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Download time calculator: a guide to download speeds

How much download speed do you need, and how does it affect the time it takes to download things?
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It's never been more important to make sure you have an internet connection that can handle the needs of your household. And the download speeds we signed up for in the last couple of years may not be sufficient for your needs.

When searching for broadband deals, you’ll see an average download speed listed next to the price. But with file sizes written in one format and speeds written in another, it can be confusing when trying to figure out if your broadband is fast enough to handle a download.

So to try to make things clearer, we've simplified things with our download speed calculator, which will show you the actual time it takes to download different file sizes.

Tip: Once you've calculated your first download time, scroll down on the tool to Start Again and calculate more speeds

What is a good download speed?

For very small households with little internet use, a good download speed is at least 10-11Mbps for standard ADSL broadband. But to support multiple internet users or high-data tasks like 4K streaming or big file downloads, a good download speed would be in excess of around 60Mbps, which typically falls into the category of superfast broadband.

But speeds in the UK are rapidly going beyond this point now too. If you’re looking for internet that can handle anything, then an ultrafast download speed of 100Mbps+ will ensure there’s never an interruption or lag in your service.

Learn more about ultrafast broadband with our guide.

Video game download speed

While each gaming platform is slightly different, the minimum download speed you need for online gaming is 3Mbps. But your speed will also affect how quickly you can download games too.

Many of the most popular titles nowadays reach over 100GB in size, which is a massive file size that takes a while to download. It could take minutes to hours to days, depending on what your internet speed is at home.

However, your download speed isn't the only factor that will affect your online gaming experience. You'll need a decent upload speed and a ping rate of less than 150 ms (milliseconds), which helps your game's 'response time' while playing against others, and means you can improve your chances in competitive multiplayer games.

Keep in mind that these requirements will go up for each additional player in your household and that they don't take into account your internet being used for any other activity at the same time (which is highly unlikely).

Newer, high-resolution games such as those that use 4K streaming will place the biggest demands on your broadband, and a download speed of 3Mbps will definitely not be enough.

And given that most blockbuster video game titles come in at dozens of GBs in size, how long it will take to download the actual game files will also depend on your broadband speed too. Take a look at our report on video game download times around the world to see how long Brits have to wait compared to other nationalities.

Download speed versus ping rate

One of the biggest influences on your online gaming experience is latency and response time, the delay between the action in the game and when it's displayed on your screen. Your ping rate is the speed at which you get a response from your Internet connection after you send out a request. For example, if you have a ping rate of 150ms, your computer takes 150 ms to respond to a request by another computer.

Therefore, if your ping rate is higher than your opponent's, your responses will be slower and their moves will register first. In fast-paced games, you'll want as little ping as possible.

Reducing the number of devices on your home network can help, as will closing as many tabs and programs as possible if gaming on a PC. If your network is often busy, upgrading to a higher speed broadband connection can decrease latency and give you an overall better gaming experience.

See our latest gaming broadband deals

How to download on Netflix

Netflix allows you to download films and TV shows to watch offline via the Netflix app. Within the Netflix app on your smartphone or tablet, simply tap on the download icon to save the episode or movie to your device.

The download speed will depend on the version you select. For example, the first episode of Stranger Things is 197.1MB in Standard quality and 310.1MB in High quality. Or a one-hour episode of Black Mirror is about 280MB in Standard quality and 440MB in High.

Test your current broadband speed

If you want to know how fast your current broadband connection is, then take our quick broadband speed test. This will give you a clearer idea of how long each of the files listed above will take to download in your home.

After taking the test, Uswitch will then show you a range of broadband deals that are available in your area. If you're unhappy with the speed you're receiving, you could get a much better internet speed for you and your household by switching to a new service.

Take a speed test

How to increase your download speed

First, make sure that you’re making the most of your current broadband connection. Ensure there are no faulty connections or loose wires connecting your router to the broadband line.

Check that you’re getting a good Wi-Fi signal throughout your home and make sure your hub is in a central location, not blocked by large items of furniture or electrical equipment.

Wi-Fi extenders might be a good idea if you live in a larger house, or if you can't move your router to a more open location.

If your Wi-Fi signal is strong but your broadband speed is still slow, you might want to think about upgrading your current subscription.

Check out our latest broadband deals

Megabits vs Megabytes

In order to understand download times, you need to understand the difference between bits and bytes, and how they impact your download speeds. While they may sound similar, they’re actually quite different.

They both represent an amount of data, just different amounts of data. A bit is a binary digit of 1 or 0 and a byte is equal to eight bits. A bit is represented by a lowercase b and a byte with an uppercase B. This means that a kilobyte (KB) is eight times larger than a kilobit (Kb), and a megabyte (MB) is eight times larger than a megabit (Mb). Confused already, we don’t blame you.

Part of the reason for the confusion is that file sizes are usually displayed in bytes, but internet speeds are always shown in bits.

Mbps meaning

All internet speeds are measured in bits per second, and so a broadband package with an average speed of 8Mbps means the maximum you will get is eight megabits per second or the equivalent of one megabyte per second.

Technically, all internet speeds should be written as 'Mbps' and not 'Mb' because without specifying the time taken, it's a size, not a speed.

When you’re quoted a download speed, it’s important to remember that it is an average. And you won’t always be able to achieve that speed too. A download time is affected by many things:

  • Line sharing (also known as contention ratio)

  • Time of day

  • The distance from telephone exchange and quality of wiring (in your house and in the street) all factor into your actual broadband speed

The main exception to this rule is if you're using a full fibre connection, also known as fibre to the premises (FTTP), which is unaffected by the distance you live from the exchange.

Even with this more reliable kind of connection, however, your speed will still be impacted by the number of customers using the service at any one time.

Looking for a bit more detail on the difference between bits and bytes? Take a look at our guide.


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