What is a speed test?
Being able to connect to the Internet is an essential part of modern life, but it's becoming increasingly important to be able to connect at speed, so you can get to the information you want as quickly as possible.
A speed test is a way of tracking that speed. While every speed test is different and is influenced by many different factors, which means you'll probably never get the same results two times in a row, it's the best indicator of what kind of speeds you get on your connection.
How do speed tests work?
Like all speed tests, the finder broadband speed test calculates the time it takes to transfer small amounts of data both to and from your computer from the speed-test server.
By monitoring the time it takes to transfer files, you can get an indication of what speed, measured in Mbps (megabits per second), your connection is getting.
What does a speed test actually test?
The finder Broadband Speed Test will calculate a number of different factors related to your broadband speed. While all of them are important, depending on your particular needs some may be more important than others.
Ping measures the time it takes for a signal to be sent from one computer to another computer and then back. It's not so much about the transmission of data as it is about how long it takes for the two computers to actually get connected. Ping is generally measured in milliseconds, and the lower the ping result, the better the connection. A low ping is essential for online gaming, where you need your button presses and mouse clicks to be registered on the server as quickly as they happen so you aren't at a disadvantage against your competitors.
In order to get an accurate Ping result, the speed test will run it multiple times. Jitter records how much variation there is between those results. The lower the number, the more stable your connection is, but if you are seeing larger numbers for the Jitter result, it indicates some big variations in how quickly your computer can connect to the speed-test server. That might not be too bad if you're testing from a mobile device, but if it's consistently high on your computer, the results may indicate bigger issues with your connection.
This measurement records the speed at which your broadband connection can download files to your computer in Mbps. For many people, this is the most important factor of the speed test as it offers an indication of how quickly your connection will download large files. Having a high download speed can impact the quality of your Netflix stream (especially if you want to watch in 4K resolution) or how quickly you can download the latest game to your PlayStation 4 console. When it comes to download speed, the higher the number (in Mbps), the better your connection.
Upload speed uses the same methodology as download speed, except it tracks how quickly your connection to the Internet can send files. Internet connections are asynchronous, which means that download speeds are given preference over upload speeds, making them faster. Upload speeds are especially important for sharing video files, so budding YouTube stars and videographers should consider plans promising high upload speeds. As with download speeds, the higher the number in Mbps, the better the speed.
Why aren't I getting the speed I paid for?
With the arrival of the NBN, broadband users were given the option of paying for faster broadband speeds, with prices increasing across four different speed tiers. These speeds are broken down by their theoretical maximum download speeds of 12Mbps, 25Mbps, 50Mbps and 100Mbps.
However, there are many factors that can influence the actual speeds a broadband connection can achieve, ranging from the type of NBN connection it uses to the number of people that are trying to connect at the same time. In some cases, the ISP you choose for your Internet connection can also affect the speeds you get.
For ADSL connections, the distance your address is from the telephone exchange and the quality of the copper wire will have the biggest effect on your speed performance, though congestion can also play a big part in how fast your speed test results will be.
Because of the variation between the advertised speed tiers and actual connection speeds on the NBN, the ACCC is investigating ways of making ISPs communicate the actual speeds users can expect on their broadband connection at their address.
I'm not happy with the speeds I'm getting. What can I do?
If you're completely underwhelmed by the results of your speed test, try these tips to see if things improve.
1. Go wired
If you're testing your broadband speed through a Wi-Fi connection, there's a chance that it could be the wireless network that's causing the speed issues. Fortunately, you can easily rule this out by directly connecting your computer to the router with an ethernet cable and running the test again. If the speeds are more in line with your expectations, then you know you should look at ways to speed up your Wi-Fi connection.
2. Check for viruses
It's best practice to run anti-virus software to ensure your computer is safe, but if you're not getting the speeds you hoped for, it might be worth running a scan again to make sure your machine hasn't been infected. Viruses can often use up precious bandwidth in the background, and affect the speed results you might be getting.
3. Try a different modem
Not all modems are created equal. Some are designed specifically for ADSL2+ connections, while others are optimised for a full fibre connection. Quite often, the modem supplied by your ISP isn't the best quality, so trying an alternative device may solve your problem. Remember to try both wired and wireless tests with the new modem to rule out the wireless factor.
4. Try a different DNS server
A DNS server is like the yellow pages for websites, letting you connect to the website you want. Most ISPs use their own DNS server, and sometimes that server isn't very fast. Fortunately, it's possible to configure your modem to access free, open DNS servers, which could speed up your broadband connection.
5. Check your cables
If you've just upgraded to the NBN, there's a chance you received a new modem from your ISP. It's important to remember to change the cable that connects your modem to the phone jack in the wall if you're on FTTN since those older cables are often incapable of handling the speed of your connection. There are other tips to speeding up FTTN connections you should try as well.
6. Turn it off and on again
No, we're not joking. Modems have a cache that can affect performance, so power cycling the hardware can clear out any processes that are causing it to slow down.
7. Contact your ISP.
If you're still unhappy after testing all of the above tips, it's time to contact your ISP. They may send a technician to your address to investigate as well as run diagnostics on your line. Alternatively, if you've noticed that your 100Mbps connection slows down at 8pm, it could be that the ISP hasn't bought enough capacity to deal with the demand. If that's the case, you may want to switch to a different provider with more backhaul to avoid congestion issues.
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