What are broadband speeds?

Sep 13, 2022

Most of us use broadband every day for work, entertainment, or to stay in touch with family and friends using smartphones, laptops, and other electronic devices.

Broadband speed is one of the most important things to consider when choosing your internet service provider (ISP). It is essentially how fast the connection is between you and the internet, which affects how quickly you can upload or download files such as videos and photos, PDFs etc. using your internet connection.

The broadband speeds available to you will vary depending on factors such as how far away you are from the nearest “exchange” or “street-side cabinet” (one of those mysterious green metal boxes that seems to have proliferated our pavements in recent years), and the type of signalling system used by the network operator and the type of connection you have between their network and your home. How do broadband speeds work?

Broadband speeds are measured in bits per second (bps). The more bps, the faster the broadband, which means faster downloads and uploads. Modern services (usually) deliver services measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). One Megabit is a million bits!

With older, legacy, broadband connections the upload speed was always slower than the download speed, the services were asymmetrical. At Netomnia, we believe it’s just as important to have fast upload speeds as well as fast download speeds, so we’ve invested in the latest network technology that provides symmetrical services.

If you are using a modern full fibre broadband network, then you and your family will be able to simultaneously watch videos on streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney AND iPlayer all at the same time, at the same time as doing all that download music and apps and upload work, school or college files quickly… really quickly.

According to Ofcom, the UK telecoms regulator who study and report on broadband, the average download speeds for UK broadband services is 50.4Mbps and the upload speed average is a paltry 9.8Mbps. Our full fibre network has the capability to deliver up to 10,000Mbps for both upload and download, enabling us to future proof communities across the UK for decades to come. How does peak time influence slowdowns?

Internet slowdowns occur during peak times and cause your average download speeds to drop significantly. It typically occurs between 7-11 PM on weeknights as this is when most people use the internet.

Internet slowdowns are caused by a telecoms network design practice called “contention”. Your copper telephone wires used for your legacy broadband service, all meet at either the local exchange or more likely these days in a street-side cabinet. From there they share the “fibre optic backhaul” connection to the rest of the internet. Contention is the number of users simultaneously using, or trying to use, the fibre optic backhaul connection. The more users try using it, the more interference there is and the slower your connection becomes. This is most noticeable in rural areas where the length of copper wires can be very long and the signalling strength on the copper wires very low.As our network uses the latest generation full fibre technology, we extend our optical fibres directly into your home and there is no equivalent of this contentious contention.

What do 'average speeds' actually mean?

Broadband providers promote their internet packages using 'average speeds.' These will tell you what broadband speed you should expect, but there is no guarantee that you will always receive these speeds.The internet speed advertised is the average download speed available to at least 50 percent of the broadband provider's customers during peak internet hours. This inevitably means that some users will get a faster download speed while others will get a slower speed.If you live in a rural location, then you are likely to have a slower broadband speed than the average advertised. A survey by Ofcom* found that rural lines had a median average speed under 10 Mbps in March 2021.

Our full fibre network uses fibre optics to connect directly to your house, we don’t use copper wires at all. This means the speeds we offer are simply unaffected by your home’s location or how far it is away from a street-side cabinet or the exchange. We believe everyone everywhere should be able to benefit from ultrafast internet connections.

Estimated speeds and speed guarantees

Average internet speeds will give you a good indication of the download speed you will get, but they are not guaranteed. To help resolve this issue, many well-known broadband providers have signed up to Ofcom's voluntary code of practice on broadband speeds. Under this policy, broadband providers must give accurate estimates of broadband speeds taking peak times into account. Customers should also be given a minimum guaranteed speed and have the right to cancel the contract without penalty if the speed falls below this minimum and the issue is not resolved within 30 days.

Which is great in theory, but is unworkable in a copper-based world. And don’t forget, many ISPs simply resell BT’s copper-based services, so a different ISP may not change your service at all.

How upload speed works

Upload speed is how quickly you can upload information from your electronic device to the internet e.g. when you post on social media or share videos and images online.

While it’s true that the average internet user spends more time downloading data than uploading, the recent Covid-related lockdowns and work from home practices have shown how important fast and reliable upload speeds actually are! In addition, upload speed is becoming more important as more services are moving to the cloud and sharing services are becoming more popular.

The average speed advertised usually refers to the download speed, so make sure you also check the average upload speed when comparing internet providers.We’re ahead of the game and our ISPs can provide symmetrical ultra-fast services – on our network, your upload speeds are just as fast as your download speeds!

*https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/224192/uk-home-broadband-performance-technical-report-march-2021-data.pdf