Broadband speeds explained - what is a good speed for home broadband?

broadband speed
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Broadband speeds are typically one of the more eye-catching elements we're drawn to when looking for a new or better broadband deal.

From things like 'superfast fibre' to 'ultrafast fibre' and 'ADSL' today we have wide variety of broadband speed options, but this can make choosing the right one for your household a little complex.

You might also think that just opting for the fastest speed is the best course of action. However, these are typically the most expensive packages. As such, if you're after affordability, it's not always a smart move.

So before you sign on the dotted line and decide which broadband plan is the one for you, we'll help you figure out what broadband speed should you be looking for. This way, you can get the best deal for your needs.

What different broadband speeds are available?

First thing's first, you need to establish the speed you're getting in Mbps by using this broadband speed test. Once you know this, you have an idea of where you stand in relation to the speed options out there right now. Just so you know, you'll have a slower upload speed than download speed, but this is normal.

What does Mb mean?

Mbps means 'Megabits per second' and is the average download speed you can get from your broadband. It's also an easy way to compare the average speeds offered by broadband providers.

On a general level, broadband speeds can be banded into three areas, these are:

'Standard' - or 'ADSL' broadband, which has average speeds of 10-11Mbps and is usually the cheapest option.

'Superfast' - this is the most commonly used broadband in the UK and it gives speeds ranging from 30Mbps to 300Mbps. As you can guess, the prices of these deals can also range considerably.

'Ultrafast' - these are the fastest and most expensive packages and are often subject to a property's fibre connectivity (as you need full fibre), speeds can technically be unlimited but will range from 300-1,000Mbps. 

As packages are invariably more expensive the higher the speeds go, it's a good idea to think about how much you'd prefer to spend on your broadband each month before you shop around.

Different speeds for different needs

The speed you need of course mainly depends on your household's download and data usage. At the same time, the size of your household and the number of users and devices will also have a big bearing how much bandwidth you're using. In simple terms, low broadband speeds and lots of devices can result in slower connections.

One way to check in real time what you need is to get everything running at once with your current broadband – kids on tablets and online gaming consoles, smart gadgets, the streaming UHD content and a laptop downloading. Then run a speed test and see what you're getting and then minus that from the average speed you're supposed to get and you'll see the difference. 

Why might I need more broadband speed?

If your broadband is slow, you won't need to be told why more speed is better. It can mean waiting for downloads of files and photos, lower quality video streaming or that constant buffering alert. It can even mean dropped connections and an inability to use certain devices.

Which broadband is fast enough?

For the best speeds, you're going to want a no-limits line with what many providers refer to as a 'future-proof' connection. That is why fibre broadband is ideal since it uses fibre optics to transmit data, rather than the standard ADSL lines that are limited into how much data they can transmit - hence the slower speeds of such broadband packages. 

However, you might not have access to fibre in your area yet, in which case other services like phone network broadband could be a good option . There's a recent trend of late for households turning to 4G home broadband. In some big cities, 5G home broadband is also a good option and it would be no surprise to see this becoming more common as 5G becomes more widely available.

Do you really need 'ultrafast'?

As we mentioned above, 'full fibre' broadband can now reach speeds of up to 1,000Mbps in some areas. However, for real-world use, that might be overdoing it. 

For a family that has lots of smart devices, phones, tablets, computers and 4K and UHD streaming as well as online gaming demands, you might get close to using that bandwidth. But, realistically, a line closer to the 30-100Mbps mark will also probably suit those needs. 

Keep in mind you may be able to go for one level of speed and then upgrade to a faster one, so perhaps pick a company and go in increments until you're happy. 

Or, if cost isn't an issue for you, go for the fastest and know you'll always have enough speed.

Today's best broadband deals

Now you know a bit more about the different broadband speeds and which could be the best fit for your household, take a look through our latest deals below:

Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.

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