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Broadband speed test: how to check your speed and get faster internet

Broadband speed test on a laptop
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

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 a broadband speed test.

Never more has that come into focus with the UK lockdown. Whether for work, entertainment or simply staying in touch with loved ones, getting the right broadband deal with speeds fast enough for spending more time online at home is crucial.

Fortunately, there are loads of broadband speed test tools on the web (more on which below). 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 - you may even just want to get straight to our superfast fibre deals guide if you know it's available on your street - or take a butchers at our recommended rapid package below:

Recommended super fast broadband plan

BT Superfast Fibre 2 broadband (opens in new tab) | 24 months | 67Mb avg. speed | Free weekend calls | £9.99 delivery | £31.99 per month
BT remains the most popular broadband provider in the UK, and it's this kind of deal that solidifies its place - a great option if your broadband speed test revealed some snail-like speeds. It may not be the cheapest fibre broadband provider in the county, but the average speeds you get from Superfast Fibre 2 are electric. It chucks in free calls at the weekend, so no need to pay extra for those. And BT always has some kind of Reward Card offer on, meaning a chunky pre-paid Mastercard to spend online or in store usually worth around £100 or more.

Broadband speed test: were can I find one?

There's an abundance of handy broadband speed test tools on the web you can use to see whether you're getting the connections you should be. There's even one built into the Google search engine these days.

Mobile and broadband regulator Ofcom (opens in new tab) has one on its site. It's pretty basic but will quickly show you your current download and upload speed. Or for something a bit more in-depth, we rather like the version at (opens in new tab), which also delivers a ping number and further information around recognised outages on certain connected services and games.

What if my broadband speed test 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 comparison page to find a new plan, or simply use the comparison chart below:

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 deals can provide.

How do broadband speed tests work? 

Generally, internet speed-checks measure your real-time network connection to your local server by simulating downloads and uploads using your current broadband connection. The result you're given tends to be the number of megabits that 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 shows 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 starting your test. The more strain you're putting on your connection, the slower the results will appear.

Tried out a broadband speed test and not liking what you're seeing? Then it may be high time to switch your internet provider. We can help with that, too - head straight to our dedicated broadband deals guide to ensure you're getting the best prices available today.

Adam Marshall
Adam Marshall

Adam is the Content Director of Subscriptions and Services at Future, meaning that he oversees many of the articles TechRadar produces about antivirus software, VPN, TV streaming, broadband and mobile phone contracts - from buying guides and deals news, to industry interest pieces and reviews. Leading and developing a great team, Adam can still be seen dusting his keyboard off to write articles for the likes of TechRadar, T3 and Tom's Guide, having now written about cybersecurity topics for the best part of a decade.