Guest Blog: Internet Speeds Explained

Internet service providers often put broadband speed at the heart of their advertising campaigns, but what do the figures actually mean? Whether you are looking for the best broadband package for your home, or need to get your business online, here is our jargon-free guide to internet speeds: what they mean, the difference they will make and how to figure out the speed you will need.

Why speed is important

Whatever you do online, from sending an email, to streaming your favourite TV show, listening to music or making an online shopping purchase, all activity uses data. Your broadband speed is a measurement of how quickly you can receive this data from the internet to your tablet, computer or phone.

Generally measured in megabits per second, you will often see speed presented as Mbps, Mbit/s or just Mb. The higher the number, the faster your broadband speed will be.  

The faster your connection, the more quickly any downloads will complete. Similarly, any streaming video or audio should be ready to play more quickly. If you upload lots of content to the internet as well as downloading, then you should find that the higher download speed should also bring speedier uploads. Unfortunately, providers still give downloads priority over uploads, so you will find a big difference in top upstream and downstream speeds.

Finding out how fast your connection is

If you are already online but aren’t sure how fast your internet connection is, it’s easy to run a quick test to get the answer. Broadband speed tests work by downloading a small file to your computer, tablet or smartphone, and tracking how long it takes for the file to reach you.

The same test will also let you know how quickly you can currently upload files to the internet as well as download them: useful if you are planning on posting lots of pictures to Facebook or videos to YouTube, for example.

What speed can you get?

The range of broadband speeds available depends on where in East Sussex you are. As a relatively new technology (especially when compared to the national telephone network) fibre broadband is still in a rollout phase in many locations across the county. Fortunately, you can find out which services are in your area by using a broadband availability postcode checker. You’ll be presented with a range of results, which you can sort by price, speed, or contract length.

Deciding what speed you need

The best way to decide what your ideal broadband speed could be is to consider how you, your household or business uses the internet.

If you are in a small household or business and are not online often, a non-fibre optic ADSL (which stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) connection of up to 16Mbps should be more than adequate.

For those online more frequently, those likely to stream catch-up TV, play games online, upload videos or product images to the internet, or anyone in a larger household or business could benefit from the higher end of ADSL or lower end of fibre connection. With this, you could get roughly double the speed of a 16Mbps ADSL line.

It’s easy to spot if you’d be best served by a super-fast fibre connection. If you are online all the time, download and stream music and video a lot, perhaps play online games or participate in peer-to-peer file sharing, then the faster your connection, the better your experience will be.

With the fastest widely available broadband in the UK clocking in at up to 152Mbps, it’s possible for even the most demanding household or business to be online at the same time, streaming HD content, downloading, browsing and making video calls online with little loss of speed.

Fibre broadband benefits for homes and businesses

Completing everyday tasks online with fast broadband connections means you will consistently spend less time waiting for TV shows, movies, music or games to download. For both businesses and home users, faster connections also means smoother video calls, whether it’s to a client on the other side of the world or a friend just down the road.

You can quickly share files with one another via a fibre internet connection, even if you are in different parts of the county, country or world. Yet it’s not just downloading that benefits from a fast connection: if you or your business regularly upload content too, then a fast broadband package will help in that respect too.

As websites get increasingly content-heavy, embedded video and audio become more commonplace on both personal and business websites, and more and more people access the internet with mobile devices, the potential strain on your connection is only likely to increase. Being at the higher end of the scale means you’re in a better position to keep making the most of the internet and all it has to offer, whatever type of consumer you are.  

Why actual and advertised speeds are different

Although when you sign up for a broadband package and understandably expect to get the speed advertised, the reality is that not all customers will receive it.

Following a ruling in 2012, telecoms regulator Ofcom and the Advertising Standards Agency dictated that a minimum of only 10% of users need to receive the optimum advertised “up to” speeds for the figures to be used in promotional material.

As a result, there may be a considerable number of customers who will not receive the top speed advertised. This is why providers add the ‘up to’ speed caveat in marketing materials, and state that the speed you receive will depend upon many factors – in particular, where you live.

How long common tasks could take

To illustrate how different broadband speeds can impact on typical online tasks, here’s a brief summary of how long you would have to wait to download an album, movie and video game with three common broadband speeds.

On an up to 16Mbps connection, you could download an album in around 20 seconds, an HD movie in just under 50 minutes and a video game in roughly five and a half hours.

With a 32Mbps connection, double the speed means half the waiting, so the same album is yours in just 10 seconds, the movie in 25 minutes and the game in two hours 45 minutes.

At the top end of the scale, an up to 152Mbps broadband speed delivers the music in around two seconds, the movie in around five minutes and the game in as little as 35 minutes.

Provided in partnership with Ofcom-accredited comparison site