Beginner's Guide to Internet Speeds - Everything you need to know about Internet Speeds Explained

Wednesday, Dec 16, 2020 · 20 mins


Beginner's Guide to Internet Speeds - Everything you need to know about Internet Speeds Explained

Internet services are all about speed you get. With the intricate details of megabits per second (Mbps), gigabit, fiber, and broadband, it’s rather easy to get overwhelmed. Which is why we’ve made this internet speed guide to all that you need to know about internet speeds.

If internet speeds confuse you, you are not alone. We will try and help you answer the following queries for you.

What is Internet Speed?

Internet speed is your allocated bandwidth based on your internet plan. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be used by you, measured in seconds. For example, 10 Mbps would mean that you can receive or send up to 10 megabits of data per second.

Internet Speed Tests

If you’ve ever checked your broadband internet speed it is likely that you’ve used the Ookla Speed Test. Ookla’s Net Index takes the information from and organizes it, making it easy to consume.

Click the “Go to my location” link and you’ll be redirected to a page listing all the ISPs that are available in your area. You can also look up for a specific city. The ISPs are ranked on the basis of recent download speed results of their subscribers. Here, you can see which internet service providers are actually the fastest. Ookla’s speed test also allows you to compare average Internet speeds between different countries, regions, and even cities for you to understand various speeds across locations. You can check the rankings based on upload speeds, connection quality, value for the price.

Upload speed vs Download speed

Most reliable speed test providers measure and report three important internet metrics: upload speed, download speed, ping and latency.

  1. Download Speed:

    Download speed can be measured by the number of megabits you consume per second to receive data such as images, video files, etc. Activities like listening to audio online, receiving an email, streaming on services like Netflix or Prime video can be considered as downloading. Usually, a download speed of 25Mbps is considered ideal for streaming videos, engaging on video calls, etc.

  2. Upload speed:

    Upload speed is referred to as the number of megabits of data you can send to another device over your internet connection. Though downloading is more widely known and understood, uploading data is the opposite of downloading. It can be simply understood as sending an email, playing a video game, etc. When people see your video calls blurred, it can be understood that there is an issue with your upload speed. Usually, upload speeds of 3Mbps are considered to be good enough for work from home, video calling, etc.

  3. Ping:

    A ping is a request sent to a server requesting a response. The server sends back a response in a single packet, if available. This transaction is calculated in milliseconds. The ping time is the amount of time taken by the request to circle back with a response to the device. Ping tests are more commonly used by gamers to understand the amount of time it took for them to hit a host with a request and get a response. Higher the ping time, more the data transfer delays you are bound to experience.

  4. Jitter:

    Technically a jitter is a variance in the latency experienced. For example, you may usually get a latency of 20ms on the server you are playing on. You might get spikes of 70ms or even 220ms, before it drops back to 20ms. Anything under 100ms is considered as acceptable latency to game on, however, latency under 25ms is preferred by most gamers.

Bits vs Bytes

One of the confusing aspects of looking for the internet based on speeds are all the terms used. Mbps, MBps, kbps, Gbps; what does all of this mean?

These refer to the amount of data that is being sent per second. Here is what each of them mean.

  • kbps – Kilobits per second. This is used when talking about dialup (56k for example) and low speed DSL.
  • Mbps or mbps – Megabits per second. Many people confuse this with megabytes. The difference between the two is how the “b” is written in the abbreviation; Mbps = megabits and MBps = megabytes.
  • MBps – Megabytes per second. Megabytes aren’t usually used in (residential) internet plans.
  • gbps – Gigabits per second. Gigabits are mainly used by heavy data users, and small businesses.

Types of broadband: Fiber vs Cable vs DSL

Direct Subscriber Line (DSL):

DSL is an internet connection where data is transmitted over telephone lines. Telephone lines are made of copper, while copper is a great conductor, a DSL connection cannot move data as fast as a cable or fibernet internet connection. One crucial factor that will affect your decision on DSL is the distance between your home and the telephone provider’s office. This means that the farther you are from the main line, the weaker the signal, and the slower the internet connection.


Cable internet connections run on telephone lines which use coaxial cables to transmit data, and these can carry more bandwidth than a direct subscriber line connection. When compared to DSL, a cable connection’s connectivity does not depend on the distance. However, unlike a DSL connection, which is a dedicated telephone line, cable connections are usually shared among users. This would mean that the bandwidth gets divided among users, also a lesser secure option. In terms of speed, cable connections are 3 to 4 times faster than DSL and provide speeds to 10-50 Mbps usually.

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Fiber optic cables are the latest technology in the internet service business. These connections make use of fiber optic cables which transmit data at the speed of light. Unlike cable or DSL, the transmission happens over glass and this is immune to all interferences. There are two broad types of fiber connections - direct internet access (DIA) and a fibernet broadband. Direct internet access is an option more commonly used by businesses as it is a dedicated internet line that provides more security and reliability of connectivity. Fibernet broadband is used by individuals at homes. Fibernet speeds range from 150 Mbps to 1000 Mbps

Bandwidth and Latency

Internet service providers showcase internet plan speeds based on the maximum download bandwidth.

Bandwidth refers to how much data your internet can send and receive to your computer every second. Latency is measured as the complete time it takes for this information to reach your computer.

Many people wonder why we measure internet speed in bandwidth instead of latency. Latency differs by just microseconds, which is important for gaming but a very minor aspect for other online activities.

How much speed do you need?

  • Netflix says that users require a minimum of 10 Mbps to stream full HD content and 25 Mbps for 4K Ultra HD content, however you should opt for faster speeds if you want to connect multiple devices at once. This holds true for other streaming services and gaming services like YouTube and Twitch.
  • Also note that multiple devices require more bandwidth. If you're planning to stream 4K video content and have multiple devices connecting to your network at the same time, you should consider investing in faster download speeds, for example 200 Mbps, which works for most users.
  • You can also opt for Gigabit connections if your internet usage demands more bandwidth.
Number of devicesUse CasesRecommended Download
1-2Web surfing, email, social
networking, moderate
Up to 25 Mbps
3-5Online multiplayer gaming,
4K streaming
50 - 100 Mbps
More than 5All of the above plus
sharing large files and live
streaming video.
150 to 200 Mbps

Slow Speed Issues and How to Fix them

There could be many factors impacting internet speed and we have outlined them here for you.

  1. Your broadband network

    ACT Fibernet delivers internet service to your home through fibernet. However, DSL and lower broadband services are usually wired using copper. Most high-speed broadband services deliver internet via a hybrid fiber and copper network. ACT Fibernet provides the internet directly to your home using a 100% fiber network.

  2. Home network

    Many factors inside your home can affect the rate at which you send or receive data over the internet. These include:

    1. If the wiring is older, the connection tends to get weaker.
    2. Distance between the router and your device. It is always advisable to place your router in a central location.
    3. Duration and type of router that you have been using. It is recommended that you replace your router every few years and upgrade your router based on your internet plan.
    4. Number of devices connected to the internet. The number of devices using your internet bandwidth can congest the network causing slow speeds.
    5. Type of connection used
  3. Connection types

    You can connect your home internet through a wired ethernet cable or a wireless connection. Wired cable connections use Cat5e or Cat6 wires connected to the ethernet port on your wall or router. Wired connections give consistent performance and speed. Wireless connections provide you flexibility to move through your home, but they are not as fast as a wired connection. You get the best Wi-Fi signal closest to your router, and, with fewer devices running.

  4. Type and number of devices

    All devices have a maximum internet speed they can reach. However, that internet speed may not be as fast as your internet service plan. For example, if your older laptop or mobile only supports 20Mbps and you have 1Gbps internet plan, your laptop will never be able to reach more than 20 Mbps internet speed.

  5. TV and internet speed

    In a lot of cases, TV and the internet connections in your home come in through the same cable. Using both services at the same time takes up more available bandwidth and can take a toll on your internet download speeds. For example, watching multiple HD shows at the same time as very high data consumption internet usage, such as downloading a complete HD movie file on your computer, may lead to lower internet speeds as compared with internet speeds when no other uses are happening on your home internet network.

  6. Other networks and websites you visit

    Sometimes, the websites you interact with may not provide their services at the same speeds. Things to consider as you surf websites:

    1. Other websites might not have the same internet speeds as your internet plan.
    2. The website server capacities can impact your Internet speeds and experience.
    3. Websites may use other internet service providers to deliver data back to you. These arrangements can also impact your Internet speeds.
    4. Surfing during the website's peak time may also be a reason for slower speeds.

In case you are facing issues with your internet connections, you should opt for a fiber optic connection by ACT Fibernet. You can learn more about the plans here.

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