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Broadband speed explained

5th March 2012 Print

When you shop for a new deal for broadband the two things that you will look for are price and speed. We all know exactly where we stand on the monthly price, however the speed is a much more contentious issue. Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, advertise their highest speeds to put them ahead of their competition, but is it all it’s cracked up to be? Many of us quickly realize that we are not receiving the high speeds advertised, and then we notice the advertiser’s get out clause – the two magic words, ‘up to’. In this article we will explain more about broadband speeds and the things that you can, and can’t, do to try to increase them.

Outdated Infrastructure

Broadband speeds can be made slower by many things, but the main reason for less than advertised speeds is the distance your home is from the telephone exchange. Most broadband is connected through traditional copper wires, which weren’t designed to carry data, so the further it has to travel the weaker the signal gets. This is why people who live in towns and cities tend to have faster Internet connections as there are many more telephone exchanges surrounding them than people who live in small, remote villages. If you suspect this may be the case in your home then you should consider switching to fibre-optic broadband, which is not affected by this, although at the moment it is not available nationwide.

Other Users

Another large influence on the speed of your broadband is the number of other users who are sharing your connection, both those sharing your local exchange and those in your home. At peak times broadband speeds dip because there are so many users sharing the same connections and so there is not as much bandwidth to go around. The general ratio is 50 people to one connection, but this can increase and decrease at different times of the day. The same applies in your home – the more people that are using the wireless connection the slower it will be. Broadband companies often give priority to people on pricier packages so consider paying more to get better speeds, and compare broadband speeds between different providers in your area.

Quality Equipment

The quality of your equipment also affects your speeds – it is surprising how much quicker the connection can be from a high quality router than from a cheap one. Better routers transfer data more quickly, providing a stronger wireless signal over a further distance and have better security options. So, you should shop around for the best router in your price range.

Price Comparison Sites

Broadband often won’t reach the highest speeds advertised but there are big differences in the signals of providers, depending on where you live. Comparison sites like uSwitch allow you to perform speed test on your connection to find if there is a better speed from a different provider, and it could even come at a smaller monthly cost. With a little bit of investigation you can easily find speed and price to meet your needs.