Frequently Asked Questions
What are ‘actual’ and ‘up to’ broadband speeds?
When a supplier advertises a broadband package, they provide an ‘up to’ speed for browsing and downloading, for instance, ‘up to 30Mb superfast broadband’. This theoretical maximum is the highest possible speed for your connection if there is no interference and you’re receiving perfect signal from your router.
In the real world, speeds you receive on a daily basis are often lower than the advertised ‘up to’ speeds for your package, sometimes significantly. Your ‘actual’ broadband speed is measured by taking a broadband speed test, which will let you know whether you’re receiving speeds close to what was advertised, within an acceptable degree of the advertised speeds, or whether there may be a problem with your connection.
How do I test my broadband speed?
Use the free broadband speed test tool on this website to see how fast your current internet speeds are. Enter your postcode and press the button. The speed test tool will send a request to your server, called a ‘ping’, and the time it takes to send and receive information is measured, giving you ‘download’ (receiving information from the internet) and ‘upload’ (sending information to the internet) speed test results.
Broadband speeds vary depending on time of day, the quality of your home network set up and how far your premises are from the exchange, but if you consistently run broadband speed tests at different times of the day and find that your ‘actual’ speeds are nowhere near what was advertised, there may be a problem with your connection.
What is a data allowance, and how does it affect me?
Your data allowance is the amount of internet usage included in your broadband contract. Internet usage is measured in units of data – megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). Some broadband contracts now include unlimited data, and we encourage you to consider this option if you are likely to use the internet a lot, there are several people using the same home network at once, or you like to do things you might not realise require an internet connection, for instance enjoying BBC iPlayer services through your digital TV set top box.
A ‘light’ broadband allowance would give you anything from 2-20GB, while a ‘medium’ broadband allowance would be considered anything from 20-100GB, and a ‘heavy’ broadband allowance would give you close to, or unlimited data.
As a guide, here is how much data you use up by doing specific things online:
- 100KB of data: Downloading a web page, reading an email, having an instant messenger chat, downloading a document
- 2MB: Downloading a single photo
- 5MB: Downloading a single 4 minute song
- 15MB: Watching a 5 minute YouTube video
- 1GB: Streaming an hour of HD online video, e.g. via Netflix or BBC iPlayer
- 2-5GB: Downloading a full HD 1080p movie from iTunes
How does traffic management work, and am I impacted?
Broadband traffic management is a policy that allows your ISP (internet service provider) to limit your maximum ‘download’ and ‘upload speeds during peak usage times: 6pm-midnight during the week, and noon to midnight at the weekends.
Speed caps are put in place to ensure that everyone in your local area that is connected to the same ISP can get online with the speeds they need to do things like visit websites, check emails or watch YouTube videos.
Some broadband providers don’t apply traffic management policies at all, while others put stringent caps in place that can reduce your maximum browsing speed significantly, or slow your service to a crawl if you are already receiving slow speeds.
We recommend checking the traffic management policy of your ISP on their website, so that you’re aware of what sort of speed cap (if any) is in place on your connection during peak hours:
What do I do if my provider increases the cost of my package?
From 23rd January 2014, new Ofcom guidance will allow consumers and small businesses to exit their broadband contracts during a minimum term. You will be able to terminate your contract after giving 30 days written notice if the price increases, or the level of service decreases and the price remains the same. More information can be found on the Ofcom website.