This article is intended to provide a better understanding of how speed tests work, what the numbers mean, and when you should be reaching out to your service provider for assistance.
A good speedtest will provide you with your download speed, upload speed and latency/ping.
These are the speeds you use to “pull down” data from the internet. Whether that’s pulling in your streaming service, downloading a video or photo, checking email, downloading device updates, or browsing a webpage – this is the main speed you’d be using. The speed of your package is split amongst the devices using the speed. For example, if you have a 25 Mbps plan and you’re streaming a 4K movie that uses 20 Mbps – when you do a speedtest on your phone while your movie is running, it may only show 5 Mbps (because that’s what’s remaining for your phone). The same is true if you are running smart devices. Cameras, thermostats and lights all consume bandwidth, if you are doing a speed test while these devices are running it will reduce your reported speed.
Generally, people require much less upload than download speed. Upload speed is when you’re sending traffic to the internet such as posting a picture or video to social media, smart devices saving data to the cloud and making a call with a VoIP or video call service, adding files to an online drive, adding attachments to an email, etc. This has become more important for people working remotely, however, is still a lower priority when compared to download speed.
If you have a gamer in the house, you’ve likely heard the terms latency or lag. Latency is the time it takes for a task to be executed after the command is given (as a funny analogy think about toddlers, they would have high latency…it takes a lot of time after you’ve given a command before the task is completed).
Latency is measured in milliseconds. High latency causes lag (slow down). The reason this is so important to a gamer is when they press a button/key they need low latency so the action they want to perform is done right away (like trying to jump out of the way of something in a game…if there’s high latency, the lag time can cause your character to be hit by whatever the player is trying to dodge). High latency can make your connection feel very slow even when the throughput speed is OK
The Golden Rule of an Accurate Speedtest
Perform a test from a device, like a laptop, that is hardwired using an ethernet connection (for cable/DSL connections connect directly to the modem, for rural wireless, disconnect the ethernet from the router and plug that into your computer). If you can, you should also disconnect the Wifi to make sure other mobile and smart devices are not consuming any of the bandwidth. When you’re running a speedtest over WiFi, there are multiple factors that can come into play that would affect your results. By unplugging your router and plugging directly into your device with an ethernet cable, you are ruling out issues with the WiFi. Some of the issues
- Interference from other devices
- Interference from neighbour’s routers or devices
- A device connected that’s pulling traffic you’re unaware of (using your speeds) such as a device doing automatic updates
- The router may be the issue
If you find your speeds are fine connected directly, but not over WiFi – take a look at our article: Causes of Poor WiFi Connection
Have you tried turning it off and on again?
If you’ve ever had to speak with anyone in customer support for a tech issue, this is often the first question asked.
Be sure you are fully powering off, not just putting a device to sleep. A full power down is needed for a reboot.
If every device on your home internet network is having issues connecting – reboot your modem and/or router (in the case of our rural wireless customers, there is no modem – just a router).
If it’s just one device having issues connecting, reboot that device. If the issues you’re experiencing with speeds are only being experienced on one device, the issue is likely the device itself, not your internet.