Understanding Broadband Speeds

March 10, 2015
by Alex Tough

The telecoms industry is packed full with terms you might not be entirely familiar or comfortable with. Alongside price, speed is one of the key factors people talk about when it comes to choosing broadband. All of the internet service providers (ISPs) quote the broadband download speed as a key part of their advertising. And then there are upload speeds, megabits and speed tests – but what does it all mean?

How are broadband speeds measured?

The speed of the broadband connection you receive differs depending on a number of factors which we will examine later in this guide. However, speed of connection is normally measured in megabits per second (MB/s), unless of course you have an extremely slow connection, which will still deal with kilobits per second (KB/s). The higher the number of bytes you are able to download per second, the faster the connection.

What are download speeds?

When you view information through your web browser, you’ve actually downloaded that information to your computer. In fact, nearly everything you view, read and experience on the internet is downloaded to your computer at least in part, and that’s why download speeds are so important.

A high download speed gives you the ability to download online content faster than through a slow connection. This means you can see more and do more online, as you won’t have to spend as long waiting around for pages to load and downloads to finish.

Every broadband provider will give you a maximum download speed, measured in megabits per second, at which your connection could potentially operate. These speeds can range from up to 17Mbps – as a slow connection – to up to 152Mbps, with higher download speeds generally being the more expensive option.

What are upload speeds?

If downloads refer to the information received through your web browser, then uploads refer to the information you send through your web browser. Posting a photograph on Facebook counts as an upload, as does making a Skype call.

Higher upload speeds make these processes run a lot faster (we’ve all been through the boredom of waiting for our holiday snaps to upload onto Facebook), but, as with download speeds, higher upload speeds are generally more expensive.

The maximum upload speeds can be found on fibre optic broadband packages, and usually peak at 19Mbps.

What affects the broadband speed you receive?

Distance from the exchange – If you’re still having your internet connection go through your phone line, then this can be a major reason why you might be suffering from slower speeds. Put simply, if you’re closer to the telephone exchange, you’ll get a faster speed, but if you’re not so close, you can expect a diminished pace without a doubt.

Peak time slowdowns -Due to the nature of typical working and sleeping hours, there are certain times of the day that are more likely to be busy, and others that are likely to be relatively quiet. Even if the provider has invested heavily in ensuring that everyone is able to achieve fast connections at the busiest times, this capacity will be available to more people at less busy off-peak times like during the night when the majority of customers are asleep.

When a service is uncongested at off-peak times, you’ll be more likely to experience the maximum speed your broadband connection can achieve, while at the busiest times you may see some degree of slowdown.

Number of connections in your home – A common issue which often causes headaches, if multiple devices are hitting your broadband at once, it’s likely that the speed of your connection will drop. There isn’t too much you can do about this, but if you have a higher speed to begin with, you shouldn’t drop too far in terms of pace.

Weather conditions – Similarly to TV signal, mobile phone coverage and other types of connection, if the weather isn’t playing nice, then your internet connection may face issues. Unfortunately this is just something you’ll have to put up with.

Website capacity – A very common problem when trying to buy limited goods, like tickets or special edition items. If a website has thousands of visitors all trying to get onto one page, connection problems will often occur due to the company’s server struggling under the pressure. If this happens, don’t refresh the page unless clearly instructed, it will only make things worse.

 How can you Improve your broadband Speed?

Sometimes making the smallest of changes can make a significant improvement on your broadband speeds. If you would like to increase your broadband speed you could try the following:

  • If your computer or broadband router is old then upgrading them may improve your performance
  • If connecting wirelessly to your broadband router:
    • try plugging directly into your broadband router to see if there’s any improvement, if there is then you could try moving the location of your router
    • make sure that your wireless connection is secure. If other people are using your connection then it will definitely slow your own broadband speed down

To check your broadband speed you can always perform a Broadband Speed Test!

If you’re business broadband is too slow you could also contact us and we can help you to upgrade to Superfast broadband!

You can either fill in the form below or visit our Connection Vouchers page to find out more Information.

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