What Broadband Speed Do I Need?

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Broadband speeds are getting faster all the time. Today, broadband deals come with download speeds that range from as low as 11 Mbps up to as high as 1Gbps. But the faster your speeds, the higher your costs will inevitably be. You want a broadband deal that will give you the speeds you need for your work and lifestyle. But at the same time, you want a package that’s suitable for your household budget. So, what broadband speed do you need? Only you can answer that.
Last update: October 2021

However, we can help you to determine what broadband speed you need by looking at your online habits, the size of your household and the different types of connection available in your area. But before you dive in further to what you might need to know to make a broadband supplier switch, let’s start with how broadband speeds work.

What is broadband speed and how do you measure it?

Your broadband speed is how quickly you can download or upload data through your internet connection. It is determined by how fast signals can be transmitted through your cabling infrastructure. The material your cables are made from will determine how fast signals can travel, which is why fibre broadband is much faster than a standard ADSL connection. We’ll discuss the difference between these connection types shortly.
Broadband speeds are divided between download speeds (how fast signals travel to your home or devices) and upload speeds (how fast signals travel from your home or devices). Generally, upload speeds are much faster than download speeds. When upload speeds are the same as download speeds this is known as symmetrical broadband.

How is broadband speed measured?

Broadband speeds are typically measured in kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps), although speeds today are so fast that they can even be measured in Gigabits per second (Gbps).

  • 1 Kbps: 1,000 bits per second
  • 1 Mbps: 1,000,000 bits per second
  • 1 Gbps: 1,000,000,000 bits per second

The more bits per second you can receive or send, the faster your broadband connection is. The capacity at which data can be sent or received is known as bandwidth. At Broadband Plans, we’ll endeavour to help you get the best broadband speed for your needs and budget.

How do I know what my current broadband speed is?

There are many reasons why you might want to test your broadband speed. Maybe you want to ensure that the speed your Internet Service Provider (ISP) sold you matches your “real world” speed. Or maybe you’ve forgotten what broadband package you’re currently on and want to ensure that your speeds are fit for purpose.
There are lots of online tools you can use to do this, and virtually every ISP has their own. If you’re looking for a reliable and impartial broadband speed checker, we recommend using one that’s Ofcom approved. We recommend carrying out different tests at different times of the day to get a clearer view of your broadband speed.

Bandwidth vs speed: what’s the difference?

Speed and bandwidth are both important factors in determining the quality of your connection. Your bandwidth determines how much data can be downloaded or uploaded through your connection. Your speed is the rate at which the data can be downloaded. The term broadband refers to the fact that larger volumes of data can be transferred when compared to the dial-up or “narrowband” connections of yesteryear.

How accurate are broadband speeds?

When shopping around for broadband quotes, you’re likely to see some pretty impressive speeds advertised. But do the speeds mentioned in advertising copy match the “real world” speeds that you’re likely to encounter? The honest answer is… it depends.

Ofcom guidelines state that advertised speeds must be available to at least 50% of customers. While this means that the remaining 50% may get slower speeds, this is definitely preferable to the “up to” speeds previously advertised that were only available to 10% of customers. Ofcom no longer permits this practice as of 2018.
It’s important to note that if an ISP consistently fails to deliver on the speeds advertised at the point of sale, you are within your rights to exit your contract according to Ofcom guidelines. Any termination fees will be waived, and you will not have to pay off the rest of your contract.

What broadband speed do I need?

Now we know a little more about broadband speeds. But what speed is right for you? It really depends on what you most often use the internet for, how many people are likely to be online at the same time, and what your budget will allow.

Online habits can generally be sorted into three categories:

  • Light: Using the internet for day-to-day tasks like browsing, shopping, online banking and emails
  • Medium: Social media, heavy browsing, and streaming music or video
  • Heavy: Online gaming, peer-to-peer file sharing, streaming films in high quality

In the table below, you can see some common online activities and the kind of speed that’s required.


Online activity Broadband speed required
Streaming music 1 Mbps
Watching video in HD 5 Mbps
Making a high-quality video call 10 Mbps
Online gaming At least 3 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload
Watching video in 4K UHD 25-30 Mbps


What is a good broadband speed?

A good broadband speed for your household will depend on the kinds of activities for which you require it. But the number of people using the connection also makes a big difference. The more people are online at any given time, the more bandwidth is required, potentially bottleneck speeds.
Let’s look at some good broadband speeds for different households:

For 1-2 people

A house or flat with 1 or 2 people (singles or couples) will usually require fairly modest speeds of around 10 Mbps as long as they are light or medium users. Households of this size will benefit from a fibre connection, but it won’t be essential unless they are heavy users or are working from home.

Households of 3-4 people

Households or families with 3-4 people will generally require greater speeds to accommodate simultaneous online activities. Especially if, for instance, kids want to stream video or play games online while parents video chat for work in the next room.
These households may be frustrated with the limitations of a standard connection and will benefit from the speeds afforded by fibre. Broadband speeds of at least 35-63 Mbps will provide a good balance between performance and affordability.

Households of 5 or more, or student sharers

Large family houses or student sharers are likely to benefit from higher speeds given the likelihood that multiple occupants will be online at the same time. A fibre connection is virtually essential for these households and a direct full-fibre connection is ideal. Speeds of over 50 Mbps would be the best fit for these households, and ideally over 100 Mbps.
If you’re bamboozled by all the different connection types mentioned here, don’t worry. We’re just about to fix that for you…

What is ADSL broadband?

At Broadband Plans, we strive to deliver the best possible broadband based on the connection that’s available in your home. We’ll explain each of the connection types here, starting with the most basic.
An ADSL connection (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) is the most basic kind of connection. It uses the copper cables of your phone line to transmit data. Because signals can only travel so fast through this medium, it bottlenecks available speeds to around 10-11 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. Up to 98% of households can get ADSL2 which uses the same infrastructure but can achieve speeds up to twice as fast.

What is Fibre broadband?

Fibre optic broadband (or simply fibre broadband) uses fibre optic cable connections to transmit data to and from your home. Signals can move through these at close to the speed of light, allowing for much faster connections than can be achieved over ADSL.

ADSL vs fibre optic broadband

ADSL is more commonly available than fibre broadband. However, fibre connections are getting more and more commonplace. In fact, an estimated 96% of households have access to a fibre connection.
Conventional wisdom dictates that ADSL connections are generally cheaper. And while this is true (many ISPs offer ADSL connections for less than £20 per month), the price gap is certainly narrowing with entry-level fibre deals at similar or even lower cost than some ADSL deals.
When it comes to speeds, fibre broadband leaves ADSL in its dust, with minimum speeds of over 30 Mbps, and maximum speeds of up to 1 Gbps, depending on the type of connection.

What’s the difference between FTTC and FTTP broadband?

There are two different types of broadband connection. The cheapest and most common is Fibre To The Cabinet. This is where multiple connections share space in the local exchange cabinet. While this kind of connection is widely available, it does have its caveats. Because connections are shared with other households, your speeds may dip significantly at peak times as others in the cabinet go online. What’s more, the further away you are from the exchange, the lower your speeds are likely to be.
On the other hand Fibre To The Premises (FTTP) provides a direct fibre connection to your home, bypassing the cabinet altogether. These connections are less common and generally a little more expensive. However, they are the only way to achieve ultrafast speeds of 300 Mbps-1 Gbps.

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Do I need to get superfast broadband?

A superfast connection is any connection with speeds of 35 Mbps or more and can only be achieved with a fibre connection. While not all households need a connection of this speed, given that there’s not much difference in price between entry-level fibre and ADSL deals, it’s an increasingly attractive option for most households. Especially since over 90% of UK households can now get superfast broadband.

Especially since it’s well suited to virtually all online activities.

What is a good speed for video streaming?

Video streaming takes up surprisingly little bandwidth. A speed of just 5 Mbps is enough to stream video in 1080P HD. If you want to stream in 4K UHD, however, (an option that’s increasingly available from streaming services), you’ll need a speed of at least 25Mbps. For consistent quality a connection speed of at least 50 Mbps is recommended. If multiple parties want to stream in 4K at the same time, Ofcom recommends speeds of around 300 Mbps.

What speed do I need for video calling?

Many who work from home or want to keep up with relatives far away rely on video calling. For high-quality video and a stable connection, speeds of at least 10Mbps are recommended.

What speeds do I need for online gaming?

Online gaming requires healthy download and upload speeds as you’re constantly sending and receiving data. However, it usually only requires a download speed of 3-5 Mbps and an upload speed of at least 1 Mbps. So you can still play games online with an ADSL connection.

What about ultrafast broadband?

Ultrafast broadband means that you can achieve speeds of over 300 Mbps and up to 1Gbps. Some ISPs even offer speeds of up to 3 Gbps but not only are these very expensive, they’re completely unnecessary for most households.
Ultrafast broadband is a good option for households where multiple people are streaming in 4K, gaming online, making video calls or downloading large files at the same time.

It’s important to note that ultrafast broadband is only possible with an FTTP connection. And at present, this is only available to around 14% of households.

What can affect my broadband speed?

Before making a decision on the best broadband speed for your household, it’s important to be aware of issues that can affect the speed of your connection. Once you know these, you can take steps to mitigate them. More on that later.
Common issues affecting broadband speed include:

Connection type

As we’ve established, an ADSL line is more limited than a fibre connection. Likewise, an FTTC connection will have peaks and valleys in terms of speed depending on how many users in the exchange are sharing your connection at a given time.

Distance from the cabinet

This isn’t an issue for fibre connections, but signals sent over copper cables deteriorate over long distance. As such, if you are too far from the exchange cabinet your speeds will be slower and less consistent.

Home layout

If you’re reliant on WiFi to connect your devices to the internet, your home’s layout can affect the speed of your connection. Everything from thick walls to furniture can affect the signals transmitted. Opt for a dual-band router with lots of aerials to ensure a healthy signal around your home. Remove obstacles between your router and devices, and use a cabled connection where possible for the best results.

Multiple connected devices

The more devices are connected to your network at any given time, the more your speeds are throttled. This is why it’s so important to password protect your router so nobody else can hijack your connection (it’s also massively important for security reasons, too). By rule of thumb, you should add 30Mbps to your connection speed for every heavy user in your household who is likely to be using the internet at the same time.

man on laptop using very fast broadband

What broadband speed can I get in my area?

The speeds you can achieve in your area depend on the cabling infrastructure where you live and how many connections there are at the nearest cabinet.
We recommend using Ofcom’s connection checker to see what kinds of connections are available in your area. You can view this by clicking Here.<

Which suppliers offer the fastest broadband?

We’ve compiled a list of the fastest broadband packages in the UK in the table below. Keep in mind, however, that the fastest broadband speeds require a direct Fibre To The Premises connection. As such, these may not be available in all areas.


Broadband Provider Maximum Download Speed Cost
Community Fibre 3 Gbps (London only) £99 per month
Hyperoptic 1 Gbps £45 per month (£60 after 12 months)
Virgin Media 1 Gpbs £62 per month
Gigaclear 900 Mbps £49 per month
Vodafone 900 Mbps £48 per month (£43 for Vodafone mobile customers)


What if my speed is lower than expected?

If your speeds are lower than you expected, and you’ve ensured that you can get the best connection possible, you should reach out to your ISP and let them know. If necessary, you may need to raise a formal complaint. Your ISP will have 2 weeks to find a satisfactory solution. If they have not done this, you can forward you complaint to the telecommunications ombudsman.

Let Broadband Plans find the best broadband speeds and deals in your area
Save yourself the hassle and the homework! Let the team at Broadband Plans find you the fastest and best value broadband packages for your needs. We take the time to get to know what you need from a broadband deal and find the best packages for your usage and budget.
Give us a call today on 0330 054 0020 to find out more.

Call us to switch your broadband provider for free!

0330 054 0020

Available Monday to Friday from 8.30 am until 5.30 pm

FAQ

Is 10Mbps or 11Mbps fast enough?

While this is the slowest kind of broadband speed you can get (usually through an ADSL line) it’s fast enough for streaming video in HD, making video calls, web browsing, social media use and light gaming.

What broadband speed can I get?

That depends on your location, your proximity to the nearest exchange, and the cabling infrastructure in your area. Ofcom’s broadband checker is a good resource for finding the best available speed and connection in your area.

How much data does streaming use?

Streaming music is fairly light, only requiring 1Mbps. To stream video in 1080p HD, a speed of 5Mbps is required. To stream video in 4K you’ll need a speed of at least 25Mbps, while 50 Mbps is recommended.

Why is my broadband connection slower in the evenings?

This is likely because you have an ADSL or Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) connection, and there are lots of other households in the exchange online at the same time. You can expect slower speeds at peak times.

Updated on 6 Jul, 2021

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Chérie

Junior Copywriting Specialist in Broadband