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Broadband Speeds

Today, with unlimited downloads coming near standard, the main difference between broadband tariffs is speed. You’ll pay double or triple on your monthly bill for internet in the fast lane, but how much speed do really you need? Is it worth splashing out on the zippiest, most expensive broadband deal or could you save money with a slower package and not notice the difference in your browsing?

If you do want near-instantaneous downloads and uninterrupted gaming, which type of connection will guarantee you the best speeds—Virgin Media cable, fibre optic, or full fibre? Will you actually get the speed your internet provider advertises? And if you’re considering a mobile broadband connection, what speeds can you expect when you have 4G service—and what speeds will you get when you have to rely on 3G?

We’re here to help: to explain just how fast superfast is, how fast ultrafast is (hint: faster), to separate your FTTC from your FTTP, and to help you figure out how many Mbps (that’s megabits per second, more about that later) you’ll need to comfortably cruise the web.

The Basics of Internet Speeds

Internet speeds are measured in megabits per second, represented as Mbps, Mbit/sec, or, as they usually appear in marketing materials for broadband, Mb or MB. The speed internet service providers typically advertise is the download speed: that’s how quickly your device will receive data—in megabits— from the internet.

The other speed that matters, but will usually be buried in the fine print, is the upload speed: how fast your device will send data to the internet. For most internet connections, the upload—or upstream— speed will be significantly slower than the download—or downstream—speed. Most users spend most of their time on the internet downloading content rather than uploading it. You’re downloading content anytime you load a new webpage but you likely only upload content when posting photos to social media or uploading videos to YouTube or Vimeo. That’s why most broadband networks are designed to be asymmetric, meaning they support faster download speeds than upload speeds. The exception are some full-fibre or FTTP (fibre to the premise) connections, which boast symmetric speeds: that means you’ll be able to upload content just as fast as you can download it.

Ofcom found the average internet connection in 2017 in Britain boasted speeds of 46.2 Mbps downstream, up from 36.2 Mbps the previous year, and nearly a quadrupling of the average speed just five years before (average speed in 2012 was 12 Mbps). Upload speeds continue to be significantly lower but have also seen improvements too: 6.2 Mbps, up from 4.3 Mbps in 2016 and just 1.4 Mbps in 2012.

How Fast Is My Current Connection?

Your signed up for—and pay for—a package that advertises speeds of 36 Mbps, but what are you actually getting? An online internet speed checker will give you an estimate of both your download and upload speeds.

But what happens if those numbers, the speed you’re paying for and the speed you’re getting, are different? Read on.

How Do Advertised Speeds Compare to Real-World Results?

The speeds you will actually receive at any given time will vary depending on your area, your wiring and router, and, for non fibre optic connections, your distance from your street cabinet and the time of day and other local traffic on the network. You’ll generally find that speeds lag during peak times in the evening, when your neighbours are also on iPlayer and social media.

In 2016 Ofcom found that speeds on ADSL 2+ connections, which are theoretically capable of a maximum speed of 24 Mpbs, were just 10.2 Mbps on average and 9.8 Mbps at peak times. FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) connections more closely matched advertised speeds but still lagged, especially in peak times, when lots of other local users are online. Virgin Media cable connections, which usually advertise the highest speeds on the market, most closely match their ‘on the tin’ speeds. However cable networks suffer most the most congestion and experience the greatest declines in speed a peak times—sometimes up to 25%.

Before you sign up to a contract, your internet provider should be able to give you a clearer estimate of what speeds you can expect. A postcode speed checker and broadband availability should also be able to give you an idea of the speeds achievable in your area.

Until recently internet service providers often advertised broadband packages as having speeds of “up to” a certain Mbps. According to advertising standards, these were speeds achieved by 10% of users. In real world conditions, with attenuation (loss of speed over distance) on copper phone lines and contention (the number of users sharing a connection), users would rarely achieve those “up to” speeds, especially during peak times. As of May 2018, following regulation from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), all numerical claims in broadband ads must be based on the download speeds available to 50% of customers in peak hours between 8pm and 10pm and described as “average speeds.”

If you aren’t getting the speeds you’re paying for, you should check to see your cabling or router is to blame. Many internet service providers offer online troubleshooting portals that will test your speeds and guide you through some changes you can make to ensure you’re getting the speed you’re paying for. You can also call out an engineer from your ISP, although if the fault is found within your setup or premise (as opposed to in the wiring running between your street cabinet and home, for instance) you’ll have to pay for the visit and the repairs. We’ll offer some suggestions below for increasing your speed before you arrange for a costly engineering.

Minimum Speed Guarantees

If the speeds you’re getting consistently fall well below the ones advertised in your contract and your ISP is unable to fix them you may be entitled to walk away from the contract without penalty.

As of March 2019, under new Ofcom rules, broadband providers will be required to supply potential customers with a “minimum speed guarantee” and clearer estimates of what broadband performance they can expect if they sign up to a contract. Additionally, if your ISP is unable to improve on speeds that fall under a certain threshold within a month, you’re entitled to sever the contract without facing additional charges. Technically, customers already had this right but to time limit was placed on the ISP’s efforts to fix the connection. This right will also apply to broadband contracts purchased with landline and TV bundles.

Broadband Types and Speeds

Different types of broadband infrastructure support different speeds. Whether you’re looking for the fastest connection possible to support your gaming habit or trying to figure out if ‘superfast’ internet is for you, it’s helpful to understand the types of broadband on the market and the speeds they offer—and whether they’re available in your area.

ADSL

ADSL, which stands for asymmetric digital subscriber line, uses the copper landline phone network to deliver internet to your home. There are two types: ADSL, which offers theoretical maximum speeds of 8 Mbps, and ADSL 2+, with theoretical maximum speeds of 24 Mbps. In real world conditions the speeds achieved are often much lower. ADSL connections typically advertise average speeds of 11 Mbps and Ofcom found that ADSL connections had an average ‘peak time’ (evenings between 8pm and 10pm) download speed of just 9.8 Mbps and upload speeds of only 0.8 Mpbs.

So why do you not get the maximum speed the ADSL network is capable of? It mostly comes down to properties of copper phone lines and something called attenuation, although your router, the wiring in your home, or interference from other devices could be hampering your speed. But more about that later.

As they travel down and up copper phone lines, broadband signals suffer attenuation, or loss of speed over distance. The further you live from your local phone exchange, the longer the signal will have to travel to your home on copper lines, and the slower the internet you receive will be. ADSL 2+ connections lose speed more quickly within the first 2.5 km and at around 3km from a phone exchange only offers speeds comparable to those achieved over a similar distance of ADSL. Downstream speeds for both dwindle to just 1.3 Mbps and 0.8 Mbps at 5 km from a phone exchange—slow so as to be effectively unusable. This is mostly a concern for rural broadband users because telephone exchanges are usually located in populated areas. If you live several kilometres from the nearest settlement, your ADSL and ADSL 2+ speeds may be so slow you’ll have to investigate other means of getting internet, either with fibre optic or even mobile or satellite broadband. Read our guide to rural broadband options for more information.

Fibre Optic

Fibre optic networks use fibre optic cables rather than copper phone lines to transmit data, delivering a faster and more reliable connection than can be achieved with ADSL. However, most fibre optic networks only extend to your local street cabinet. The rest of the distance to your home and router is covered on standard copper phone lines, albeit with a different technology, VDSL2, than ADSL connections. However the physical limitations of copper wires make these FTTC (fibre to the cabinet) connections vulnerable to the same attenuation and loss of speed over distance that affects ADSL broadband. Furthermore, VDSL2 connections are particularly susceptible to slowdowns from crosstalk interference near the street cabinet, meaning that as more of your neighbours adopt fibre optic broadband your speeds may slow, especially at peak times.

FTTC comes in three variants with theoretical speeds of 80 Mbps, 55 Mbps, and 40 Mbps, although the maximum speeds consumers will achieve on the infrastructure— the “up to” speeds internet suppliers used to advertise— are 76 Mbps, 52 Mbps, and 38 Mbps. Following Advertising Standards Authorities regulations, fibre providers are now advertising ‘average speeds’ of around 67 Mbps, around 50 Mbps, and around 36 Mbps. These are close to the average download speeds Ofcom found on fibre connections between 8pm and 10 pm: 59.6 Mbps, 47.3 Mbps, and 32.7 Mbps.

In contrast, full fibre connections, also called FTTP (fibre to the premise) or FTTH (fibre to the home), use no copper phone lines. The ‘last mile’ between your phone cabinet and doorstep is covered in fibre cables, so you don’t suffer loss of speed over distance. FTTP connections from mainstream providers max out at speeds of 330 Mbps and upstream speeds of 30 Mpbs. Some smaller providers advertise “gigabit internet”: full fibre- connections with theoretical maximum speeds of 1 Gigabit per second—or 1,000 Mbps— and real-world speeds of 900 Mbps. Roll-out is extremely limited so far.

Fibre optic cables are more immune to interference than copper phone wires so FTTP connections will not lag due to crosstalk from your neighbours’ connections. However, installing fibre to each home is expensive and most addresses haven’t been reached. As of May 2018 just 4% of the premises in the county could access full-fibre connections.

Virgin Media Cable

Virgin Media delivers internet over a hybrid fibre and coaxial network that bypasses the existing landline phone network entirely. This means you can get cable broadband without a landline and associated line rental charges.

Virgin cable works similarly to FTTC: a fibre optic connection runs to your street cabinet but rather than bridging the distance from the cabinet to your home on the existing copper phone wires, it uses coaxial cables. Coaxial cables don’t lose speeds over distance and are less susceptible to interference than copper phone lines so can support faster speeds. Virgin offers cable deals branded as Vivid 50, 100, 200 and 350, with average speeds of 54 Mbps, 108 Mbps, 213 Mbps, and 362 Mbps. However, roll-out is limited; just under half of all UK address can receive a Virgin cable connection.

How Fast is Superfast? What About Ultrafast?

It seems childish, more of a descriptor for a toy car than an internet connection, but ‘superfast’ is the actual technical term for high speed internet. In the UK it means connections with download speeds exceeding 24 Mbps. That means only fibre and cable broadband connections can be ‘superfast’; ADSL doesn’t keep the pace.

Broadband connections advertised as “ultrafast” are much less common. This term means the connection exceed 100 Mbps. “Hyperfast” connections are even rarer: they boast speeds over 500 Mbps. Clear 1000 Mbps or 1 Gbp and you have ‘Gigabit’ broadband.

What’s the Fastest Internet Speeds I Can Get?

Say you want the fastest internet on the market, a zippy connection that will download video files in the blink of an eye, keep up with your voracious gaming habit, and impress all your neighbours. Unfortunately, the maximum speeds you can attain depend heavily on where you live and the infrastructure that runs to your local street cabinet and home.

The fastest speeds offered by mainstream internet providers top out at 362 Mbps—that’s with Virgin Media’s cable “Vivid 350” package. FTTP feasibly offers speeds of 1 Gbps but the maximum you can buy through a mainstream provider is usually 330 Mbps.

Some smaller providers offer ‘Gigabit’ internet. For instance, Gigaclear targets rural communities with existing insufficient internet and catapults them into the next century with blistering gigabit speeds. But unless you live in one of those areas, where you’ve probably been putting up with pokey connections for years, you’ll have to settle for around 300 Mbps. And again, results will vary. Your router, your home connection, and network load will all impact speeds.

Leased line contracts available to business customers can offer even higher speeds by running fibre optic cables directly from phone exchanges to business premises and nowhere else. For instance, BT’s leased lines can support speeds of up to 10 GB. And with no one else sharing the connection and competing for bandwidth, the speeds on dedicated leased lines are more consistent. However, they’re generally available exclusively to business customers and at steep prices. Monthly rates often exceed £200 and installation can range from £500 to £1500.

How Much Speed Do I Really Need?

Let’s take a look at the minimum speeds required to comfortably perform the following activities online.

Stream audio: 0.5+ Mbps but music streaming apps with higher sound quality may require 1-2 Mbps
web browsing: 1+ Mbps
High definition video calling: 1.2+ Mbps
Standard definition video streaming: 1.5+ Mbps. This is the minimum connection speed Netflix requires. iPlayer requires 2 Mbps.
Gaming (single player): 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload
High definition video calling: 3+ Mbps. This is the minimum required to stream iPlayer content in HD. Netflix requires 3 Mbps for “DVD quality” streams and 5 Mbps for HD.
4K video streaming: 25 Mbps

If you primarily use the internet to check your email and browse the web, a ADSL connection will fit comfortably. But if you stream content, Skype, upload large files, use peer-to-peer file sharing systems, and/or game online, you’ll want to go for a ‘superfast’ connection, either fibre or cable.

Remember that multiple devices using the same connection will require more bandwidth. You’ll need a minimum connection speed of 5 Mbps to stream HD content on Netflix, but if you and your partner can’t agree on a film and have taken to separate rooms with your laptops to watch separate things, you’ll need 10 Mbps. This means that the more people who live in your home and share a connection and want to be online at the same time, the more speed you’ll have to budget for. Higher speeds mean more people can comfortably use your internet connection at the same time without slowing each other down. If you’re worried about your housemate’s continuous gaming causing your iPlayer stream to falter and stall, seek out a connection with a faster overall speed and fatter bandwidth.

Even in single-occupier homes, bandwidth is being shared by more and more devices. You may be fiercely independent and hate sharing living quarters with another person but you’re happily sharing it with a growing collection of internet-enabled gadgets and smart devices. You probably have a laptop, a tablet, and a smartphone all hooked to your WiFi, but you might also have a Nest thermostat, wireless speakers, an Amazon Alexa, an internet-enabled TV set top box, and several smart appliances. They’re all jockeying for space in your broadband’s bandwidth. The more devices you have and keep turned on and connected to the web, the more Mbps you’ll need on your broadband connection.

For many people, the speed of their broadband is a compromise between price and patience. If you’re on a budget, you can save money on each monthly bill by sacrificing a few Mbps and waiting a little longer to download that file.

To help you back that decision, here’s a look at the approximate times it takes to download the following file types on typical speeds:

3 Mbps (3G internet speed) 11 Mbps (ADSL 2+) 20 Mbps (4G internet speed) 36 Mbps typical FTTC speed) 46.2 Mbps (Average UK speeds 2017) 50 Mbps (typical FTTC speed) 67 (typical FTTC speed) 108 Mbps (Virgin cable speed) 213 Mbps (Virgin cable speed) 362 Mbps (Virgin cable speed) 1 Gbps (giga internet)
photo (1 MB) 2 secs < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec
Ebook (2 MB) 5 secs 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec
Mp3 (3.5 MB) 9 secs 2 secs 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec
5 min YouTube SD video (40 MB) 1 min, 51 secs 30 secs 16 secs 9 secs 7 secs 6 secs 5 secs 3 secs 1 sec < 1 sec < 1 sec
SD Movie 1 GB) 47 mins, 43 secs 13 mins 7 mins, 9 secs 3 mins, 58 secs 3 mins, 5 secs 2 mins, 51 secs 2 mins, 8 secs 1 min, 19 secs 40 secs 23 secs 8 secs
HD Movie (10 GB) 7 hours, 57 mins 2 hours, 10 mins 1 hours, 12 mins 39 mins, 46 secs 30 mins, 59 secs 28 mins, 37 secs 21 mins, 22 secs 13 mins, 15 secs 6 mins, 43 secs 3 mins, 57 secs 1 mins, 25 secs
English language Wikipedia , compressed, 14 GB 11 hours, 8 mins 3 hours, 2 mins 1 hour, 40 mins 55 mins, 40 secs 43 mins, 23 secs 40 mins, 5 secs 29 mins, 54 secs 18 mins, 33 secs 9 mins, 24 secs 5 mins, 32 secs 2 mins
Blu-Ray movie (25 GB) 19 hours, 53 mins 5 hours, 25 mins 2 hours, 59 mins 1 hour, 39 mins 1 min, 17 mins 1 hour, 12 mins 53 mins, 25 secs 33 mins, 8 secs 16 mins, 48 secs 9 mins, 53 secs 3 mins, 34 secs
Video Game (30 GB) 23 hours,52 mins 6 hours, 30 mins 3 hours, 35 mins 1 hour, 59 mins 1 min, 33 mins 1 hour, 26 mins 1 hour, 4 mins 39 mins, 46 secs 20 mins, 9 secs 11 mins, 51 secs 4 mins, 17 secs

Speeds for Mobile Broadband

Previously we’ve been discussing the speeds achieved on fixed line broadband, which operates over in-ground copper phone lines and/or fibre optic cables. Mobile broadband is a totally different beast.

Mobile broadband harnesses the mobile phone network to deliver internet to your devices. A dongle, MiFi (personal hotspot) or SIM Card allows your device to access the internet much like your smartphone does, wherever you have mobile phone service.

However, if you’ve ever had to hop onto WIFi to watch a video on your smartphone, you know that the speeds supported by the mobile network are just slower than those offered by in-ground infrastructure. 4G LTE has theoretical maximum speeds of 150 Mbps download and 50 Mbps upload but real world speeds of just 20 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload. That means 4G, at its peak performance, can deliver broadband that rivals that offered by ADSL connections.

However, if you’re in an area without 4G coverage, you’ll be stuck using 3G and that has even slower speeds: theoretical maximums of just 7.2 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream and typical, real condition speeds of 3 Mbps downstream and 0.4 Mbps upstream. These speeds in addition to high costs and strict download allowances mean that mobile broadband is not usually a good substitute for a home fixed line broadband connection unless you receive excellent and reliable 4G signal in your residence and have limited video streaming and downloading needs.

How To Increase Your Broadband Speed

If you’ve done a speed test and find the internet speeds you’re actually attaining on your device are significantly below those advertised on your package, you may be tempted to blame your ISP and immediately summon out an engineer. You paid for 67 Mbps so you should be seeing them, right?

While there are certainly infrastructure faults that can slow your connection, much of your speed may be lost within your home, due to interference, ageing or faulty equipment, or bad router placement. Before you schedule—and generally pay for—a visit from your internet provider, see if you can increase your speed by making the following changes.

1. Secure your WiFI connection

Today most broadband connections come with password-protected WiFi networks. But if you don’t have one or have turned it off, your connection could be playing host to any number of neighbours or passers-by. Have you ever had a friend who refused to pay for his own broadband and instead just hitched a ride on the unsecured network of an oblivious neighbour? Remember how he was streaming video all the time? You don’t want to be that duped neighbour, paying for someone else’s internet connection and making do with tortoise speeds and buffering video in return. Add a password to your account or change the one you currently have and use a speed checker to see if your speeds improve.

2. Turn off set-top boxes and gaming devices when they’re not in use

Do you even remember how many devices you connected to your home WiFi network? Set top TV boxes and gaming consoles, smart appliances and wireless speakers. If they’re on, they’re sipping bandwidth even when they’re not in use. Turn them off and see if you get a speed boost.

3. Turn off your devices to give them a breakup from the connection

Sometimes, after hours of being on and connected to WiFi, your devices get tired. Give your laptop and tablet a break from connectivity by shutting them off when they’re not in use and they’ll be more refreshed, and better able to connect, when you next use them. Kinda like people.

4. Don’t turn off your router

It’s best to give your devices a break from connectivity but if you turn your router and modem off when you’re not using them—say overnight—your broadband will look like it’s disconnecting. The connection will look unstable and speeds may slow to compensate.

That said, if your router is malfunctioning or overheating and your WiFi suddenly vanishes, a reboot might be required. That’s typically the first recourse when your connection suddenly vanishes.

5. Reposition your router for better WiFi

The nearer to your router you are, the stronger the WiFi signal your device will receive and the faster your internet will be. Make sure your router is located in a central location in your home or closest to where you usually use it. Remember that thick walls, metal pipes, doors, and wardrobes can affect signal strength and reception. Make sure it’s in a clear, visible, central location in your home—not in a cupboard, for instance.

Don’t put your router in a window because then you’ll be beaming half your signal outside. Similarly, keep it up off the ground or else you’ll be sending lots of signal straight into your floor. Keep routers away from metal objects, which scatter signal, and water, which swallow it. That means don’t tuck it behind your TV or next to your fish tank.

6. Buy a new router

If you’re using an outdated or faulty router, placing it in the best possible location won’t really matter. If you’re using a broken or old ISP-provided router, contact your provider to see if you can get a new one. Alternatively, you may want to purchase a router with better performance and specs yourself. Make sure it’s compatible with your broadband connection before you put down the cash though.

7. Buy a WiFi extender

Have difficulty getting fast—or any—internet in one particular room in your house? Maybe once it wasn’t too important to have connectivity in your bathroom or kitchen but with so many smart devices, from speakers to thermostats to appliances, requiring the internet, it’s important your WiFi signal can reach all your homes’ nooks, crannies, and bathrooms.

A WiFI extender or repeater can beam your connection into the furtherest reaches of your residence and improve speeds. Yes, even your second wine cellar can be bathed in WiFi, if you want it. A WFI extender particularly helpful if you’re trying to improve internet coverage and speeds in a large house or office but will be less helpful if you’re living in a one-bedroom flat.

WiFi extenders range in price from £20 to over £100, depending on performance.

7. Explore mesh WiFi networks

Mesh WiFi networks use several nodes placed in various locations in your house to strengthen WiFi signal. Unlike an extender that simply relays a signal from your router, with the strength deteriorating, a network of nodes all communicate with each other, ensuring that even the node furthest from the router receives a strong signal.

Sounds complicated ,right? Luckily, mesh WiFi networks are designed to be used right out of the box, with no great tech skill required. The kits usually come with two or three nodes but you can add more if you feel your signal and internet speeds are still lacking in certain corners of your house. Like an extender or repeater, a mesh WiFi system doesn’t replace your router and modem unit but strengthens the signal from it.

Mesh systems are pricy, generally running between £150 and £300 and are probably only worth investing in if you’re already paying for a lightning fast fibre connection and just trying to liven up some WiFi dead zones in your house.

8. Just sit next to the router

Sure, you could buy a mesh WiFi network with 15 nodes and rig your entire house for high speed connections but you might get the quickest speed just by sitting next to your router. You may not always want to but if you’re downloading a massive file and need all the extra Mbps you can get, it can’t hurt.

9. Check your microfilters

If you have an ADSL or FTTC connection, your broadband is using the same copper phone lines that your telephone service does. A microfilter is a device on your phone socket that allows the two systems to use the same lines without interference: either noise on your phone line or a disrupted or slow broadband connection. You need one on every phone socket in your home with broadband equipment plugged into it.

10. Ditch your cordless phone

Some people claim that even with microfilters, interference from your cordless phone can slow your broadband speeds and that you’re best off ditching your landline phone entirely. Unless you’re opting for a Virgin cable contract, you’ll still have to pay line rental for that land line, of course. But if you’re reliant on your mobile and are only fielding spam calls on your landline, consider unplugging your cordless landline phone and see if your internet speeds improve.

13. Check for interference from other devices

Routers broadcast signal on a radio band. The old ones broadcast on the 2.4Ghz band, which is unfortunately also the favoured band of cordless phones, Bluetooth speaks, and microwaves. Electromagnetic interference from those devices could disrupt your WiFi signal. You should try to keep those devices as far away from your router as possible but if you are using an older router, it might be worth upgrading to a newer one. Newer routers are usually dual band, meaning they broadcast on both the crowded 2.4Ghz band and the much less populated 5Ghz band.

14. Check for interference from your neighbours’ router

Other routers in your neighbourhood may be interfering with yours, causing a deterioration of the signal. You can’t exactly ask your neighbours to unplug their router while you try to boost your speeds to download that Blu-Ray film in under three days. But what you can do is adjust the channel your router operates on. Network analyser apps and programmes can show you which channels your neighbours’ routers are using and allow you to seek vacant territory for your own.

15. Check or update your devices

Older, cheaper devices won’t be able to deliver the internet as fast as newer, more expensive ones. It won’t matter how fast your connection is or how strong your WiFi signal is, if your ageing laptop can’t muster a good connection. Consider investing in a replacement if you can’t get the speeds you want on an old device.

16. Check your devices for viruses and malware

Viruses and malware could be making your device and its connection operate slowly but they could also be hijacking the device, and its WiFi connection, to do nefarious, and bandwidth sucking, activities on the internet. Scrub your devices—and not just your computer, but your tablets and smartphones too— of malware and install anti-virus software to keep them safe in the future.

17. Don’t allow one device to suck up all your bandwidth

Is your son’s gaming device eating all your bandwidth, slowing internet speeds for everyone else in the house. You can use the Quality of Service system on your router to prioritise certain application and devices over others, ensuring that when you need to video call a faraway friend or business contact, Skype can get the bandwidth it needs, regardless of what your family is doing.

18. Switch your broadband provider

If you aren’t satisfied with the speeds you’re getting on your current broadband package, seek out another contract, perhaps with a different technology, from a competitor. You may be just managing with plodding ADSL when blistering Virgin cable connections are available in your area. Use a broadband availability checker to see what providers, tariffs, and speeds are available to you and then compare rates with our comparison engine.

Future Developments

Fixed line Broadband

In 2008 the average broadband speed in the UK was just 3.6 Mbps. A decade later it’s more than ten times as fast—46.2 Mbps. Will the next decade see a further ten-fold, or even greater, increase in our internet speeds? With FTTP and cable connections already offering blistering connections already 10 times faster than the average and some select providers laying the fibre for gigabit internet—30 times faster than the average—460 Mpbs seems like a conservative estimate for the internet of 2028.

In January 2014 researchers created the fastest internet connection ever: 1.4 terabits per second, sustained on 410 km of commercial-grade fibre optic cables running between the BT Tower in London and a research campus in Sussex. For context: a terabit is 1,000 gigabits. This connection is more than a thousand times faster than any existing domestic internet in the UK. It download 44 high-definition films in a second and the entire English language Wikipedia in just 0.006 seconds.

No one is currently linking homes up to a 1.4 terabit connection, but expect developments in cabling and broadband installation to push domestic internet speeds somewhere close to the stratosphere. We’ll likely look back at our pokey 46 Mbps connections and the 30 minutes they took to download HD films with the same disbelief with which we now regard the glacial 56 kilobit/sec dial-up connections of the early 2000s.

Mobile Broadband

The coming 5G (fifth generation) mobile network will offer speeds that outpace even those supported by the best full-fibre connections. Because 5G doesn’t exist outside of laboratory testing at the moment, we still don’t know just how fast it will be. But estimates say maximum download speeds will range between 1 Gbps and 10 Gbps. EE, the 5G pioneer in the UK, attained a stable download speed of 2.8 Gbps in a test lab in late 2017. However, implementation is still a few years away. The first 5G enabled smartphones, from Samsung, aren’t even set to hit the market until mid-2019 and the UK government, while pouring £160 million into 5G research and innovation, isn’t anticipating a wider commercial roll-out until 2025. Expect coverage to be limited—and very expensive—at first. But when 5G does exist, it will make mobile broadband a much more attractive, and speedier, alternative to fixed line connections.