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Guide to running a broadband speed test

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According to our recent survey[1], 93% of broadband customers agreed that speed is one of the most important factors when picking a new broadband deal. As such, knowing what speeds you currently get is vital to know whether you need to upgrade your package or not. 

In this guide, our Home Tech Expert Gemma Ryles explains how to test your broadband speed, the difference between download and upload speeds and what you can do to get the most accurate results on your speed test.

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How do I test internet speed?

Conducting a speed test will tell you what upload and download speeds you are currently receiving. Put simply, the higher the numbers, the faster your broadband connection is. 

For the best results, follow our step-by-step guide:

  • Ensure no one in your household is uploading or downloading any content, as this will skew the results
  • If you have one, log out of your VPN service while you conduct the test
  • To see the fastest possible speeds with your connection, plug your laptop or PC directly into a router using an ethernet cable 
  • Carry out multiple tests throughout the day for a better overall picture of your broadband speeds
  • Keep in mind that during peak times – from 8pm to 10pm – your connection will likely be slower than at other times of the day

Once you know what speeds you’re currently receiving, you can check whether they are on par with the speeds advertised in your package. If they are much lower, contact your broadband provider: you may be eligible for a refund, or have the right to terminate your contract without an exit fee.

How is broadband speed measured?

Most of the time, an internet speed test will measure your connection in megabits per second (Mbps), where a megabit is a unit of data size.

For example, if your download speed is 80Mbps, 80 megabits are being downloaded every second. If your download speed is 40Mbps, it is slower than an 80Mbps connection, and if it is 100Mbps, that means it is faster. 

If your broadband connection is on the faster side, it may be measured in gigabits per second (Gbps) instead of Mbps. One gigabit is made up of 1,000 megabits. 

On the other hand, if your connection is particularly slow, you may get a reading in kilobits per second (Kbps). A megabit is made up of 1,000 kilobits. To recap, anything speed measured in Gbps is faster than Mbps, which in turn is faster than Kbps. Speeds above 100Mbps are classified as full fibre broadband, while speeds of 1,000Mbps or above are known as gigabit broadband.

What is the difference between upload and download speed?

Downloading is when you take data from the internet. It could be a specific file, like a document someone has sent you via an email, but it could also be the data you download while streaming a video or song. 

Uploading, meanwhile, is when you transfer data from your own computer to the internet. That not only includes posting pictures and videos on social media, but also your side of a video call.

When using the internet, you will mainly be downloading, rather than uploading, data. That’s why most broadband deals give far more weight to the average and minimum download speeds you can expect than to upload speeds. 

It also explains why most of the download speeds advertised are significantly higher than upload speeds; for most people, downloading is what they will spend almost all of their time on the internet doing. 

Certain activities such as video calls and online gaming require good upload as well as download speeds. As such, you should make sure you take both into consideration when comparing broadband speeds, especially if you work from home or regularly participate in online gaming tournaments.

What broadband speed is considered good?

The answer to this will depend on your household’s internet usage. If you live alone or only use your broadband for simple browsing and sending email, a lower speed will work just fine; if, on the other hand, you’re a gamer or you work from home frequently, you’ll need a faster broadband package.

According to the latest Ofcom data[1], the average download speed in the UK as of March 2023 was 69Mbps. The same Ofcom report revealed the average upload speed to be 18Mbps – a large increase from a year earlier, where the figure sat at 8Mbps. 

Our survey of over 2,000 broadband customers revealed their average broadband speed to be 142Mbps. You can see the average download speeds across the country below.


What is considered a good broadband speed for gaming?

The best gaming broadband deals offer speeds of 100Mbps or above, which allows for 4K and HDR streaming with little-to-no buffering or lag. If you are happy to game in lower resolution, speeds of around 25Mbps will also be serviceable.

Think of it this way –  the faster your reaction times need to be when playing online, the faster you will want your internet to be.


What is considered a good broadband speed for streaming?

Streaming doesn’t require the same internet speeds as online gaming. 

Watching a video in high definition on a single device can use as little as 5 to 10Mbps, though for a more stable connection, or if you want to stream in 4K, you may want speeds of 25 to 35Mbps.

And the more people streaming videos on different devices at the same time, the faster you will need your connection to be.

What factors affect broadband speed?

Multiple factors can have an impact on your broadband speed. It’s worth noting that occasional drops in speed are normal, but you may have to switch broadband deals if you are consistently seeing slow speeds on a fast package. 

To help you determine what is causing your broadband speeds to drop, we have outlined some of the most common issues you may encounter. If nothing is improving your connection, contact your broadband provider to see if you are eligible for a refund.  


Your location will have a huge impact on what broadband speeds are available to you. Full fibre broadband is only available to 57 per cent of homes in the UK[3], and rural areas tend to have lower speeds than urban areas. 

Using our postcode checker is the best way to get instant access to all the best broadband in your area. Filter the results by speed if you want to find the fastest deals available to you. 

Type of connection

The type of broadband connection you have will also dictate what speeds are available to you. Basic broadband (ADSL) is the slowest type of broadband, with speeds averaging 11Mbps. Fibre (FTTC) and full fibre (FTTP) are much faster, but are less accessible, especially if you live in a rural area. 

If you are not eligible for fibre broadband but want to experience faster speeds, look towards mobile broadband, wireless broadband and satellite broadband. These connections are much faster, but they can be more expensive than traditional solutions.

Number of connected devices

More connected devices may result in slower overall speeds as the network can become overcrowded. To resolve this issue, you can either disconnect unused devices, ensure that multiple people are not downloading files simultaneously, or upgrade to a faster package that is more suitable for a busy household. 

Wireless vs wired connection 

Overall, a wired connection is more reliable than a wireless one. If you want to experience the fastest speeds, plug your PC or laptop into your router via an ethernet cable.


Ensure your router is placed in a central location that can reach all corners of your home. You may want to invest in a wifi extender if certain rooms are seeing low speeds, and make sure your router is updated consistently for best performance. 

Fair use policies 

Some broadband providers include fair use or fair usage policies in their contracts. These policies slow down your connection at peak times if you frequently engage in internet-intensive activities to ensure a fair performance for all customers. 

While fair usage policies are becoming less common, you should still check your contract to see if it includes one. 

Electrical interference

Certain electrical devices, especially those that emit their own wireless signals, can interfere with your router and slow down your internet. Ideally, when placing your router, try to keep it elevated and away from such signal-emitting devices.

Time of day 

Your broadband connection will generally be slower during peak times (8pm – 10pm) as more people are using the network. This issue cannot be fully resolved, but you may find that downloading or uploading large files is more seamless earlier in the day. 

Weather conditions

Poor weather conditions can result in slower speeds. This is only relevant if you currently use a basic or fibre broadband connection, as they require copper cables which are highly impacted by poor weather. 

Lack of password protection

If you don’t password protect your wireless router, anyone can use your broadband. Not only will this make your connection less safe, it will also slow it down as more people start to use it. 

Health and age of PC or laptop

If you are struggling to connect with an older device it could be due to the health and age of the device itself. If these problems are alleviated when using newer technology, your broadband connection is not the problem.

Which providers offer the fastest download speeds?

Below we have rounded up some of the best broadband providers in the UK and their top download speeds to make picking a new provider easier. We’ve also included our own Independent Advisor rating, which was calculated using the results of our nationwide survey. 

Keep in mind that it’s unlikely every provider will service your region, as none boast whole-country coverage. 

Broadband providerIndependent Advisor ratingFastest average download speed
Community Fibre*★★★★3,000Mbps
NOW Broadband★★★½63Mbps
Virgin Media★★★1,130Mbps
*Hyperoptic and Community Fibre are not national broadband providers; Community Fibre only operates within London.

Wifi speed testing for different internet use cases

When and why you are connected to the internet will be different from your neighbours’ usage, which means the needs of each household are different.

To get an idea of what download speeds you might need, you can use the below as guidance:

  • 10 to 40Mbps: low usage activities, such as basic internet browsing, checking and responding to emails, streaming videos on one device
  • 40 to 100Mbps: medium usage, such as streaming videos on multiple devices at once, downloading large files, one household member playing games online
  • Over 100Mbps: high usage, such as working from home, high definition streaming on multiple devices, multiple people playing games online


[1] Survey of broadband customers aged between 24-64 conducted on Censuswide, 11-14 March 2024. Survey sample: 2,003 respondents, totalling Sky (489), BT Broadband (412), Virgin Media (396), EE (134), Vodafone (124), Other (102), Plusnet (66), NOW Broadband (45), Three (31), Hyperoptic (14), Community Fibre (8), Unsure (7). Respondents were asked to rate each category on a five-point scale, from Very Poor to Excellent, or from Never to Always, with the option of selecting Don’t Know for all questions. For the third question (“What issues, if any, have you experienced with your current broadband provider”) respondents could select from the following: Price Hikes, Slow Speeds, High Prices, Frequent Disconnections, Poor Customer Service, Billing Issues, Other and N/A. The questions used to calculate our score were: “How often, if at all, do you feel the actual speed of your broadband service matches the advertised speed,” “How would you rate your experience with customer service and support from your broadband provider,” ”What issues, if any, have you experienced with your current broadband provider? (Select all that apply),” “How easy or difficult is it/would it be to reach your provider using your preferred method,” “How do you rate the value for money of your broadband service,” “How would you rate the transparency of pricing and additional fees in your broadband service”.
[2] Ofcom, Latest home broadband performance trends revealed
[3] Ofcom, Full-fibre broadband reaches more than 17 million homes.

Frequently asked questions about broadband speed tests

If you are struggling with a particularly slow connection, you can consult our guide on how to improve your broadband speed

You should contact your provider to see if they can help. Based on Ofcom’s Broadband Speeds Code of Practice, it’s the provider’s fault if your service doesn’t match the speeds you were promised, and if they can’t fix it within 30 days, you may be entitled to leave your contract without paying an exit fee.

Some providers may also have their own minimum speed guarantees, whereby you’re entitled to a refund if your speed repeatedly drops below that guarantee. 

If your unhappiness with your speed persists, you could consider switching to a new broadband provider.

Before switching to a provider that can offer very fast download speeds, it’s worth considering whether you actually need them. Unless your household will be using several different devices that are connected to the wifi at the same time, with each device performing tasks that require a decent download speed – for example, one device that is running a video game and perhaps two others streaming films, it’s unlikely that you’ll actually need broadband that offers speeds of up to 900Mbps or 1.6Gbps. 

If you have a larger home and will be using devices in rooms that are far away from where your router is placed, you could also consider purchasing a booster, a second router, or even a mesh network to ensure every room in your house can benefit from the fast download speeds you’re paying for. A second router or wifi booster is often included or offered as an add-on when purchasing a broadband plan with faster download speeds.

There are a number of steps you can take to try and improve your broadband speed, including:

  • Using a wired connection via an ethernet cable, rather than connecting to the internet via wifi
  • Moving your router to a more central location, or near an open doorway, to avoid wall interference
  • Purchasing a wifi range extender or booster device 
  • Updating your internet browser to the latest version
  • Updating your router to a more recent model
Gemma Ryles new profile April 2024

Gemma Ryles

Home Tech Writer

Gemma Ryles is a BJTC and PPA-accredited journalist with three years of experience writing across various publications. As a home tech expert at Independent Advisor, Gemma tests, researches and writes about broadband and home security. 

Previously, Gemma reviewed and curated lists about consumer technology at Trusted Reviews, where she honed her skills in creating buying guides and features to help customers make informed decisions. She has previously worked at Yorkshire Post, BBC Yorkshire, Glitterbeam Radio and Bonus Stage. 

Gemma has a BA in Journalism and in her free time can be found writing short stories, gaming and crocheting. 

Mina Frost new profile April 2024

Mina Frost


Mina is an experienced writer and editor with a focus on home tech and appliances. As an Editor at Independent Advisor, Mina manages the site’s broadband content.