Last updated May 11th, 2020
If there’s one thing about the internet we’re almost all in agreement on, it’s that we have a need – a need for speed! There’s no getting past the fact that the faster your broadband connection, the better the experience. But not all broadband providers are equal, and neither are the various ways of connecting.
How To Test Internet Speed
While it might sound like something too complicated for the average person, testing your internet speed is actually really easy – in fact, you can do it right from the box at the top of this page! Our test is powered by the globally recognised Speedtest.net so you’ll get accurate results.
- Click the “Take the Test” link above
- A new browser window or tab will open
- Wait a few seconds for Speedtest to find the best server for you
- Click the big GO button and wait while the progress bar fills up
Once that’s finished, you’ll have four bits of very useful information – your download speed, your upload speed, your “ping” and your “jitter”. You can read detailed descriptions of exactly what those things mean below.
Things to Watch When You Test
A speed test is only as accurate as the weakest link in your connection to the internet. If you’ve been experiencing slow speeds and our speed test confirms it, be sure you’ve got the best possible connection to your internet provider by checking the following:
- Test using a wired (Ethernet) connection from computer to modem if you’re able to
- If you have to use Wi-Fi, make sure you’re as close to your Wi-Fi modem as possible (speeds drop quickly as you get further away)
- Don’t test through walls when using Wi-Fi
- Try not to test at peak evening hours (7-11pm) as both Wi-Fi and your internet provider could be slower due to congestion
- If speeds have become unusually slow, try turning off the power to your modem, waiting 30 seconds, then turning it back on (wait another minute or so for it to come back online after that)
Why it’s important to test your Internet Speed
It’s only relatively recently that most people have started really paying attention to internet speed and what it means for them. For many years when almost everyone was on ADSL, the actual connection speed was something the end user had no control of – it was all down to the distance between you and the phone exchange, and the condition of the ancient copper wires that carried your data there. If you wanted to download something big, you’d leave it overnight or set it going before heading out to work because it would take so long.
Arrival of the NBN and Streaming TV services
The arrival of the NBN has changed everything, with many people now having access to download speeds of 100 Mbps (that stands for megabits per second – more on that later) and fast upload speeds for the first time. That’s coincided with the internet as a whole becoming much more data-heavy very quickly. Between Netflix, Stan and YouTube streaming in 4K, modern video games for PC, PlayStation and Xbox asking you to download up to 100GB, video and image-heavy web sites and social media, constant updates to Windows or the apps on your phone and tablet… it’s a never-ending stream of data that just keeps getting bigger. “Leave it to download overnight” isn’t really a thing any more – we want it while we wait, and so we need a fast broadband connection to do so.
What you need to know about Internet Speed Tests
When you sign up for a broadband plan on the NBN, you’re asked to pick from a range of “speed tiers”. These indicate the absolute fastest your connection will go – but it’s not a guarantee. There’s only one way to find out for sure how fast your actual connection can go – download something. And that is basically what a speed test does. It downloads a large file to your computer or device, and measures how long it takes to arrive at your end. It does the same in reverse as well, getting your device to upload a file. It then gives you speed ratings, usually measured in Megabits Per Second (Mbps).
What’s a Megabit Exactly?
Used as the de facto standard for quoting the speed of a broadband connection, a megabit is equal to one-eighth of a megabyte. So if you have a 100 Mbps NBN connection running at that speed, the most data it can download each second will be about 12 megabytes. Nice and speedy, especially for those game and software downloads!
The megabit-per-second number is also used by the NBN to tell you how fast your internet connection can be – for example, “NBN 50” means 50 Mbps (though in practice, even the best speed test will give you a number a little lower than that due to the internet’s own overheads).
How Do I Use the Speed Test?
Powered by a company called Ookla, the speed test service you see here is the most popular options for finding out what your true connection speed is. The clever part with the way it works is that it’s all automatic, unless you decide you want to manually adjust some options. When you press the GO button, the speed test checks where your connection is located, then chooses a speed test server that’s as close to you as possible. These dedicated servers are designed to deliver data as fast as you can receive it, and so the number you see when the test is complete is a good measure of the true speed of your broadband connection.
What Do the Internet Speed Test Results Mean?
You’ll usually see four results, which together give you a good summary of how your connection is doing in the speed stakes. These results can also be very handy if you’re trying to spot a bottleneck in your own home network or at your internet provider that might be slowing things down.
The result everyone focuses on for a reason – this is the top speed your connection can get data at, so you want this to be as high as possible, especially if you have multiple family members using the one connection. The higher this number, the better – it means you’ll be comfortably be able to do multiple things online at once, like have several people watching their own Netflix streams. It determines how fast games and software will take to download. By law, internet providers now have to show a typical download speed for the busiest time of the day for each plan; this number should be at or above that when you run a speed test in the evening.
Not to be underestimated, upload speed is about more than just sending photos and videos to social media nice and fast. When you download anything, your device needs to be able to talk back to the server that’s sending you the information, and a low upload speed can cause those replies to be delayed – and slow down the download as a result. For everyday use, the 20 Mbps upload speed of an NBN 50 connection is more than adequate for almost anything you’ll be doing online.
As the name suggests, ping is the time (in milliseconds) that it took for a request from your device to get a response from the server at the other end. This should be as low as possible – but it will always be higher for technologies that use copper wiring, like Fibre to the Node. You should expect a low number here – usually single-digit – but if you see a large number returned for Ping it can indicate that something’s wrong. If you play games online, meanwhile, a low ping is critical as it determines how long it takes other players to see what you do.
A measure of the difference in ping across several tests, Jitter gives you an idea of how reliable and stable your connection is, and can be useful in troubleshooting problems that are otherwise hard to pin down – like occasional line noise causing delays on the connection.
Frequently Asked Questions about Internet Speed Tests
I’m Paying for 50/20 Mbps, Why Aren’t I Getting It?
There are several possible reasons for this – but for many, the most obvious first port of call is to blame the internet provider. That’s in some ways the industry’s own fault. Some less ethical providers happily sold “unlimited” NBN plans in the early years of the NBN’s life, but didn’t buy enough capacity to handle the influx of users at evening peak times. The arrival of Netflix didn’t help, either, with millions streaming their favourite shows and movies every evening.
Typical evening speeds
The ACCC came to the rescue with their requirement for display of a typical evening speed, and the NBN itself made some changes so that providers could give customers faster speeds overall at a similar price. Today, most plans are “unlimited” and are totally fine.
But if you’ve paid for, say, a 50 Mbps connection, and you get a speed test result here of only 28 Mbps, what should you do? First, don’t panic. Check that you don’t have any downloads running on your devices, and that nobody’s streaming Netflix in another room. Choose an alternate speed test server location from the drop-down list, too, and see if that makes a difference.
Is WIFI congestion the problem?
If your device is on Wifi, congestion may be the cause – test on a device that’s got a wired connection to the internet if you can for the most accurate results. And reboot your modem – it’s probably been turned on for months, if not years, and that can have a detrimental effect on speed (your modem is just a tiny computer, after all!). Switch it off at the wall, wait for 30 seconds or so then switch it back on. Many cases of weird broadband faults can and have been fixed just by this simple thing!
Is there anything I can do to fix slow Wi-Fi?
The problem with Wi-Fi for most people is that the modem sits where the internet connection comes into the home, and everyone connects to it no matter where they are – sometimes the other side of the house or even a different floor.
As we mentioned above, the further away you get from your wi-fi modem (and the more obstacles like walls and doors between your device and the modem’s antenna) the slower and more unreliable your connection will be.
Luckily, there are a couple of different and very easy ways to fix this problem without having to spend a fortune running Ethernet cables through your walls. A much easier and very popular “quick fix” is to get a Wi-Fi range extender, sold by several popular brands.
These clever little devices sit in a place as far away from your modem as possible, capture the Wi-Fi signal from the modem and boost it so that you can get a good Wi-Fi signal no matter where you are around your living spaces.
For those with very large homes, another solution is a Mesh Extender – actually a series of devices you can place all around your home that talk to each other and your modem constantly, letting you seamlessly switch between them to get full Wi-Fi speed anywhere in your home. Mesh network extenders can be bought as add-ons, or as integrated modem/extender sets sold by companies like Google and Asus. They’re a bit more costly than a basic extender, but if you need to cover a large home, these are what you should be looking at.
Try a few different devices
Try a few different devices to make sure it’s not a device problem – try your phone, tablet, laptop, game console, streaming box or even your smart TV.
And try a speed test at different times of the day – not just in the evening peak. If you get low speeds all the time, it could indicate there’s something wrong with your overall connection. But if you just see speed drastically lower in the evenings, you’re seeing the dreaded peak slowdown, and might take it as a cue to shop around for a new broadband provider (something we can help with!).
If all else fails, get a new internet provider
If you’re consistently getting slower speeds than you should and you’re sure it’s not an issue at your end, get in touch with your internet provider. They’ll be able to investigate from their end and also run some tests to make sure the connection between them and you is working properly. But don’t be afraid to consider switching providers if you don’t see things improve. You’re paying for that speed – and you should get as much of it as possible!
What are the fastest NBN Internet Plans?
Last audited 18 November 2020
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