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Internet service providers talk a good game when it comes to promising lightning-fast broadband speeds, rapid website loading and downloads that are complete in mere moments. But if it feels like your internet connection isn't as sprightly as you’d hoped, then you can test it using TechRadar's broadband speed-checker.
If you're not getting the kind of internet speeds that you were told to expect when you signed up with your broadband provider, then you should look to move to another. Use our best broadband deals comparison chart to find a better plan...
What if my broadband speed check reveals slower speeds than I'd expected?
Internet providers such at BT broadband, Virgin Media and Sky used to try and cover themselves by saying that your broadband speed will be 'up to xxMb'. That's all changed now though, thanks to an intervention from the Advertising Standards Authority. Not they have to submit their 'average' speed, which is the speed that more than 50% of their users enjoy between 8pm and 10pm in the evening.
Still, when you signed up for your latest broadband contract, your provider should have given you a range of speeds that it will supply. If your speed check trials show that the speed you're getting is slow, but within the promised range, then there isn't much you can do other than complain. But if it's falling short of the minimum promised speed, then you can potentially exit your contract penalty-free.
So go and check your broadband speed now. If you're not getting the connection you were promised, you can head to our broadband deals page to find a new plan, or simply use the comparison chart below:
How to use Techradar's broadband speed test
Our broadband speed test tool is really easy to use – in fact, we wouldn't be surprised if you've already hit 'Start Test' and received your results without needing to scroll down the page for extra tips.
If you haven't, then head back up to the top of the page and click the button. Your completed broadband speed test results will spit out three bits of information:
For your purposes, this is the most important bit of data. Download speed is what you can compare to what your internet provider advertised when you signed up. It's measured in megabits per second, usually displayed as Mb or Mbps.
Crudely speaking, the higher the download result, the faster your speed is for downloading files and loading websites. Try not to confuse Mb with megabytes (MB), which is a measure of size rather than bandwidth. There’s a certain amount of MB you can transfer in a certain amount of time depending on your connection speed. For example, standard ADSL 17Mb internet equates to just over 2MB per second, while entry-level fibre optic 38Mb broadband allows downloads of 4.75MB per second, and rapid 100Mb broadband speeds mean downloads of 12.5MB per second.
Your upload speed determines how quickly you can share files on the internet. For example, the speed of uploading photos or videos to a website is determined by your upload speed. Your upload speed is almost certainly a lot lower than your download speed, but that’s normal – after all, you usually download more than you upload.
What is ping?
Ping is the reaction time of your connection, so how quickly your device gets a response – this is important for online video gaming, for example. Ping is measured in milliseconds (ms), and the lower this number, the more responsive your connection is. You need a ping of less than 60ms ideally, and anything lower than 20ms is really rather good.
How fast should my speed be, and what do I need?
Some people have super-slow speeds that aren’t much different from dial-up – which is a bit scary when you consider that broadband internet has been the predominant standard for over 10 years now.
Practically speaking, you need to have 2Mb to use websites comfortably. Most photo and video uploads, as well as standard-definition streaming, can be done at around 5Mbps, but you probably need 10Mbps to be comfortable, and to use applications like Skype or HD video streaming without any issues. For online gaming and you really need 20-25Mbps, which will also enable you to stream Ultra HD, and those are the kinds of speeds that only fibre broadband packages can provide.
How does TechRadar's broadband speed-checker work?
The speed-checker measures your real-time network connection to your local server by simulating downloads and uploads using your current broadband connection. As the speed test takes place, you can view your results as they come in. The speedometer measures how many megabits are being downloaded per second.
The results will be affected by external influences, particularly by how many people are using the internet at the same moment as your test. That means it makes sense to test your speed at the time of day you most regularly use the internet – so if you're online most during the evenings, streaming Netflix or browsing Facebook, then check at that time.
To get as accurate a result as possible, we'd suggest turning off anything else that might be tapping into your broadband before hitting Start Test. The more strain you're putting on your connection, the slower the results will appear.