For many of us, broadband connection speed is the deciding factor when choosing a broadband package. After "how much does it cost?", the most common question consumers will ask is "what broadband speed can I get?"
With social distancing rules in place during the COVID-19 crisis, the demands placed on our home broadband are greater than ever. Finding out what broadband speed you can get could make all the difference when working from home, connecting with family and friends online and keeping yourselves entertained by streaming games and TV shows.
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 since many customers don't know what speed they are currently experiencing and therefore don't know what 8Mbps, 50Mbps or even 120Mbps actually mean in practical terms.
You can test the speed of your broadband connection with our Uswitch broadband speed test, which can make a more informed decision when you come to compare broadband speeds and packages ahead of signing up. In order to get the most accurate reading, you should close all other programs, web pages and games before starting the speed test.
Can a connection be sped up without changing provider?
Yes. If you use a wireless connection, you can try moving your router to a more central location in the house, or even changing the channels or broadcast type of your router.
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.
What’s the broadband speed in my area?
Within the UK, broadband speeds currently range very widely from 8Mbps to over 1Gbps, 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 nearly 96% of the country, some people 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.
- How far are you from the telephone exchange? The closer you are, the faster your connection.
To see an accurate speed approximation for your home, try our network checker, currently in its beta stage, where you can find the broadband speeds your home has access to.
What broadband speed do I need?
This depends on your broadband needs. For those of us that use the internet for streaming content, a decent broadband speed makes life much easier.
A good broadband speed for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer is 1.5 Mbps and above for SD streaming, and 2.8 Mbps 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.
How to find the best broadband in your area
To find the best broadband in your area, first, enter your postcode in our broadband deals page. If you’re looking to get a faster connection, or simply a better broadband deal for the same speed, the more information you have at hand before you compare prices, the better.
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.
Fibre broadband using 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.
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 broadband deals.