One of the major factors that people look for when choosing broadband is speed.  It is important that you compare broadband speeds when you look for a good deal.  There are a number of points that you have to look at when doing this.  You should consider the connection the provider is working off and what the actual speeds you will be getting are. 

How to compare broadband speeds

It is important to recognise that your download speed is the speed at which data is downloaded onto your computer.  The speed you can send data is based on the upload speed. The speeds that are advertised by providers are not always realistic speeds, as only 10% of consumers will be getting the headlined velocity.  To compare broadband speeds you need to consider what speed you will actually be getting.  There are a number of factors that you should be aware of.

You need to look at the type of connection the broadband deal is running on.  Certain connections will offer greater speeds in general.  The advertised speeds for these should be your starting point but you should always think that you are going to get less than what they state.  With ADSL the speed of the connection can be as little as half the advertised speeds. 

There are a number of other factors that will affect the speed your home gets.  These include:

  • The package you have signed up for.
  • How far away your local exchange is.
  • The quality of the line to your home.
  • The number of houses that share the same connection.

If you often complete file sharing and regularly upload information to the internet you should not only look at the download speeds, but should compare the upload speeds available as well. If you are looking for a home office solution the business broadband packages normally offer more generous upload speeds, more reliability, better customer service and a generally more complete offering. Don’t be swayed to pick a residential service for your business, you will be shooting yourself in the foot.

How to test your broadband speed

When you look to compare broadband speeds you should consider the speeds you are getting at the moment.  There is an online tool that you can use to check what your speeds are.  Of course you have to do certain things to ensure that the results you get are accurate.  Once these steps have been completed you will be able to use the broadband speed checker to find out what speeds you are actually getting.

Before you start using the checker you have to ensure that there is nothing or no-one consuming data bandwidth.  You should check that you are not downloading any files and you have to check that your computer is not downloading anything in the background.  These background download tasks include the downloading of updates for different software packages.  You also have to ensure that any device connected to your broadband is not downloading anything.  This will include tablets and mobile phones. Speak to anyone else I the house to make sure they aren’t downloading or streaming. 

Once you have completed the checks you will be able to use the broadband speed checker.  The checker will then tell you what speeds you are getting on your connection.  It is recommended that you do the test a few times to ensure you are getting the correct results.  If the results vary greatly with each test you need to see if you missed something when looking for bandwidth consuming programs.

When you use the speed checker you also need to take into account the time of day you are completing the test.  Certain times of day have slower overall speeds.  These are the peak times of day, which can vary depending on the provider. 

The connection type

When you compare broadband speeds you have to consider the type of cabling used for your connection.  Some cables are able to transfer data at a faster rate than others.  There are two main connection types that are used for home broadband that you should look into.

  • ADSL is the most common connection in the UK.  The ADSL connection runs off the copper cables of the phone network.  The advertised speeds for these connections will be up to 14mb per second.  If you are going to be working off the ADSL2+ cables then you are going to get a faster speed of up to 24mb per second.  The fact is that these are the advertised speeds and are rarely what you will actually be getting.  The degeneration of the speed will vary depending on where you are and the infrastructure around you.
  • Fibre optic or cable broadband is the second connection type.  There are two ways that this is offered and you will be able to receive different speeds with the different ways.  A number of providers do not have fibre to home or premises cabling.  This means that the fibre optic cable goes to the box outside the house and then the connection is delivered through other wiring the last leg of the journey.  Even with this being the case the actual speeds you get with fibre optic connections are much closer to the advertised rate. Fibre cable that goes all the way into the home or business can enable speeds above 95% of the advertised rate fro the majority of customers, such as in the case of Virgin Media.


 The advertised rates for fibre optic broadband are up to 100mb per second.  It should be noted that not all fibre optic broadband providers actually offer deals with the 100mb per second maximum speed. 

What you need to do if you are not getting the speeds

If you are not getting the speeds advertised you should know that you are one of the 90% of consumers in this predicament.  This does not mean that you have no options available to you.  If you feel that your speed is slow for no apparent reason you should contact your service provider.  The service provider wil run a line check and may be able to have an engineer solve the problem. They can alos give you some over the phone support and tips to maximise speed.

Physical faults in the home can manifest in a number of ways.  The most common are bad quality wiring, splitters that are not working correctly and routers that are not only working correctly or cannot handle the connection speeds.  Isolating what is wrong is often a matter of trial and error, or getting a professional to look at your set up. 

If there is no fault and your provider cannot solve the problem they may reduce your bills to put you in line with the speeds you are getting. This won’t happen automatically so you will have to ask them. It may mean stepping down packages.