Do you know your broadband connection speed?

Broadband connection speeds might seem mysterious, but there are easy ways to check your home’s upload and download speeds.

Tuesday, 10 May, 2022

If someone asked you how fast your broadband connection speed at home is, would you know the correct answer?

If the answer is no, you’re not alone.

A survey carried out last November by ISP Voneus concluded that 43 per cent of people who’d made the switch to a new broadband deal within the last year couldn’t correctly identify their upload speed.

After all, download speeds are the centrepiece of broadband marketing.

On our deal finder pages, the joint biggest-lettering is allocated to average download speeds and pricing.

Everything else – contract length, the type of connection, provider reviews – is published in smaller fonts, because it’s generally regarded by consumers as being less important.

Yet it’s easy to forget these speeds once you’ve entered into a contract. And upload speeds are rarely promoted, even if they deserve to be.

Here’s how to make sense of your connection speeds – and also find out what they are.

Understanding broadband line speeds

We’ve previously published an in-depth guide to line speed terminology and industry jargon.

As a quick refresher, the smallest form of digital data is a bit. The number of bits which can be sent or received through your internet connection per second is its maximum line speed.

A standard ADSL broadband connection will carry around 11 million bits per second – 11Mbps.

For reasons explained in another recent article, slower internet connections prioritise downloads over uploads. On a typical 12Mbps ADSL connection, uploads will be limited to roughly 1Mbps.

A key benefit of faster full-fibre broadband connections is the capacity for symmetrical upload and download speeds. With so much bandwidth available, there’s no need to prioritise delivery over dispatch.

Bear in mind that maximum and average speeds aren’t necessarily the same. Few broadband connections run at 100 per cent capacity, which is why average speeds are advertised instead.

How can I check my broadband connection speed?

Firstly, study any correspondence from your ISP at the beginning of a contract, stipulating the average maximum speed you can expect through your home connection.

Hardwiring a device to your router gets closer to maximum line speeds than relying on less efficient WiFi, which also has to battle interference from various airborne sources.

Moving a wireless device a few feet closer to your broadband router can dramatically improve connection speeds, so stand beside it if you’re checking speeds over WiFi.

The broadband speed checker provides a real-time report on download and upload speeds.

Each web-enabled device has its own limitations, and the most reliable speed test involves a PC or Mac connected to your broadband router via a Cat6 Ethernet cable.

Running the test again in five minutes could deliver different results depending on network activity.

That’s why it’s advisable to conduct periodic checks, note down the results, and calculate an average.

Why are my speeds disappointing?

At any given moment, a number of domestic devices may be stealthily consuming bandwidth, from smart speakers to TV set top boxes on standby.

This cumulatively adds up, while a broadband router may underperform if it needs either rebooting, firmware updates or simply a chance to cool down.

Walls within your home slow wireless signals. Even outside those walls, there could be problems with infrastructure at local exchanges, or faulty cables extending into your property.

If connection speeds remain consistently below expectations, supplying your ISP’s support team with any data you’ve collected might help them identify broadband faults or issues.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!