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Download time calculator: a guide to download speeds

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Download time calculators are a useful tool for checking whether your internet is fast enough for the needs of your household.

They allow you to see how much faster your internet speed could be compared with what you’re currently getting. So they can help you decide what you need when you’re looking for a new broadband deal.

two women sat on a sofa at home playing video games

A download calculator is a quick way to work out how long it takes to download a file based on a certain internet speed.

For instance, a 1GB file would take 13 minutes and 20 seconds to download at 10Mbps (megabits per second). A speed of 100Mbps would download it in just 1 minute and 20 seconds.

To use a download speed calculator, you need to know the size of the file and the broadband speed you want to check. But while it’s a good indicator of what you get with different download speeds, you shouldn’t expect it to be 100% accurate.

Speeds can fluctuate, and the performance of your broadband may change throughout the day  - so you should count it as an estimate based on average speeds.

Follow these steps to carry out a download time test using the Uswitch download time calculator, it only takes a few seconds:

  • Enter the size of the file you want to download in bytes, for example 1GB. You can click the dropdown menu to switch between KB, MB, GB and TB.
  • Then enter the speed of your broadband connection in Mbps or Gbps. For example, 30Mbps.
  • Then hit ‘calculate’ to see how long it would take you to download your file. The results are shown in seconds, minutes and hours.

If you’re not sure what the speed of your current broadband connection is, you can use the Uswitch speed checker to test the download speed.

The download speed you need depends on how quickly you want to download TV shows and films on demand or play games online without glitching. This is what people mostly look for when signing up for a broadband contract and can make all the difference to how smooth your internet experience is.

A small household may not need a fast download speed; 30Mbps may be more than enough. Whereas a family full of gamers and 4K TV fans may need a fast speed, particularly in the evening. A speed of around 60Mbps may be better for this type of household. If you regularly study or work from home, you need a decent download speed for all those virtual classrooms and meeting rooms.

If you want an internet connection that can handle anything without interruption or lag, look for an ultrafast download speed of 100Mbps+. Of course, the faster your internet connection is, the more you’re likely to pay for your broadband contract. 

Broadband speeds are getting faster all the time, with some providers now offering ultrafast packages with average download speeds of more than 1,000Mbps. The average UK download speed in 2023 was 69.4Mbps, according to Ofcom. 88% of households achieved at least 30Mbps on average. This was up from 83% in 2022.

The tables below give you an idea of how long it would take to download various types of file at different speeds

How long does it take to download a song?

Music files don’t tend to be very big, so they shouldn’t take long to download. We’ll use an MP3 file that’s 4MB in size as an example:

Broadband speed (Mbps) Download time
3 seconds
1 second

How long does it take to download a TV episode?

Streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime allow you to download TV shows to watch offline. Here’s how long it would take to download a 1GB episode.

Broadband speed (Mbps) Download time
4 mins 26 secs
53 secs
26 secs

How long does it take to download a movie?

Films in full HD and 4K take longer to download than movies in standard definition, but you get better picture quality. Let’s take a 2-hour 14GBfilm as an example:

Broadband speed (Mbps) Download time
1 hour
2 mins
13 secs
12 min
26 secs
6 mins
13 secs

How long does it take to download a video game?

You need lots of bandwidth for seamless video gaming. Many of today’s titles are more than 100GB in size, which could take hours to download with slow internet.

Broadband speed (Mbps) Download time
7 hours
24 mins
26 secs
1 hour
28 mins
53 secs
44 mins
26 secs
14 mins
48 secs

Technically, there’s no physical limit to download speeds. The fastest available broadband speeds in the UK currently range between 1-7Gbps, but that level isn’t widely available to every home.

In 2023, Ofcom found that cable and full-fibre customers achieved the highest average download speeds. Cable connections, i.e. those from Virgin Media, offered the highest average (median)download speeds of 215.8Mbps in 2022.

Ultrafast broadband is available in some areas, with 1Gbps, or gigabit broadband, the fastest relatively available speed in the UK in 2023. These speeds are possible on both fibre-to-the-premises (FFTP) broadband and Virgin Media’s cable network.

Speeds can be affected by the number of people online at the same time, which is also known as the contention ratio. If you’re on fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband, speeds can also be affected by the distance between your property and the cabinet.

Some Wi-Fi speed calculators, including the Uswitch speed checker, also show your distance from the exchange. This is relevant to customers on standard copper broadband. It may take some time for new-build properties to be added to the Uswitch database.

  • Download speed is how long it takes for information to be transferred to your device – for example, downloading a file or piece of music.
  • Upload speed is how long it takes for information to be transferred from your device – for example, uploading a file to an email. Upload speed is becoming increasingly important now many of us are working and studying from home. In 2023, Ofcom reported that the average upload speed had increased by 73% to 18.4Mbps. That’s 18Mbps of data being transferred from your device every second.

Averages are calculated based on the speed that 50% of customers achieve at peak times (8pm to 10pm). It’s normal for your upload speed to be lower than your download speed.

Many speed test calculators also show a response (or ping) time, which is how quickly information travels from your device to the server. This is also known as latency or lag and is measured in milliseconds. A low latency is good for things like gaming as it means your internet is very responsive.

If your internet speed calculator shows slower-than-ideal speeds, there are several things you can do.

Tips to increase download speed:

  • Move your router to a central location. Check the signal is not blocked by thick walls or heavy furniture, then try the speed test again.
  • Upgrade your router if it’s old and inefficient, then try the speed test again.
  • Check what’s available in your area and consider upgrading to superfast or ultrafast broadband. Full fibre or cable broadband from Virgin Media are the fastest options in many areas of the UK.
  • Talk to your provider about your concerns.
  • If your provider cannot resolve the issue, consider switching broadband provider.

If you’re getting slower speeds than you were offered when you signed up, you may have a right to end your contract early. Your provider must fix the problem within 30 days, or you’re free to cancel.

You may also have a right to claim compensation, which should be paid within 30 days of the problem being resolved. Check if your provider is signed up to the automatic compensation scheme.

If you simply want to switch to another provider to improve your speeds, you must wait until the end of your contract or pay an early termination charge (ETC).

Once you have your broadband speed results, you can check the average speeds of other providers in your area.

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