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What is broadband upload speed?

whimsical illustration of a bearded man leaping between two laptops. One displays an upwards pointed arrow, the other displays a downwards pointing arrow
If you think of your broadband connection like a pipe, you can imagine it works both ways. Things can flow through it in either direction with the rate of that flow called ‘bandwidth’.

A broadband internet connection is bidirectional to allow the download and upload of data. Both have a rate of travel that is measured in megabits per second (Mbps) to give us an expected speed.

The average speed of most advertised broadband packages refers to the download speed. This is typically the bigger, faster rate of the two. Upload speed is often much smaller.

So, to answer the question, upload speed is the bandwidth rate for sending data ‘upstream’ from your connection to the network.

This guide explains why upload speed matters when looking for a new broadband deal and what to do if your upload connection is struggling.

Upload speeds: the key points

  • Broadband connections are two-way with download and upload speeds.
  • Upload speed (Mb) is the rate of data transfer from you to the network.
  • Download speed is often the larger, faster rate used to market broadband packages.
  • Symmetrical broadband promises identical upload and download speeds.

What’s the difference between upload and download speed?

Downloading is about bringing data ‘downstream’ such as browsing web pages or streaming video etc. Uploading is about sending data or commands upstream to the web, via your home network to your internet service provider’s (ISP) servers.

If upload is too slow, we can notice drops in performance or ‘buffering’, especially during certain tasks like video chats. These two-way interactions rely on faster two-way flow.

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Why would I need a fast upload speed?

If you're a gamer, upload speed could be important. This is because online gaming often relies on sending lots of upload data from the player to the online gaming server.

High-speed, real-time action games will likely experience slowdown or ‘lag’ if the player doesn’t have a good upload speed. This can prove especially troublesome if you’re live-streaming games on platforms like Twitch.

Sending any big amount of data like uploading videos or large files to social media will also be faster with higher upload speeds.

We have more help for gamers in our guide: 'gaming broadband: what speed do I need?'

Why are upload speeds not always advertised?

Upload speed isn’t advertised as loudly as download speeds because the Mb is typically smaller. Advertisers prefer to ‘wow’ customers with the bigger numbers and make fast download speeds the focal point.

It’s also true that good fibre broadband offering faster download speeds should have adequate average upload speed for most internet users.

See also:

Which provider offers the fastest upload speeds?

Some providers offer ‘symmetrical’ broadband packages. This packages match the upload speed with the download speed.

Providers such as TrooliHyperoptic, Gigaclear, brsk and YouFibre are leading examples here. To illustrate the difference, let's compare four Hyperoptic packages with equivalent rival deals from the leading providers:

Hyperoptic Upload Speeds vs. BT, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Sky
Hyperoptic Package Upload Speed Competitor Package Upload Speed
Hyperoptic 50Mb Fast Fibre 50Mb BT Fibre 1 13-18Mb
Hyperoptic 150Mb Superfast Fibre 158Mb TalkTalk Full Fibre 150 30Mb
Hyperoptic 500Mb Ultrafast Fibre 528Mb Virgin Media M500 52Mb
Hyperoptic 1Gb Hyperfast Fibre 900Mb Sky Gigafast  90Mb

Despite rival upload speeds increasing as the download rate goes up, they cannot get close to packages offering symmetrical upload/downloads speeds.

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How can I check my upload speed?

The best way to check your broadband speed is by using an internet speed test. Broadband Genie’s speed test tool can be used from any device and quickly measures a download and upload rate.

Just remember that a few factors can affect speed performance. If your home network is busy or your Wi-Fi router is slow, then this will reduce overall bandwidth. To get optimal readings, you should run the test on a wired connection, using an Ethernet cable where possible.

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Can I complain to my broadband provider for a slow upload speed?

If download or upload speeds keep falling below what you expect, you should always contact your provider. Log your readings and tell them because there could be a fault on the line.

Ofcom’s Broadband Universal Service also sets a minimum acceptable level for what a ‘decent’ connection should be. It defines this as 10Mb for download and just 1Mb upload to be considered a sufficiently good internet speed.

However, if your provider has made a deal promising symmetrical speeds, you may have additional rights to complain.

Frequently asked questions about upload speed

  • Is 30Mb upload speed fast?

    5-10Mb is a good range for average upload speed. So this would make 30Mb fairly fast and a reliable minimum for family home internet usage.

    As ever, it’s all relative, 30Mb could be called slow compared to internet plans offering symmetrical speeds.

  • Do I need to worry about upload speed?

    Be aware of it, but don’t worry about it. Most on-demand applications like watching Netflix rely more on good download rates, while many 2-way tasks won’t need fast upload speeds.

    Online activities such as video conferencing or video calling with apps like Zoom only require upload speeds of 1-3Mb to work. Most high-speed internet packages will easily exceed these minimums and give you the performance you need.

  • What can cause a slow upload speed?

    Aside from a slow internet plan, a slow upload speed normally comes down to either a fault or a network bottleneck.

    It may be that your Wi-Fi signal is being compromised by interference, or it could simply be too busy. When lots of users and devices are all using the connection, the overall speed will be reduced.

Expert Summary

Upload speed is important, but it won’t be a noticeable problem for most of us. Fibre and full fibre broadband packages with large download speeds should also have adequate enough upload bandwidth.

Ideally, these two-way speeds would be symmetrical and match identically. This is no doubt a worthwhile bonus. Smaller, alternative networks (altnets) are more likely to offer symmetrical packages.

However, it’s not yet a deal-breaker unless you’re a professional gamer or live HD video streamer. If you upload lots of data, you’ll also appreciate more speed, but for the most part, it’s still the download rate that matters most.

Meet the author:

Contributor

After editing 80+ issues of Future Publishing's Web Designer magazine, Mark turned freelance in 2012. Since then he has contributed technology and consumer copy for clients including GetApp, Stackify, Totaljobs and FXhome.


Broadband specialist subject: Tips for broadband users

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