Everything you access online – from webpages to emails and videos to songs – is made up of data and broadband speed conveys the rate at which this data is transferred from the internet to your device (download speed) or from you device to the internet (upload speed).
These speeds are most commonly measured in megabits-per-second (Mbps or Mb). The higher the measurement, the less time it takes to complete the transfer of data. For example, a connection with a download speed of 38Mb will download a file more than twice as fast as one with a 17Mb limit.
Our speed test works by timing how long it takes your connection to download a sample file from the web and then upload back to the server. It's secure, safe, and won’t store anything on your device.
Broadband speed tests provide a snapshot of your connection’s performance by determining your respective download and upload speed at the point, and time, of testing. However, you should bear in mind that speeds fluctuate throughout the day.
The advertised speed of your broadband package is the maximum achievable and not a guarantee, which is why it’s prefixed with ‘up to’.
If you’re not satisfied with your speed and feel it’s excessively slow, you may be able to exit your contract early. However, your first port of call should be to contact your provider for more information. They will be able to test your connection for any potential problems and may be able to improve its performance.
Wi-fi offers tremendous flexibility but it may be degrading your connection’s performance. The strength of your wi-fi signal can decrease over greater distances and may have trouble penetrating the walls and ceilings of your house.
If you can, try connecting your device to your router using an Ethernet cable and running the speed test again – you may be surprised by the result.
Improve wi-fi performance by placing your router in a central location. It will work best in an open, elevated position such as on bookshelf or tabletop. Whatever you do, don’t hide it away in a cupboard.
Our guide to boosting your broadband signal can help you improve your broadband speeds.
The internet is made for sharing, but your connection will have limits on how many people or devices it can support reliably at once. When your broadband is serving multiple people – each with varying demands such as video streaming, web browsing, online gaming and so on – it can put a strain on overall performance.
Try testing your broadband speed two to three times throughout the day; you may find that its at its fastest when fewer people are online (e.g. during a weekday afternoon).
Fibre broadband packages are better suited to supporting multiple connections at once without compromising on speed and overall performance than standard broadband (ADSL).
It’s not only the distance from your router that can impede your connection’s performance, it’s also the distance from your nearest telephone exchange and (active) street distribution cabinet.
These points are where all of the information you access online or upload to the internet is routed, and the further you are from them, the slower your connection may be.
A quick web search will reveal where your nearest telephone exchange is located. Cable.co.uk HQ, for example, is served by the Lichfield Exchange, which happens to be at a distance of just 0.3 miles.
If you’re a standard broadband (ADSL) customer, try requesting a line speed estimate from a fibre broadband provider to see how it compares to your existing speed. The technology behind fibre optic broadband means it’s faster over longer distances.
Your neighbours aren’t stealing your internet – at least not if you have a secure wi-fi password – but they are sharing the network infrastructure that’s supporting your street and area.
The principle is similar to your family sharing your home internet connection, but the scale is much larger and the capabilities greater.
The more people online at once on your street and in your area, the greater the demand on the network, which means speeds can fluctuate. You’re likely to notice slower speeds at peak times such as weekday evenings and at weekends.
Some broadband providers place controls on network usage to limit activity that might impeded the internet access of other users. This is called traffic management and it can be a help or hindrance depending on what you get up to online (more on this next), so it’s worth looking into to see how your connection might be affected.
Sometimes the issue of slow broadband can be rooted at the source. It could be that your provider’s traffic management policy is interfering, in which case you may wish to familiarise yourself with it and adjust your usage accordingly, whether that’s queuing large downloads for off-peak hours or avoiding throttle-bait tasks altogether (e.g. peer-to-peer file sharing).
However, it may be that remedying the situation is out of your hands, in which case you need to get on to you provider to find a solution.
If you’re not happy with your broadband service, switch to another provider. Recent advances in consumer rights mean it’s never been easier to ditch your current package for one better suited to your needs, and with hundreds of options on offer, there’s no shortage of choice.
From October 2015, Ofcom, the UK’s communications industry regulator, is urging ISPs to commit to an updated Voluntary Code of Practice that grants customers the power to cancel their services early if their connections are unduly slow.
ISPs that have expressed an intent sign up to the revised code include:
As part of this code of practice, providers are required to provide customers with a “minimum guaranteed access line speed”, i.e. the slowest speed that you can expect to achieve.
If you consistently experience speeds that are slower than this benchmark, your provider is obligated to take the steps necessary to resolve the issue or release you from your contract without penalty; freeing you up to get a more capable connection from a different provider.