Friday, 18 Aug 2023 | 6 min read
How to check your internet speed and improve it
Picture this: you’ve had a long day and all you want to do is kick back, relax, and watch Kath & Kim for the 15th time. You get all set up on your couch and press play but are greeted by the dreaded loading circle of doom!
It sucks when your streaming is loading at a snail’s pace, or when your character is running on the spot when gaming online. In these moments of frustration – or even despair – you might rush into rearranging your home network or upgrading your router.
Before jumping into action, it’s best to have a good understanding of the speeds you’re experiencing. Comparing test results to the speeds offered by your internet plan can save you some money – if your results aren’t reaching those speeds, upgrading to a higher speed will have little to no effect.
Continue reading to find out how to run a speed test and understand what your results mean for streaming, gaming, and working remotely.
What is a 'good' internet speed?
Before you start troubleshooting a slow connection, it’s good to figure out whether your internet plan and modem (or router) is suitable for your household’s online activities. If you’ve got 5 people in your house trying to game and stream content on a low-speed connection plan, it won’t be fun having to compete with each other for more megabits per second!
The first step towards improving your internet speeds is having a rough idea of what is a ‘good’ speed is for your online activities.
If you use the internet for email, social media, listening to music, or surfing the Web, then a speed test result of 5Mbps per user is more than enough.
If you’re jumping on YouTube or Netflix to watch high-definition (HD) video content, you may need about 10Mbps for each person streaming while connected to your internet.
If you’re looking to play (and download) games online; watch 4K and ultra-high-definition (UHD) movies; or if you’ve got a home office where you’re heavily using high quality images or videos, cloud services, video conferencing, and a VPN – the ideal speeds are upwards of 20Mbps for each user with these needs.
The above estimates are measured per user. If you’ve got multiple people in the household, then each person using the internet is going to use a portion of the total speeds you can achieve.
For example, if you’ve got two people watching Netflix at the same time, and a third person who is working from home, then you’ll want to see some speed test results on your connection that are around 30 to 50Mbps (depending on your individual circumstances).
If your connection is susceptible to fluctuations – like if you’re on a Mobile Broadband plan or facing some network congestion during peak periods – a speed test might not tell the whole story. You could potentially experience variations of high and low speeds, which will impact the quality of your online experience.
How do I run a speed test?
To test the speed of your internet connection, you can use websites such as Speedtest.net or Fast.com from a computer, mobile or tablet. Fast.com is run by Netflix, and is the recommended option for testing your internet’s streaming performance, as the test will check your connection to Netflix streaming servers. If you’re a current Aussie customer, you can also use speed.aussiebroadband.com.au.
To test for the highest speeds you can possibly achieve, it’s best to do the test from a device that’s connected by a network cable (you may know this as an ‘ethernet’ cable). Alternatively, using your smartphone from different areas in your property is helpful for measuring the performance of your Wi-Fi connection and how far the range can meet.
To use Speedtest.net, you can follow these steps:
Open a browser on your phone or computer and go to https://speedtest.net/.
Click on the Go button in the middle of the page.
Watch and wait for the test to complete.
Once the test is finished, you will see your download and upload speeds as well as your ping time (latency). If you’re experiencing speed issues in a specific room or area, run the test again in a few different locations to compare the results and signal strength.
What do my speed test results mean?
Most speed test websites and apps will display your results for download speed, upload speed, and the ping (latency) for each direction. Here’s what they mean for you:
Download speed is the most relevant result for various ways we use the internet – particularly when using streaming services, browsing websites, and accessing files stored in the cloud.
Upload speed is more applicable when it comes to uploading files to cloud storage, voice and video calls, and sending large email attachments.
Ping is a term to describe a signal that is sent from your device to the speed test server.
Latency is the measurement of time (in milliseconds) it takes for data to travel from your device to the test server and back again.
It’s important to note that when you use Speedtest.net, the website automatically chooses a test server nearest to you with the fastest response time. For a more reliable speed test result, it’s worth running a few tests using different servers that are further away if you use services not hosted in Australia, such as online gaming servers or websites from other countries.
You can change the test server by clicking on the Change Server button (below the ‘Go’ button), then select a different location.
Screenshot of the 'speedtest.net' website, displaying the 'GO' button in the middle, and 'Change Server' is highlighted.
What is a good download and upload speed when gaming?
While speed tests can be handy for measuring your speeds and latency with a range of different servers, it does not always reflect your internet performance when playing online games.
In fact, you don't need a lot of upload and download speed to play games online – typically, speeds of at least 10Mbps are optimal. What’s more important for online gaming is having a connection with low latency, as no amount of speed will eliminate laggy gameplay if your latency in-game is high.
The relationship between lag and latency when gaming
Achieving low latency (a faster ‘ping’ time) depends on decent upload speeds, and upload speeds have a larger impact on response time and game performance than download speeds. Having a stable connection with little to no variance to your ping/latency is more important for online gaming than having high upload and download speeds.
For most game servers located in Australia, you can expect a ping test result of 10 to 50 milliseconds (ms). There are many reasons why your latency may be different in games from the speed test. One reason is that the speed test and the game will be connecting to different servers, often in different geographical regions.
Some online games, such as Fortnite, document some of their server addresses you can ping to for testing . Using these resources is recommended for a more accurate result, so it’s worth doing some research to see if your favourite games have this information documented!
How can I improve my internet speeds?
Your internet can go wonky for many reasons: maybe you have you too many gadgets hogging the bandwidth; your phone line may have damage caused by mother nature; or your router may be past its prime and cranky from the high demands that come from a modern Australian household.
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to figure out what’s wrong and how to fix it – and it’s easier than you might think! You just need to know how to measure your speeds to get started on finding a good solution. Trust us, you’ll be a tech-savvy pro in no time!
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If you’ve run some tests and your internet is performing particularly poorly when connected to Wifi, there are extra steps you can try to specifically improve the reach of your Wifi. This includes things like upgrading your modem (or router) to one with a larger range, adding Wifi ‘extenders’ around the house, changing the settings on your device, or moving your router to a more optimal location.
There are countless solutions for maximising the speed of your internet plan, depending on your individual circumstances.
For more detailed information and step-by-step instructions for maximising your internet speeds, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide for Improving slow internet speeds in our Help Centre.
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