The speed of the internet has increased dramatically since its creation. But so has the number of things that it is used for. It’s now common for the internet to be used by multiple users at home for work and entertainment, making a good internet speed essential.
It’s important to know how fast your internet connection actually is, because this will determine how long it takes you to download large files, and how smoothly you can stream videos or play online games.
If you’re experiencing a connectivity issue, running an internet speed test should be your first step in resolving the issue. This article will show you how to undertake an internet speed test (including upload and download Mbps) and how to interpret the results. It will also help you check if you’re getting the internet speeds you paid for, and to work out whether that’s fast enough for your needs.
How to check your internet speed
Carrying out a speed test is relatively easy and there are various websites where you can do this, such as speedtest.net. Using this as an example, here is how to check your internet speed:
- Go to the website or download the app.
- Check that the test server used is either your service provider’s or the nearest one. To get an accurate reflection of your broadband internet speed, you may want to run the test on different servers, choosing those that are further away as many video hosting sites that you may use, for example, are based overseas.
- Select ‘multi’ or ‘single’ under the connections option. Multi will simulate having many connections simultaneously – such as would be the case if your household has multiple internet-enabled devices – while single tests using only one connection.
- Select ‘Go’, and then read the results. You can better understand these results using the information below.
What to look for when reading your speed test
- Mbps – Mbps, or megabits per second, is the main unit used to describe the speed of your connection. A bit is the simplest piece of digital information, and a Megabit refers to a million bits. So for example, a download speed of 20 Mbps would mean that you are retrieving data at a rate of 20 million bits per second. A high Mbps value means that you’re able to send and receive data quickly – so you can download files faster, game without interruptions and watch high resolution streaming TV and movies uninterrupted.
- Download speed – This is how fast you can retrieve data from a remote server to your device, and is measured in Mbps (megabits per second). It affects how fast your webpages load and the speed of your file downloads. A good download speed will also allow your multimedia content to stream smoothly.
- Upload speed – Upload speed refers to how fast you can send data to others. This is also measured in Mbps. Fast upload speeds will better allow you to game smoothly, undertake video calls without freezing or lagging, and upload large files to cloud file sharing services quickly.
- Ping/latency – Ping is a tool used to measure how long it takes for a packet of data to reach a remote server and come back to you. This figure is known as the latency and is measured in milliseconds. High ping rates are essential for interactive internet activities such as gaming and video calling.
- Bandwidth throttling – Bandwidth throttling is a means of artificially slowing down an internet connection – limiting the speed at which data flows to your router. This can be done by some internet service providers, resulting in you getting slower connection speeds than expected.
Your internet speed may vary throughout the day, due to differing internet traffic conditions at various times (such as having more devices online during office hours or the early evening where people turn in for the night) as well as other factors. You should also run multiple tests using different devices, such as your laptop, desktop computer and smartphone, as these will likely vary depending on the limits and capabilities of the hardware or device you are using.
Compare tests with a wired vs WiFi connection
Though you are likely to connect to the internet using WiFi most of the time, it’s highly recommended that you plug your device in and use a wired connection (also known as LAN – local area network) while testing your internet upload and download Mbps speeds. This is because your WiFi connection can be affected by a variety of factors which may interfere with you getting an accurate result of your true internet speed, such as the strength of your router, the number of walls that stand between your router and your device, and how many people are connecting wirelessly.
If you do have to test using a WiFi connection, then ensure that you are positioned as close to your internet router as possible and away from any obstructions.
What’s a good internet download speed?
Once you’ve checked your connection speed, you need to interpret the results. You should now have a figure in Mbps, and you can compare this against the stats below to see if it is sufficient for your needs. The following range of internet speeds can act as a guide for different online activities:
- 1 to 5 Mbps – Sufficient for basic activities such as email and music streaming. May be suitable for working from home that doesn’t involve video calls or regular collaboration.
- 5 to 45 Mbps – This level of connection is sufficient for most uses, including working from home that includes video calls. Examples include streaming videos on online platforms, video calling and online gaming.
- 45 Mbps – This level of internet connection is suitable if there are multiple devices streaming or gaming simultaneously, or there is a need to download large files quickly. Examples would be for a large family who games and stream shows at the same time.
It’s important to also note that internet stability is an important factor in your online experience. If your internet speed test shows very different results each time, this may be a reflection of how the test was ran (eg. wired vs WiFi) or, if you ran the test identically multiple times but got different results, it may indicate that you have an unstable connection. Symptoms of an unstable internet connection include slow loading webpages and regular freezing during video calls. This may be related to things on your device like programs you have running in the background, viruses and malware, or it can even be the connection itself.
If you experience drastic differences when testing on your WiFi connection compared to a wired connection, take a look around the room and see what may be affecting the connection.
How to improve your internet speed
If you’re not getting your desired speed, there are some things you can do to improve it:
- Upgrade to a new router.
- Move your router – Ensure that it’s positioned so that it’s close to your devices and not obstructed by thick walls or other obstacles.
- Change WiFi channels – You can do this in your router settings. A WiFi channel is the band of radio frequencies that your internet is transmitted on, and changing it can help to avoid interference issues with other devices.
- Change your internet service provider – particularly if the speeds you are receiving are significantly lower than what you have subscribed to.
Checking your internet speed is important as it is the first step in diagnosing many online issues in the home, and in improving the speeds you receive. If you’re looking for fast, reliable and secure home internet, take a look at ViewQwest’s broadband plans, available from $28.99/month. ViewQwest has proven to be the fastest network since 2018, so you don’t need to worry about lags or slowdown when you’re connected to your home internet.