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What broadband speed do I need?

For many of us, broadband connection speed is one of the top deciding factors when choosing a broadband package. After "how much does it cost?", the most common question most people will ask is "what internet speed can I get?"
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Finding out what broadband speeds your property has available could make all the difference on work-from-home days, video calling family and friends online, or keeping yourself entertained by playing games and streaming TV shows.

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What is a good internet speed?

A good internet speed is one that matches your needs the best.

Common broadband speeds in the UK start from as little as 10Mbps, and can go faster than 1Gbps — which is 100 times faster. A 'good' internet speed is one that's fast enough to handle everything your household does online, but isn't so fast that you're paying for a speed that you don't need.

The best guidance on speed we can give is that, nowadays, you should probably look for a fibre broadband deal first. Some providers still offer 10Mbps copper internet, but often at prices that are either similar or more expensive, than the cheapest fibre deals.

For example, you can now get some superfast fibre deals from just £18 per month, which is considerably cheaper than many standard ADSL deals. So in many cases, a faster fibre-optic connection is now cheaper to get than a slower standard broadband connection. This means you'll get more for your money if you go for them.

How fast is my broadband?

Just because broadband providers advertise average speeds doesn't mean you're actually getting that speed. Speed tests are useful because you may not know what speed you're currently experiencing — and the difference between 8Mbps, 50Mbps, 100Mbps and 1000Mbps isn't as obvious in practical terms.

Test the speed of your broadband connection with our Uswitch broadband speed test, which can help you make a more informed decision when you come to compare internet speeds and packages ahead of signing up.

To get the most accurate reading, close all your other programs, web pages and games before starting the speed test.

Take a speed test

Can I speed up my broadband without changing internet providers?

Yes. If you use a wireless connection, you could improve your Wi-Fi connection by moving your router to a more central, open location in the house, or even changing the channels or broadcast type of your router.

You might find that a Wi-Fi extender helps you boost your router's internet signal throughout your home. Learn more about Wi-Fi boosters with our guide.

If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can even forward your router’s ports. This works very well for programmes, games and utilities, but it can't be done for internet browsers like Internet Explorer or Firefox.

If you've done a few speed tests and you're not happy with your current broadband speeds, you can usually upgrade to a faster connection with your provider. Just keep in mind that most providers will require you to sign up for another fixed-term contract when you upgrade.

What internet speed can I get in my area?

Within the UK, broadband speeds currently range very widely from 8Mbps to over 1Gbps (1000Mbps), although the higher speeds aren't available everywhere — or with every provider — just yet.

The speed of broadband that you can get depends mainly on where you live.

  • Do you have access to cable or fibre broadband?

     

    Although superfast broadband is available to 96% of the country, a few hundred thousand homes are still unable to get these speeds and will be limited to ADSL broadband.

  • Are you in a rural or urban area?

     

    Broadband is consistently faster in cities and larger towns, regardless of connection type. But if you live in purpose-built flats, the internal wiring might sometimes make it hard to access fibre.

  • How far are you from the telephone exchange?

     

    If you're on a copper ADSL or partial-copper fibre connection, your connection will be slower if you're further from the exchange.

What internet speed do I need?

This depends on what you're planning to use your broadband for. Each household will place different demands on their broadband connection, and faster broadband speeds could make life much easier for you.

Broadband speeds for browsing online

When browsing online, checking emails or scrolling through social media, you probably won't need very fast broadband speeds. Even an ADSL connection with minimum speeds of 1Mbps or less will be enough to get the job done.

The problem comes when there's more than one person wanting to use the internet at a time, or if you start to use the internet to watch videos or make video calls. Then you might need to boost your home broadband speeds.

10Mbps is a decent broadband speed for a small household that just browses occasionally.

If you won't be doing much with your broadband, you might want to look for a cheap broadband deal. Browse our range of affordable broadband offers to get a service for a low monthly cost.

Broadband speeds for streaming

Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer require broadband speeds of 1.5Mbps and above for SD streaming, and 2.8Mbps and above for HD streaming.

However, this is just for one device — if you live with other people or run multiple devices at the same time, your household’s usage will quickly add up.

30Mbps+ is a decent broadband speed for small households that use their internet for streaming.

Broadband speeds for gaming

If there's a gamer in your household then your internet will be working a lot harder than most. Video game files are huge, often well over 100 GB, meaning the minimum recommended speeds often won't suffice.

For example, Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is nearly 175 GB in size, which means it would take about 132.7 hours to download on a 3Mbps connection.

If you add online gaming or game streaming into the mix, a 30Mbps connection will get clogged up fairly quickly. If you have a gamer at home, look for either superfast or full fibre broadband starting from 60-100Mbps in larger homes.

Which is the best internet provider in my area?

To compare internet speeds in your area, first, enter your postcode in our broadband deals page.

The best provider is the one that offers the service that's most suited to you. If you’re looking to get a faster connection, or simply a better broadband deal for the same speed, the better idea you have of what you want before you compare prices, the better.

Check the best broadband in my area

Why is my internet so slow?

There are a few main reasons why your internet is slow, the most common being problems with your router, poor Wi-Fi signal, or too many devices running on a slower broadband connection.

Be sure to check the following if you’re struggling with slow internet:

  • The position of your Wi-Fi router —

     

    Is your Wi-Fi signal being blocked by furniture, cupboards or walls? Try moving your router to a more open, central location within your home.

  • The condition of your router —

     

    Is your current router up to scratch? If it’s old or damaged the signal may be compromised.

  • The speed of your broadband package —

     

    Check your current broadband speed

     

    to see if it’s sufficient to keep up with your household needs. If anyone in your house works from home, downloads large files or plays games online, that’s likely to put a strain on slower broadband packages.

Why is my broadband connection slower in the evenings?

This depends on the type of broadband you're using. ADSL broadband is a shared service. Therefore, the more people who are using it, the slower it will be.

The amount of people using a broadband connection in an area affects what's known as the contention ratio, which is the number of people using the area's telephone exchange compared to the coping capacity the exchange has for those connections.

Most people using broadband in their homes use their computers in the evening, so connections tend to be a lot slower at these peak hours (i.e. 8pm to 10pm). The best time to use broadband at its fastest is between 12am and 8am when most people are sleeping.

Full fibre broadband

Fibre broadband using full fibre or fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology is unaffected by distance from the exchange since the fibre connection goes directly to your building or home.

Not everyone has access to FTTP fibre, though — many users are still on fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) technology, which is still affected by your location and how far away you are from the "cabinet" on your street, but location affects cable connections less than ADSL connections.

Read our more detailed guide about full fibre.

While both cable options are more consistent alternatives to ADSL, they are still impacted by the number of people using the service at peak periods.

Thinking of switching your broadband provider?

Take a look at our latest fibre broadband deals

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