Choosing a broadband package is complicated, with hundreds of providers clamouring to offer the best deals. Each provider generally advertises an array of different speed packages.
So, when making your choice, you should first consider how much speed you actually need.
Broadly speaking, the more speed you need, the more expensive it will be. So, to avoid paying too much (or being stuck with a slow connection), figuring out your broadband speed requirements is a must.
Below we set out a step-by-step to determining what broadband speed you need, but first, let’s start with the basics.
What determines my broadband speed?
The biggest factor in determining your broadband speed is the local broadband infrastructure. If you’ve got fibre optic cables running down your road, then you’ll enjoy cheap fast internet; if you’re in a rural spot, it could be more of a challenge.
Here’s the upper limit of speed that you can expect from each connection type:
ADSL Broadband – Up to 20 Mbps
Fibre Broadband – Up to 80 Mbps
GFast Broadband – Up to 350 Mbps
Fibre to Premises Broadband – Up to 1,000 Mbps
Use the Openreach fibre checker to see what is available at your home.
The second most significant factor is the cost of your broadband deal. To get the upper limit of each broadband type, you’ll need to opt for a more expensive package.
What broadband speed do I currently have?
Another great piece of information to understand is what speed you’re currently getting from your broadband provider.
Speed varies during the day, so we recommend running a speed test in the evening to see what you’re currently getting.
You’ll know from experience if you’re frustrated with slow speeds or are content with current speed levels.
What broadband speed do I need?
So, returning to the crux of the article. How do you know how much broadband speed you need?
In this step-by-step guide, we take you through the three factors you need to consider and then provide a simple formula to calculate the broadband speed you need.
i. The layout of your home
The internet speed a device will have access to depends on what obstacles (like walls) your wireless internet needs to travel through to get to your device.
You’ll receive the maximum speed when plugged directly into your router, and then the speed will drop off the further you are away.
To demonstrate, here are the results our founder Ben Brading got when testing broadband speed on his BT full fibre broadband connection:
Plugged directly into router – 150 Mbps download
Right next to the router not plugged in – 130 Mbps download
8 meters away in an adjacent room – 123 Mbps download
12 meters away with the signal travelling through two walls – 51 Mbps download
In summary, you should expect only to receive a third of your maximum speed just a few rooms away from your router.
ii. The number of devices connected to the internet
The bandwidth of your internet connection is shared between all the devices connected to your router.
If one computer downloads a large file, it will restrict the internet speed available to other devices.
So when considering how much internet speed you require, it’s essential to consider the number of devices you’ll likely have connected at peak times and the different activities they’ll be doing. Let’s take a look at how much broadband speed each type of activity uses.
iii. Broadband speed requirements for different activities
The point that you’ll need the fastest internet connection is likely in the evening when your family does lots of things on the internet simultaneously.
Here’s our guide to the minimum speed requirements of the different activities.
To determine your peak requirements add up the speed requirements of all the activities that could be happening at the same time:
Watching Netflix on TV – HD – 3Mbps, Full HD – 5 Mbps, 4k – 25Mbps
Playing Fortnite (an online multiplayer game) – 5 Mbps
Serious game streaming on Xbox/Playstation – 15 Mbps
Watching youtube – 2 Mbps
Zoom/Teams/Google online meetings – 2 Mbps
Listening to music on Spotify – 0.5 Mbps
A VoIP phone call – 0.1 Mbps
iv. Calculate your internet speed requirement
As a rule of thumb, we recommend using the following to estimate a minimum internet speed requirement for your home. The answer will likely mean you’ll never have any frustration with slow internet.
Add up the internet speed requirements of all activities that could happen simultaneously on different devices, then multiply by two to account for the loss in speed you should expect to receive by connecting wirelessly from different rooms around the home.
Ready to find the best broadband deal with the speed you require? Check out our broadband deals of the month.
What are the benefits of faster broadband speeds?
There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting for a TV show to buffer or having your important zoom meeting interrupted by lagging. These problems are familiar to those of us that grew up with dial-up broadband, but with new broadband technology, this experience should be a thing of the past.
The biggest benefit of faster broadband speeds is never having to suffer these problems. A fast broadband speed also allows high-quality streaming of TV and an optimum gaming experience.
Do I need superfast broadband?
‘Superfast’ broadband is an advertising term some broadband providers use to describe broadband speeds between 30 and 300 Mbps.
Superfast covers a really wide range, so it’s worth calculating what broadband speed you actually need. Check out our guide above that will help you reach the answer for your home.
Do I need Ultrafast broadband?
‘Ultrafast’ broadband is the next step up from ‘Superfast’ and refers to speeds greater than 300 Mbps but less than 1,000 Mbps
Ultrafast broadband is what you can achieve with a full fibre broadband connection and will allow your family to comfortably stream HD TV and play online games simultaneously.
Full-fibre broadband comes at an additional cost, so it’s worth working out whether you actually need these speeds. Check out our guide above to determine what broadband speeds your family needs.