Test your internet speed: 3 key numbers to understand
By on in Broadband
When you sign up for service with an internet provider, you’re usually provided minimum download speeds that support your online activities. You’ll often pay more for higher speeds, so it’s important to know if you’re getting what you’re paying for and if any factors are slowing it down. To do this, you’ll need to learn how to test internet speed.
Performing an internet speed test online can tell you a few things about your home internet such as download speed, upload speed and ping. If it sounds complicated, we can help learn everything you need to know.
How do I test internet speed at home?
Performing an internet speed test online is fairly simple. To test internet speed, simply find a website that offers a free speed test. Internet service providers like Spectrum and AT&T offer these speed tests to anyone, regardless of whether or not you’re a customer. There are also independent third-party websites like Fast.com and Speedtest by Ookla that host free speed tests.
The FCC recommends different internet speeds based on the number of devices in your household and your online activity levels. For light use by one or two users, you can get by with a slower speed of 8 Mbps or lower. Two or three devices running moderate internet activity will require speeds of at least 12 to 25 Mbps. For more devices, or if you participate in high-bandwidth activity like HD video streaming or online gaming, look for speeds of 25 Mbps or higher. For the highest-bandwidth internet users, like live streamers and online video creators, fiber-optic speeds can give all the download and upload speed they’d need to keep creating.
What are download speeds in an internet speed test?
The download speed you see in the speed test refers to how fast your device receives digital information from websites and other online sources. A couple of examples are when you load a webpage or stream videos. Usually, your download speed will be significantly higher than your upload speed. This is because for most internet users, the majority of internet activity consists of downloads and service providers will prioritize that usage. Download speeds are measured in megabits per second, abbreviated as Mbps.
There is some controversy over advertised internet speeds from service providers. Most providers advertise “up to” a certain speed, a loophole that means you won’t always get this maximum speed, especially during peak usage hours. Other factors that may affect your internet speed include how many other devices are accessing the internet and how far you are from your wireless router.
What are upload speeds in an internet speed test?
When you perform a speed test, you’ll also be given your current upload speed. This is a measurement of how fast your device can send data to the speed test’s server. Upload speeds come into consideration when you upload photos and videos to a social networking site or send a file via email. Like download speeds, upload speeds are also measured in megabits per second (Mbps). If your upload speed is significantly slower than your download speed, don’t worry – this is completely normal.
Upload speeds might be affected by the browser you’re using or a firewall on your device. You might need faster upload speeds if you regularly need to upload large media files, such as if you create audio or video content for work or as a hobby. Most providers of DSL and cable internet will prioritize download speed, but you’ll find that fiber internet often supports upload speeds as high as download speeds.
What is ping in an internet speed test?
Ping measures the responsiveness of your internet connection, or how long of a delay there is between the moment you send a request for data and the moment your device receives that data. Ping is measured in milliseconds, noted with the abbreviation ms.
Your ping might be slower if you’re using a wireless connection instead of a wired connection. It will also be affected by the number of devices and volume of bandwidth currently using your home internet connection. Ping is especially important with activities like online gaming, which rely on a real-time connection to the game server and other users. A slow ping can give you a disadvantage by delaying your reaction time in the game.
How do I troubleshoot my internet speed?
- Check for internet activity on other devices. If other people in the home are online while you perform a speed test, internet speeds will measure slower.
- Restart your modem and router. Sometimes unplugging these devices for 30 to 60 seconds and turning them back on (called a “power cycle”) helps you get a more accurate result.
- Move closer to your router and check its placement. If the antenna on your router is pointed in the wrong direction, it may result in a slower internet speed test result. WiFi range extenders can help with this.
- Call your internet service provider. If you are consistently getting slow internet speeds and have exhausted all troubleshooting options, your provider might be able to help by resetting your connection or giving other tips. An old rented modem or router can be a major culprit.
- Switch to a different internet service provider. If your internet speed test results consistently show slower speeds than expected, it might be time to think about switching to a different provider.
Frequently asked questions
How do I test my internet speed?
You can use a free internet speed test online to test internet speed. These are available for free from many internet service providers and third parties. Simply find an online test and click the button on the page to start. There is no software required to download to perform the test.
How can I make my internet speed test online more accurate?
To get the most accurate internet speed test results, make sure no other devices are currently using the internet for high-bandwidth activities such as video streaming or gaming. You should also test internet speed at different times of the day to learn the differences in speed between peak and off-peak hours. Restarting your router and modem before performing the test can also make your results more accurate.
Is it normal for my upload speed to be slower than my download speed?
Yes, it’s completely normal for download speed to be significantly faster than upload speed. This is because most of your online activity like surfing the web and streaming video content relies most heavily on downloading data. The providers allow faster download speeds to accommodate for these use cases, though fiber internet often has the same speeds for downloading and uploading.
How do I improve my ping speed?
If you test internet speed and find that your ping is slow, try moving closer to your wireless router or switching to a wired connection with an ethernet cable. Consider trying a WiFi range extender if you absolutely must use WiFi.