With so much of our daily lives reliant upon the internet, broadband is now widely seen as an essential service, much like electricity and water. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, broadband has been a window to the outside world, providing us with a way to stay connected, informed and entertained.
However, choosing the right broadband package can be daunting with so many deals to choose from, many of which tie you to a provider for 18 months or longer. There are a whole range of criteria to consider, including speed, cost and contract length but ultimately you’ll need to make sure you choose one who is reliable and best serves your needs.
How Do I Know If I’m Getting the Speeds I’m Paying For?
When you buy a broadband service, your internet service provider (ISP) must provide accurate information on how fast your broadband will be. You should receive the estimated speed you are likely to experience at busy times of the day, when average speeds are often lower. These times are 8-10pm for home services, and 12-2pm for business services. Alongside this, you must be given a minimum guaranteed speed for your broadband before you sign up.
To find out how fast your broadband really is, check your speed using a free online broadband speed test. Run a speed test at different times of day over several days and on different devices to build up a more accurate picture.
How Do I Measure My Internet Speed?
If you look closely at the advertised speeds from your broadband provider, you will find that they are measured in ‘megabits per second’, often shortened to Mb or Mbps. Bits are tiny units of data, with a megabit representing a million of them. The higher the number of Mbps (megabits per second) you have, the quicker downloads should complete and web pages load faster. Additionally, music and video streaming begin more rapidly and any video calls or online games played should display more smoothly.
There are two parts to the test, one part checks the download speed which is the speed at which information is transferred from the internet to your computer (or other devices) and the other checks the upload speed which is the speed at which information is transferred from your computer (or other devices) to the internet. Having a faster download speed will result in a smoother and speedier experience if for instance you’re watching TV shows and films. While a faster upload speed will determine how quickly you can post photos on social media, send big files via email, or save a file to Dropbox. Talking to someone else online via video-chat will also benefit since you have to send your video feed to them.
How Can I Make Sure I Get the Most Accurate Results?
Broadband speeds are affected by all sorts of factors. These include the distance from the exchange, the quality of the wiring, the faceplate, the quality of the router, and the time of day. (You should get faster speeds at midnight than at midday because fewer people will be contending for the available bandwidth.) Also, the number of users and devices in your home.
In order to measure speeds accurately, make sure you turn off your PC’s Wi-Fi (if any) and connect it to the router directly using an ethernet cable. Also turn off any other devices that are using the connection, such as smartphones, TVs, set-top boxes etc, and restart your router. It’s also a good idea to restart your PC and close down as many programs as possible, including anti-virus software (if installed). Finally, open a clean browser before running a speed test.
It’s worth noting that any tests you run over Wi-Fi will not display the true speed of your broadband because Wi-Fi connections are slower and less reliable than ethernet connections.
Should I Run a Wi-Fi Test?
After performing a wired test, we also recommend running several speed tests using your Wi-Fi network. Remember that devices close to the router might run faster. Therefore, check the speed of your Wi-Fi in different parts of your home. Try to check your internet speed from the farthest room of your home. If there is a negligible drop in speed in each room, you have a good connection to the internet, and your router’s location is perfect.
If you are getting different speeds in different parts of your home, try placing the router in a different location and perform a speed test again. If that doesn’t help, you may wish to reach out to your internet service provider to discuss the problem.
What Should I Do If My Speed Is Slower than What I Pay For?
There’s nothing more infuriating than your broadband connection running slowly when you’ve just sat down to watch your favourite Netflix show.
If after running the above tests, you suspect that you’re not getting the broadband speed you were promised, check your broadband contract to see what your minimum speeds should be. Then contact your provider and ask if they can help with your slow broadband. They should be able to help you work out what the cause is and how you might be able to fix it.