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What broadband speed do I need?

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It can feel like broadband speeds just keep getting faster. But is more always better? Find out how to choose the best broadband speed for your household.

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Broadband speed is how fast your broadband internet connection can send and receive data.

Broadband speed is measured in Mbps (megabits per second), sometimes written as Mb for short. The very fastest broadband speeds available to UK homes go above 1000Mbps, which is one Gb (gigabit).

A ‘bit’ is a unit of computer information – it’s short for ‘binary digit’.

What download and upload speed you need will depend on what you use the internet for.

  • Download speed is how fast your connected device can receive data from the internet.
  • Upload speed is how fast you can send data from your device to the internet.


Until recently, download speed usually mattered more, as it’s how you stream video and music, browse the internet and download games. The speed broadband providers advertise is generally the download speed, which will usually be faster than the upload speed.

However, this is changing as people are starting to use the internet differently. Upload speed affects things like making video meetings, competitive online gaming or uploading videos online. So upload speed is very important if you work remotely and make a lot of video calls, or if you’re sending large files regularly.

Some networks now offer symmetrical broadband, where the upload and download speeds are the same.

A good broadband speed is one that gives you enough bandwidth to do what you need to do online. At the same time, it shouldn’t leave you paying for more speed than you need.

For most households, a 30Mbps broadband product (also known as superfast broadband) should be plenty, allowing for streaming and multiple connected devices. Superfast is the most common broadband speed in the UK, with 97% of households able to receive it in 2024.

We’re used to thinking that more means better, but in the case of broadband speed that isn’t always true. Paying for a gigabit internet connection when you don’t need it is like ordering more food than you can eat – the extra goes to waste.

On the other hand, if Netflix is always buffering or things take ages to download when others are using their devices, your connection might be too slow.

The speed you receive on your phone or laptop depends on a few things. For example, the connection strength between your provider and your router, the quality of your Wi-Fi signal and the number of devices sharing the connection. So make sure the hardware in your home is working as it should before you upgrade to faster broadband.

According to Ofcom, other things that can affect router performance include:

  • dimmer switches
  • baby monitors
  • fairy lights
  • using extension leads

It depends on your usage. If you live alone and only use the internet to send and receive email and shop online, you could meet your needs with 15Mbps or below.

However, if you’re a big household where several people use devices and you like to stream 4K TV, 100Mbps or more might suit you better.

Keep in mind how much of your broadband use is uploading (things like video calls and uploads to YouTube) and how much is downloading. Upload speeds are usually slower than the download speeds providers advertise.

The average home broadband download speed in 2023 was 69.4Mbps, according to research from Ofcom. The average climbed 17% between 2022 and 2023 as people invested in faster connections.

Part-fibre broadband is also known as fibre to the cabinet, or FTTC. It uses fibre-optic cables to route the broadband signal from the telephone exchange to a green box in the street, called a cabinet. Between the cabinet and your home the connection is carried by copper wire.

Full Fibre broadband, also called fibre to the premises (FTTP), brings the fibre-optic cable right to your home, cutting out the need for a phone line.This is faster than using copper wire.

For both FTTC and FTTP, connection is shared between premises in the neighbourhood, so it can be slower at peak times or in built-up areas.

Major UK broadband providers are signed up to Ofcom’s Broadband Speed Code of Practice.

That means you should get clear information about speeds when you sign up for the service, without having to ask. That includes a personalised minimum speed for your service.

If your broadband is slower than the promised speed you signed up for, and the problem is with your provider’s network, the provider should fix it within 30 days. If they can’t fix it by then, they should let you leave your contract without paying a cancellation fee.

To find out whether you’d be better off with faster broadband speeds, you need to know what your current speed is. To check this, you can use an online tool like the Uswitch broadband speed test.

Tools like this one work by sending and receiving tiny amounts of data between your device and the Uswitch servers. How long this takes gives you your current speed. For an accurate result, make sure no other devices are connected to your broadband service at the same time.

Netflix recommends minimum broadband speeds for different video resolutions.

  • For High Definition (HD) at 720p you need a 3Mb broadband connection or higher
  • For Full High Definition (FHD) at 1080p you need a 5Mb broadband connection or higher
  • For Ultra High Definition (UHD) at 4K you need a 25Mb broadband connection or higher.

If you’re gaming online, a good quality broadband connection can make the difference between a successful co-op mission and a frustrating, laggy experience. If the connection’s really poor, you may even get disconnected mid-game.

The minimum speed you’ll need for your computer or games console to work may be as little as 3Mb download and 1Mb upload. However, that may not be sufficient for satisfying gaming.

If other players have more advanced connections, such as full fibre, you may be left behind in competitive games.

Gamers are often concerned with ping rate, a measurement that affects how responsive you can be to what is happening on screen. Ping rate means how long it takes for a signal from your console to reach the game server.

Your broadband connection, distance from the game server and what kind of hardware you’re playing on can all affect your ping rate.

You can test your broadband speed and compare it to others in your area using the Uswitch broadband speed test tool. It will tell you whether your connection is fast, slow or average for your area. It’s quick and free to use.

If you’re living in an area with poor broadband speeds, there may be something you can do about it. Homes and businesses in the UK are now covered by the Broadband Universal Service. This means you have the right to request a ‘decent’ broadband service from BT if:

  • you don’t have access to an affordable, decent service already
  • there are no plans to provide one through a publicly funded scheme within 12 months
  • you can’t connect through a 4G hub (which uses mobile data to supply broadband)

A ‘decent’ connection is currently defined as 10Mb download speed and 1Mb upload speed, although this is likely to soon be updated to 30Mb. An ‘affordable’ one is £54 per month or less. As long as the work needed to connect you costs less than £3,400 excluding VAT, it’s free of charge. If it costs more than that, you may be able to split the costs with other premises near you.

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