming. To counter this your computer stores a ‘buffer’ of the data it has already received.
If there’s a drop-out, the buffer enables the streaming to continue uninterrupted. If there is no more data in the buffer then you’ll see the message “Buffering.”