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What is a good download speed? What is a good upload speed? An easy guide to broadband speeds

When you’re looking for a new broadband package, the price tag is probably the first thing that catches your eye. The next is likely to be the internet speed.

Your broadband speed will have a big effect on every day tasks, such as how long it takes to download a file, or how easy it is to seamlessly stream a good quality video. It also has a big impact on how many people in your household can use the connection at the same time.

All internet service providers (ISPs) quote broadband download speed as a major part of their advertising. It’s often drummed into us that faster speeds are better, and a higher speed quote is better for getting a good broadband connection. But it’s not always clear what speed you actually need.

In this guide, we’re going to examine what these broadband speed figures mean and the broadband deals available. By the end of this page, you should be able to tell if a package offers you the right speed to help you carry out all your online tasks without any trouble.

Hopefully, you can also gain confidence in avoiding expensive broadband packages you don’t really need, too.

What is a good broadband speed? The key points

  • Broadband speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps or Mb)
  • Ultrafast broadband is measured in gigabits per second (Gbps or Gb)
  • The average download speed in the UK is 69.4Mb
  • The UK average upload speed is 18.4Mb
  • Broadband providers tend to advertise their 'average download speed'. This isn't the speed you're guaranteed to receive.

Let’s start at the beginning!

First of all, pop your address into the deals checker below. This will give you a list of the broadband providers and packages you can sign up to at home.

Take a good look at the list that appears and use the speed filters to adjust the list from slowest to fastest.

Where does your current package rank?
 

Broadband Genie deals checker

How is broadband speed measured?

Broadband speeds are usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps or Mb). You might also be lucky enough to have the option of broadband with download speeds measured in gigabits per second (Gbps or Gb). This is ultrafast broadband.

If you’re interested in technical jargon, you can swot up on our Glossary Page.

When you’re comparing broadband, there are two key points you need to know:

  • Gb is faster than Mb
  • A bigger number means a faster connection

At Broadband Genie, we make it easy to view broadband packages by speed, you can sort deals by the slowest, or the fastest. If you can’t sign up to a package at your address, you won’t be shown it!

How fast is my broadband speed?

It’s difficult to know what broadband package to upgrade to if you don’t know your current speed. You can find this out right here on Broadband Genie by using our free broadband speed test.

It doesn’t matter if you try this on a desktop computer, laptop or mobile browser. Try it now to see a full report of the speeds you’re receiving at the moment.

Before you do this, though, make sure:

  • You’ve closed any applications such as email and instant messenger services.
  • You try this test at several points during the day. Some providers deliberately slow down the lines at peak times when there are a large number of people placing heavy demand on the network. Taking several tests will give you a more accurate reading of your connection speed.
  • If you have one, use a wired network cable for the most accurate results

What is download speed?

Download speed is the pace at which data is transferred to you. A faster download speed allows you to download large files quicker. You’ll also be able to make better use of streaming services and benefit from viewing HD video. A faster download speed also lets your connection handle more users being online at any one time. This is more important if you’re in a shared house, or you have a large family.

When providers advertise their speeds, this figure is the ‘average download speed’. It’s not the speed you’re guaranteed to have all the time.

The Genie

Genie fact!

Average broadband download speed is based on the performance of 50% of a customer base. So you could end up with a faster connection than is advertised!

For home broadband, the advertised download speeds for most providers range from an average of 10Mb to 1Gb.

A growing number of providers, including Virgin Media, offer download speeds up to 1Gb+. This is known as gigabit broadband.

You might not always be able to sign up to these faster broadband speeds. Many homes across the UK are still waiting to be able to access these services.

What is a good download speed?

You don’t always have to opt for the fastest full fibre deal. If you only use your internet for email or browsing a few web pages, the slowest unlimited internet packages available through Broadband Genie should serve you well.

But slow internet speeds can soon start to become annoying if your downloads take forever, and the video clips you’re trying to watch keep stalling.

If you’re going to be streaming video a lot, carrying out video calls, or playing online games, you should look into a faster fibre connection.

Here’s what you should be looking for as a guide, based on the number of people in your household. These speeds should be enough for everyone to comfortably stream high definition video at once:

  • 1 person households: 10Mb-30Mb average download speed
  • Up to 3 people: 30-50Mb average download speed
  • Up to 5 people: 50-100Mb+ average download speed

We have further information on broadband speed requirements in our guide: 'What broadband speed do you need? Do you need fast broadband?'.

Confused about what 'Mb' or 'Gb' means? Find out in our 'quick guide to bits and bytes'.

What is upload speed?

Upload speed measures data going in the opposite direction as downloading. Your upload speed will make a difference to how long it takes to send files, such as your photographs and videos, to a site.

Home broadband upload speeds are often slower than download speeds. This is because we typically do far more downloading, so it’s given priority. You might even find it difficult to see the upload speed of a broadband package without reading the small print.

Generally, you don’t need to worry about upload speeds unless you do a lot of uploading. For gamers, this will make a big difference, especially if you host your games.

If upload speeds are important to you, be sure to choose a provider that takes uploads seriously and advertises them clearly.

Unfortunately, it's not usually something big-name providers offer, but smaller, alternative networks (altnets) such as Hyperoptic , Trooli and BeFibre offer a service called ‘symmetrical broadband’. This means it provides the same speed for both downloading and uploading. That means you could enjoy upload speeds of up to 2Gb!

Many cheaper fibre packages come with a reduced download speed that could be far below 10Mb. If upload speed is important to you, make sure you confirm this before signing a contract.

For more on this topic, read our full guide to upload speeds.

What is a good upload speed?

We recommend a minimum upload speed of 10-15Mb. You might find it hard to spot this, but as your helpful Genie, here’s a rule we use:

  • Virgin Media: Look for download speeds of 100Mbps+ to get a 20Mb+ upload speed.
  • Other providers: Look for download speeds of 60Mbps+ to get 20Mb+ upload speed.

What broadband speeds do I need?

Before signing up to a broadband service, think about how everyone at home uses the internet. Which of these sounds familiar? Click on the buttons to see your best suited deals.

"I only use the internet for basic tasks such as emails, online banking or light browsing."

A slower speed and basic broadband only package will suit you fine.

Find cheap broadband deals

"I use the internet regularly every day, including browsing social media. I like to catch up on TV shows online, although I'm happy watching content in standard definition rather than ultra HD."

Aim for a package with a download speed of between 30-60Mb.

Get fibre broadband deals

"There are lots of us at home, and at least one of us is always online. I'm a keen streamer and sometimes host or play online games. I regularly stream music and download large files."

Aim for a superfast or full fibre, ultrafast package with speeds between 60-1Gb

Get fast broadband deals

  • What is Ultrafast and Superfast broadband?

    Ultrafast broadband is a very high-speed broadband connection. It usually refers to broadband that can offer speeds of 300Mb+. Meanwhile, superfast broadband is usually applied to broadband with average download speeds of 24Mb+ or 30Mb+.

  • What’s the difference between ‘fibre’ and ‘full-fibre’ broadband?

    Full Fibre broadband is also known as ‘Fibre To The Premises’, ‘Fibre To The Home’. This is often shortened to FTTP or FTTH. They’re all the same thing!

    Instead of copper telephone wire making up the final part of the journey from that green cabinet on the street, fibre optic cables are installed right up to your home.

    It’s amazing the difference in speed this small data journey can have. With full-fibre broadband you can expect to receive speeds of 1Gb+.

    The downside is full-fibre is only available to a small percentage of homes in the UK, and it’s taking a good while to get everyone up to speed.

If you’re a keen streamer, we have more in-depth information on good internet speeds and the minimum speeds you should be signing up to for a high quality, cinematic experience without buffering, in our guide: ‘What broadband speed do I need for Netflix and other video streaming?’

Why is my broadband slow?

Sometimes, your broadband may be slower than the advertised speed. There might be a few reasons for this. This could include:

  • Other people or devices using the connection: Got family or housemates? They might be downloading or streaming video. If your connection isn’t shared, check that your Wi-Fi is secure as it might be a neighbour using your broadband.
  • Peak time slow-down. Broadband can get slower at busy periods when more people are using it.
  • Poor Wi-Fi speed. A strong Wi-Fi signal will give you the best speeds.
  • Apps and updates. Software on your devices may be using the broadband to download or upload. Software updates, in particular, can be substantial.
  • Traffic management. Some providers have traffic management policies that prioritise different types of usage and slow down other tasks.

Can I improve my broadband speed with a better Wi-Fi router?

A weak Wi-Fi signal can have a big impact on your broadband speed. But it can be solved by making sure your router is positioned correctly in your home, by installing signal boosters, or upgrading to a better quality router.

Why is my broadband speed slower in the evenings?

Some broadband ISPs use traffic management (aka 'throttling') to restrict the speed of particular activities to maintain consistent performance for the majority of customers.

However, this is becoming rarer. Many providers no longer use traffic management and instead offer truly unlimited service.

When searching for the best internet deals on our comparison table, check the offer details to see if there may be additional restrictions. This shouldn't necessarily put you off choosing a particular package. It typically impacts only a small minority.

Check the small print or read our broadband provider reviews for more information.

What can I do if my broadband speed is too slow?

When signing up for a broadband deal, your chosen provider should always supply an accurate estimate based on your location. If your broadband service can't achieve the estimated speed, you should get in contact for help as soon as you can.

Some providers are signed up to Ofcom’s voluntary code of practice for broadband speeds. This means that when someone complains about the speed, they must attempt to fix the issue. If they're unable to deliver what was promised, then you may have a right to cancel the contract early without penalty or switch to a cheaper package. 

For more information, read our guide to complaining about broadband.

Frequently asked questions about broadband speeds

  • What is the average download speed in the UK?

    According to data gathered by Ofcom in its September 2023 Home Broadband Performance Report, in March 2023, the average internet connection download speed in the UK was 69.4Mb.

  • What is the UK average upload speed?

    According to data gathered by Ofcom in its September 2023 Home Broadband Performance Report, in March 2023, the average internet connection upload speed in the UK was 18.4Mb. This had increased by 7.8Mb since the previous year.

  • What’s the fastest broadband in the UK?

    The fastest broadband providers are hyperfast or gigabit fibre ISPs, which can provide speeds of 1Gb+. However, the availability of these services is somewhat limited. The fastest provider with the biggest coverage area is Virgin Media. At present, Virgin offers speeds up to 1.1Gb, and it is available in around 54% of homes. A 2Gb package is also available, although this has less coverage.

    See also: 'What is the fastest broadband? Top speeds in the UK and your area'.

Expert Summary

Your broadband speed will have a big influence on your internet connection and your online experience. Before signing up to a new broadband contract, it’s worth double-checking the download and upload speeds you’re currently receiving. You can do this using a speed test. Take a few readings throughout the day and note down the average.

The average broadband download speed in the UK is increasing all the time. If you last signed up to a broadband contract two years ago, chances are you can now get a faster broadband package without paying much more if you switch to a new broadband provider. You might even find the price is lower if you change providers! You might also be able to get your effective monthly cost down with a gift card or cashback when you sign up.

Although some of the fastest download speeds in the UK are 1Gb+, you may find you can’t sign up for a broadband deal this fast. This is because not everyone in the UK has access to a full fibre or cable network yet. Keep checking if you’re keen – the rollout of full fibre is ongoing!

The quickest way to see the broadband packages and speeds available to you, based on your home address, is to use our deals checker.

Meet the author:

Online Editor

Broadband Genie's Editor, Emma Davenport, has been contributing to the site since 2007. She has 20 years of experience writing articles, guides and tutorials on consumer technology for magazines and online.


Specialist subject: Broadband advice for vulnerable people

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