When it comes to choosing a new broadband connection, the speed is one of the most important factors to consider. In the United Kingdom, the average broadband speed was 6.5Mbps in the fourth quarter of 2012 as reported by the description delivery network Akamai Technologies. By contrast, the world average is just over half this. Nonetheless, average broadband speeds in the UK are still significantly below many other European countries. The fastest in the world in the end of 2012 was South Korea with an average download speed of an impressive 14Mbps mostly thanks to its extensive fibre-optic network. In spite of this, the average download speeds in the UK are perfectly adequate for the casual Internet user. It is important to remember, however, that everyone’s requirements are different and what might work fine for one consumer might not be suitable for you. The following takes a look at everything you need to know about broadband Internet speeds.
Understanding Broadband Speeds
A common confusion among novices is the measurements by which broadband speeds are measured. While digital storage capacity is described in megabytes and gigabytes, download speeds are given in megabits. It is important to remember that a megabyte and a megabit are different things. One megabyte equates to eight megabits so an 8Mbps broadband connection will allow you to download data with a maximum speed of one megabyte per second.
Recommended Speeds for Different Applications
Your broadband speed requirements will vary depending on what you want to use the Internet for. For casual browsing and checking email, a connection of 1Mbps is just enough and, in many rural areas of the UK, this is the maximum available broadband speed available unless you go for a more expensive option such as mobile or even satellite broadband. With speeds under 4Mbps, downloading things like software or videos online will take a while and, when it comes to online streaming video, you will be restricted to standard-definition (low quality). You should not have any problem with streaming audio such as on Internet radio stations or voice calls with applications like Skype.
To be able to take advantage of almost all of the services that the Internet has to offer such as high-definition streaming video, online gaming, online software and video game distribution and high quality video communications, you will ideally need a connection of at least 8Mbps. Even at this speed, however, you will likely experience buffering when watching streaming high-definition videos online.
For heavy Internet users, the more speed the better. It is becoming increasingly popular, for example, for software companies to provide digital download versions of their products. For video gamers, platforms such as Steam, Origin and Uplay are used to sell downloads of full version video games. Keeping in mind that most modern video games are upwards of ten gigabytes in size, you will ideally need the fastest connection available within your budget range. It should also be unlimited rather than subjected to monthly download limits.
In some areas of the UK, particularly in cities, fibre-optic cable broadband is becoming increasingly widely available. This offers much faster broadband speeds with download rates reaching 76Mbps and even more. Broadband packages such as BT Infinity offer such performance at competitive rates. With these speeds, you can even enjoy online video conferencing with multiple users, cloud supercomputing and pretty much everything else.
Don’t Forget Upload Speeds
While download speeds are the main thing to consider, you shouldn’t forget upload speeds either. The upload speed is the speed at which you can send data from your computer to the Internet. Generally, upload speeds are anything from a third to a half of what download the speeds are. Applications where upload speed is of particular importance is video chatting and conferencing and online gaming. If you want to have high-definition video calls, for example, you will want to have an upload speed of around 8Mbps.
A Final Note about Advertised Speeds
It is important to remember that advertised speeds are actually the maximum possible speed attainable with the specific offer. Many other factors such as your location, wireless signal quality, the online service you’re connecting to and more also effect speeds. As a general rule, you should expect your actual average download speed to be around two thirds of the advertised speed.
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