Understanding your broadband speed

Getting sick of your sluggish broadband? This is how it can be fixed...
Understanding your broadband speed

Sick of slow broadband? Here’s how you can speed it up

If your home broadband plays up when you’re streaming your favourite TV shows or uploading videos to Facebook, we feel for you. It can be very frustrating slowly watching the loading bar edge its way from left to right, only for it to freeze just before it reaches 100%.

It’s perfectly natural to blame your internet provider for slow broadband, but it might not be their fault. There are a few other contributing factors to take into account that could be having a negative impact on your broadband speed, including computer settings and the location of your router. The good news is that we’ve come up with a list of top tips to help improve your broadband speed. But before we get started, we suggest you test your internet speed to rule a few things out to start off with.

What does my broadband speed mean?

Head over to Google and type in ‘internet speed test’. This will give you a Google app to test your internet download and upload speed. And you can retake the test after you’ve made any of the changes we look into later.

It’ll go through a series of speedometer-like animations before giving you your results, and if you click though to find out more, you’ll be given a little explanation as to what it all means. Or, if you’d prefer to just stay here, we’ll sum it up for you.

  • Download speed: This is how quickly you can get stuff from the internet. Having a quick download speed will let your stream high quality video from the likes of Netflix, or download a photo album in seconds

  • Upload speed: This is how quickly you can put your stuff on the internet. If you’ve got a lot of holiday snaps, or your putting the band’s latest recordings online, you’ll need a decent upload speed, or you could be waiting around for a while. Upload speed is typically a lot slower than download speed, so don’t be surprised if yours is too.

In terms of overall speed, it really depends what you use your internet for. If it’s mainly Wi-Fi support for your smartphone, a download speed of around 10mbps (megabits per second) will be more than enough. 10 – 17mbps is generally the average for standard broadband in the UK – and should be quick enough to stream HD Netflix.

On the other hand, if your business deals in huge video files, you’ll need something significantly quicker – most likely fibre optic speeds of around 150mbps.

How to improve your broadband speed

Now we know what your download speed is, and what it means, lets take a look at speeding it up…

1. Update your browser

Make sure you’re using the latest version of your web browser. This can help reduce the time it takes for you to get online and download webpages. Or, if you’re not actually that happy with your web browser, think about making a change. Google Chrome could be worth a try if you’re not on it already.

2. Update your router

How old is your broadband router? If you’ve had it for a few years, upgrading it could make a huge difference to your broadband speed.

Check with your internet service provider to see if there’s a newer version of your router you can use. If you explain that you’re having issues with your broadband speed, they may well give you the new router for free.

3. Put your router in its place

Give your router a chance to shine, and put it as near as possible to the place you use the internet the most. Nice and high too, if possible – on top of a bookshelf is good.

Avoid putting any barriers between your router and your device. And yes, we count walls and doors as barriers, so although it may be impossible to live in a wall-less home, you shouldn’t keep it hidden in a cupboard.

You should also try and keep it away from other devices that might cause interference, like baby monitors and microwave ovens – anything that emits a wireless signal isn’t going to play nice.

4. Make sure you’re secure

If you haven’t set a password for your wireless router then anyone could be taking advantage of it. They could even be doing it right now, as you’re reading this article...

And that could be the least of your worries. Having an unsecure network can leave you open to hackers who could be making a beeline for your bank details and other personal details.

Now that we’ve got you suitably spooked, close your curtains, make sure nobody’s standing behind you, and change your password. Make it as complex as you can, and avoid using passwords like the ones in this article.

5. Get wired

If your broadband is still struggling to get into the fast lane, then it could be time to go for an old-school solution. We’re talking wires, people. Remember them?

Wireless connections are always slower than wired. That’s not usually a problem if you’ve got a fast connection, but if you haven't, dig out your old Ethernet cable and go wired. It could make a difference. If it doesn’t, then the problem may lie with your internet service provider. It could be time to talk…

6. Make the call

If you’ve tried all our tips above and you’re still not happy with your broadband speed, it could be time to make a polite, friendly call to your internet service provider. Tell them about the issues you’re having, and they might be able to help. They could identify a fault on the line and fix it for you. Or they might even offer to upgrade you to a faster package (this is where being polite and friendly helps).

If all else fails though, changing your internet service provider might be the best move. It’s a pretty big decision to make, so take your time over it. Comparison calculators are a great tool for helping you decide, and Carphone Warehouse compares more broadband packages than anyone else.

Do you have any more tips on speeding up your broadband? Feel free to share below.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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