GUIDE How to Choose a Broadband Internet Provider - Page 4 - UK ISPreview
GUIDE How to Choose a Broadband Internet Provider
By: Mark Jackson - September 5th, 2011 : Page 4 -of- 8
"the UK government wants 90% of people in each local authority area to have access to a superfast (25Mbps+) broadband ISP service by 2015"

broadband isp speedAs a result of this the vast majority of ISPs typically mean "download" performance when they refer to a package speed, with the "upload" rate frequently being hidden away in the small print so as not to confuse new users. The speed itself, be it download or upload related, is then typically referred to as a numerical 'Megabits per second' value; a bit like the speedometer on your car.

Common Acronym's for Megabits per second
* Mbps
* Megs
* Mb

Generally speaking a download speed of 2Mbps or more should be enough for most present-day home internet tasks and will even allow you to view online video streams, albeit only with a medium to low quality. Anything less than that is still functional, albeit much slower and only really useful for basic tasks, such as website browsing and email. You can find out what speed your current connection is running at by using our tester.'s Broadband Speed Tester
* Speed Test - Flash
* Speed Test - Java (use this if Flash doesn't work above)

Ideally you need a speed of 10Mbps to get the most out of current internet applications, such as High Definition (HD 720p) video streams from YouTube. According to Ofcom's May 2011 data, the UK average broadband download speed is 6.8Mbps, which is fine for most people but a family with several internet connected computers and devices (e.g. Smartphone's) could start to strain the connection.

Most ISPs will also promote their service speeds alongside the prefix of "up to" (e.g. up to 24Mbps), which usually means that the underlying technology can theoretically offer a maximum speed but your particular line could still deliver significantly less; we'll cover how the different broadband technologies can affect performance later. However most services suffer from variable degrees of performance due to a variety of factors, such as the quality of your physical connection (e.g. poor home phone wiring) and your location (e.g. localised ISP network congestion).

Just because your friend says that a particular solution offers terrible or even excellent speed does not mean to say that the same will happen to you. The majority of ISP customers are usually satisfied with the performance they receive, although some providers will have a higher proportion of dissatisfied users than others and are probably best avoided.

Broadband is also considered to be a shared "Best Efforts" service, which means that the bandwidth (internet traffic) you consume is coming from a central source and shared between many users. As a result of this you should expect your speeds to be lower in the late afternoons and evenings (i.e. Offpeak), which is when more people go online after work and thus cause network congestion. Services with a lower contention ratio (i.e. fewer shared users) are usually reserved for business packages or individuals with a lot of money to burn.

Ofcom's UK Interactive Broadband Performance Map (Fixed Line)

Meanwhile those who enjoy a good multiplayer game need to be aware that download speed isn't the biggest concern. Upload performance is more important for gaming but the real measure is "Latency" (aka - Lag or Ping), which references the time (in milliseconds) that it takes for a packet of data to travel between internet servers. Sadly there's no effective way of comparing latency between ISPs, which is affected by many things, and the best advice for getting a good multiplayer service is thus to simply spend more on a good quality ISP (e.g. BE Broadband or Zen Internet).

It's worth pointing out that the UK government wants 90% of "people in each local authority area" to have access to a superfast (25Mbps+) broadband ISP service by 2015, which means that the available services and speeds should, for most people, get significantly faster and more reliable over the next few years.

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