What is a Good Internet Speed?

 In Internet

When we say “internet speed”, it refers to the time it takes to upload or download a file or an image from/to your device screen. Which depends on your internet speed which is been provided by your internet services providers.

What is a Good Upload or Download Speed depends on what you are doing with your Internet connection. But before moving on understanding internet speed further, let us refresh our basics about internet data capacity (storage). Remember what are Bits and Bytes ? It the fundamental unit of internet data. A byte has 8 bits. The size of files stored on your computer is measured in bytes.

  • 1KB =1 kilo Bytes =1,000 Bytes and 1MB=1 Million Bytes.
  • When measuring data transmission speeds the measurement is bits per second or bps.
  • 1 kbps =1 thousand bits per second and 1Mbps= 1Million bits/sec

A 4 MB file will take 8 secs over a 4 Mbits/s link and 2 seconds over a 16 Mbits/s link.

If you want to download and stream movies then a minimum of 4Mbps is needed. If there are several people in your household that also watch movies online then you would want a little more speed. The best indicator of slow network speeds is obtained by using the Internet. If you find that that web pages take a long time to load, and movies take a long time to buffer, then you should check your speed.

An easier check is to check your ISP advertised speeds against your own speed. You might find that you are paying a premium for a package because of the advertised speed but it is impossible for you to get those speeds because of your location.

Factors affecting your internet access speeds:

  • Your Access technology
  • Your ISP
  • Location of the remote resource
  • Time of Day

Internet Access Technology

This is the most important factor as far as internet access speed is concerned.

All technologies have limitations. The connection speeds of fiber broadband is far superior to 3G mobile.

Your (Internet Service Provider) ISP

isp

You connect to your internet service provider (using an access method e.g. ADSL Broadband) and your ISP then connects to the Internet.

ISPs advertise the connection speeds to the subscriber, and not the speeds between the subscriber and the Internet.

In the UK the connection to the home is almost always a BT phone line and ADSL, but fibre is becoming increasing popular. If that is the case then The access speed will be limited by these BT lines regardless of the ISP you choose.

However that doesn’t mean that all providers will provide the same overall connection quality as the connection between the ISP and the Internet is usually over fiber and is fast, but it is shared by many subscribers.

Therefore if the ISP overloads the link to the Internet it slows the connection from subscriber to Internet. So your Connection to the ISP could be 6Mbits/s but from you to the Internet it could be only 3 Mbits/s.

Here is a quote from the BBC article on broadband speeds

Almost half of broadband users are now on packages with advertised speeds above 10Mbps but the average broadband speed is 6.8Mbps according to Ofcom.

The Location Of The Service/Server On The Internet

internet-routing

The Internet comprises a vast network on interconnected computers and networking equipment e.g routers (diagram below).

The number of routers/servers that the data must travel through on the way to and from the destination service/server will affect the overall speed. In addition the speed and capacity of the network that inter-links these computers/routers will also affect the final connection speed.

In general the Internet itself will often be the limiting factor that affects your overall internet speed.

So you may have a super fast connection to the Internet, but still take the same amount of time to download a file from the Internet as someone with a much slower Internet connection.

Time of Day

You may have noticed that the Internet appears to slow at certain times of day.

This is very similar to rush hour on the roads.

Here is a switch graph showing Internet speeds in the UK over the day.

internet-switch-graph

Notice how the average speed drops from almost 10Mbps to around 6Mbps. The worst time to be surfing the net is between 7pm and 9pm.

All the above stated factors combine together to form a chain (communications link) to determine the final speed. As a comparison, If you imagine traffic driving down a 6 lane road, which becomes a 2 lane road and.then a 4 lane road. (image Below).

You can see that the traffic will be restricted by the 2 lane road.

Finally, some common Questions and Answers on understanding internet speed.

Q- I measured my upload and download speeds and they are very different to what the broadband provider advertised. Is this normal?

A- Yes. ISPs usually quote the best speeds possible in theory, but not in practice.

Q- I measured my download speed and it is XMbps is it fast enough?

A- It depends on what you do, or want to do with the connection and how many people use the connection. Generally speeds above 6-8 Mbps will be good for most applications.

Q- My Internet connection is slow what is the reason?

A- It is difficult to say for sure. It could be your connection to your ISP or it could be the Internet. If you check your connection and find that your download speed is around 6Mbps or faster then it is likely to be the Internet.

Q- Is it worth changing providers to get a faster internet connection?

A- Because of the way broadband is provided it is usually better to try changing the access method i.e. go to fiber instead of ADSL.

Q- Can my Wi-Fi be responsible for my low speeds?

A- Yes if you are using old Wi-Fi adapters in your laptop/PC. For example the old 802.11a standard peaked at around 5Mbps. See this Yahoo answer and this about google support tip for details

Q- I am using Cloud storage for backing up data what should I check?

A- You need to check your upload speed. Generally only fibre broadband supplies good upload speeds.

Q- Is 6 Mbps fast?

A- You can judge it’s speed by how long it takes to transfer data. A 6 MB file will take 8 sec over a 6 Mbits/s. A standard 1GB movie will take about 22 minutes to download at 6Mbps.

Q- What is more important upload speed or download speed?

A- For most people it will be the download speed as most people will be browsing the web downloading movies etc.

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