If you’ve been frustrated by buffering video streams, laggy online gaming, or just crawlingly slow websites, it’s time to upgrade your broadband connection.
The first step is to check your current speed so that we know what we need to improve on. Luckily testing your broadband speed is easy!
Simply click the ‘Start speed test’ button, and our speed checker does the rest. You’ll be given a figure for Download speed and Upload speed – scroll down to find out what these results mean.
Why do I need a broadband speed test?
Running a test of your current speed is a useful way to gauge what speed you might be looking for in a new broadband provider. For example, if your current speed is around 15Mbps and you find that the connection is frequently too slow, you may want to consider looking for fibre deals next time you switch.
Since you’re likely to be tied in to any deal for at least a year, it’s important to choose the right speed to suit your requirements.
You may also wish to check whether your current broadband provider is delivering the speed they promise you. If you consistently fail to achieve the advertised speeds, you may have grounds to cancel your contract.
What do my broadband speed test results mean?
Your results are split into two figures, which have different implications depending how you use the internet.
Download speed is an indicator of how quickly data is sent to your device. This does not just relate to downloading files. Download speed will also dictate how fast websites load, how smoothly online games run, and how quickly videos buffer.
This is by far the most important figure for most broadband users. On a standard ADSL broadband connection, the maximum achievable download speed is usually around 17Mbps but can be much lower depending on the time of day and your distance from the exchange. With modern fibre broadband, the maximum speed may be anywhere from 30Mbps to 300Mbps or even higher.
The speed you need will depend on how many people use your connection, and what you use it for. As a rule, the more devices you connect, and the more data-heavy activities you do (such as HD video streaming or online gaming), the faster the connection you will need.
Upload speed tells us how quickly you can send data from your device. This will come into play any time files or information is outgoing, such as, for example, adding photos or video to a social media account. Most home broadband users won’t need to worry too much about this figure – but if you rely heavily on video-calling or do a lot of online gaming, upload speed will likely be a consideration.
Most broadband providers don’t advertise upload speeds as widely as download speeds. If you need to know more about the upload speed of a particular deal, you may need to contact the provider before making any purchase.
I know my speed – what next?
Once you know your current speed, you can start planning for an upgrade.
There are a range of speeds available at wildly different prices, however availability varies depending where you are.
You can check out our fastest broadband deals, but we recommend doing a postcode check first. There’s nothing worse than picking out your perfect deal only to find it’s not available on your street! If you’re lucky, you may even be in an area with full fibre broadband with the option to get up to gigabit speeds.
Frequently asked questions
What is throttling?▲
Throttling is a process that ISPs use to artificially limit the speed of a connection.
There are several reasons why an ISP might throttle an individual connection, but the most common reason is when a customer goes beyond their data allowance.
If this happens, your ISP may throttle your connection until your data resets at the end of the month.
Specific online activities that ISPs frown on, such as torrenting (file-sharing), might cause your ISP to throttle your broadband connection.
Throttling is also used more generally for management but that often results in faster internet for customers than if the connections weren’t throttled – similar to how traffic lights improve congestion by slowing down cars.
Why are broadband speeds listed as 'average'?▼
The rules on advertising broadband deals changed in May 2018 – before then, most ISPs would quote an ‘up to’ speed which was the maximum speed possible for the type of connection. Thanks to Ofcom, providers now have to quote the average speeds obtained by at least 50% of users, even at peak times.
The change means that the speeds you see advertised are much more realistic, but beware – not everyone will be able to get them, especially if you live a long way from the nearest exchange. Some providers can give you a more accurate speed estimate using your landline number and your full address – check their websites to be certain.
What does 'download speed' mean?▼
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 Fibre to the Cabinet/FTTC?▼
FTTC stands for Fibre to the Cabinet.
The ‘Fibre’ bit means it is fibre broadband, while ‘Cabinet’ refers to the green street cabinets which hold all the fibre broadband connections for a particular area.
This kind of broadband uses a fibre-optic cable from your ISP to the cabinet, then slower copper wiring from the cabinet to your home.
The speeds you’ll see available for FTTC are ‘up to 38Mbps’, ‘up to 52Mbps’, and ‘up to 76Mbps’.
You can check if FTTC, or fibre broadband, is available in your area by using the postcode checker on our homepage.
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.
What is cable broadband?▼
Cable broadband is a type of connection exclusively available from Virgin Media in around 60% of UK homes.
The cable network was originally built to deliver television services, but has since been developed to support broadband and telephone calls as well.
Virgin Media’s cable network uses hybrid fibre connections to reach customers, which are made of a combination of fibre cables and coaxial copper cables.
Cable broadband offers maximum speeds of 300Mbps. Compare that to the maximum speed of Fibre to the Cabinet broadband at just 76Mbps.