When it comes to Wi-Fi basics, speed is one of the most important factors affecting your internet experience.  

What is internet speed?

Internet speed is a measure of how fast data travels between the Web and your device, say a phone, laptop, tablet or computer. The more technical term is “bandwidth” and, these days, it is usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps or Mb/s). There’s a speed for both download (data coming from the internet to your device) and upload (from your device to the internet).

Here are the typical download speeds you need for some online activities:

Download speed

Online activity

100 Mb/s +

Watch 4K videos, play online games, video chat with friends at the same time. 

50 Mb/s +

Watch 4K videos and play online games on multiple devices.

25 Mb/s +

Streaming videos and have a video conference at the same time without interruptions.

5 Mb/s +

Stream one HD video on one device. You may experience interruptions or buffering if other devices are connected to your network.

Your download speed first depends on the subscription you have from your Internet Service Provider (ISP) (it also depends on other things as well, like your Wi-Fi and interference, as we explain here). Subscriptions are usually advertised as an average or “up-to” speed, since most broadband technologies don’t allow ISPs to guarantee a maximum speed all the time. So it is important to be able to test the speed you are actually getting.

How to test your internet speed

You can test your download and upload speeds with free online services.

Speedtest by Ookla is one of the most popular. It works by sending small amounts of data between your device and a nearby Ookla server (a server is a type of computer). It then measures the speed that this data travels to (upload) and from (download) the Ookla server.

Speedtest also measures something called the “ping” time. This is the time it takes between your device asking for something (e.g. to show a web page) and when it starts arriving. The more technical term is “latency” and this is also important information because it tells you the delay or lag you may experience on the internet. Low latency is especially important for things like online gaming; when you press a control button, you want the game to react instantly.

The concepts of speed and latency can be a bit confusing, so let’s use a practical example. You are surfing the internet and click on a link. If the new page starts to open very quickly, then you have low latency (good). But if the images on that page take a long time to fully appear, then you have low speed (bad).

 

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