What should you be looking for in an internet speed test?

April 7th, 2020 - Get new posts sent straight to your inbox, click here.

If you ever want to know how your internet connection is performing, then a speed test is a good place to start. It will help you confirm if your internet is running slower than normal, and help to diagnose what’s going wrong when something isn’t working.

Say that your Netflix service isn’t working. You’re trying to load up the next episode in the series that you’re binging, but all you’re getting is a buffering wheel. Your first step in trying to work out what might be wrong should be a speed test. If the speed test comes back and shows that your internet is delivering normal speeds, then it’s likely that there’s a temporary issue with Netflix itself. If, however, the speed test comes back to show that your internet is running much slower than normal, then you will want to start troubleshooting to find out why.

What is a speed test?

Speed tests are websites that will transmit a few pieces of meaningless data to your device in an effort to determine how quickly your internet connection delivers that data. Some popular (and well-regarded) third party speed tests include Ookla, OzSpeedTest, WhistleOut, and, if you’re an Aussie Broadband customer, we offer our own test too that shows up on your account for our team.

With most speed tests, you’ll get two numbers – one represents the download rate (i.e. how quickly your internet connection can receive data from the internet), and the other represents the upload rate (how quickly you can send data to the internet). If you’ve got a 50/20 connection, for example, your maximum download rate will be 50Mbps, and your maximum upload rate will be 20Mbps. If you run a speed test on a 50/20 connection, depending on your ISP, you should be getting pretty close to that.

Most speed tests are Web-browser based, so you simply load up your internet browser, head to Google, and find your preferred speed test. Some also offer dedicated apps for your mobile phone, which you might find to be more convenient, but in most cases won’t offer a deeper feature set.

What should my speed test show?

The first thing to note is that you will never get your absolute maximum download or upload speeds. Say you’re signed up to a 50/20 internet service – because the data still needs to travel over a combination of copper wire and fibre through the nbn™, there is going to be some loss of speed over the distance that the data needs to travel.

Another thing to be aware of is that WiFi speed test results will also be slightly slower than if you test using a wired (ethernet) connection. There are a number of factors here. Speeds may vary from room to room in your household, depending on how far away the room is from the nearest router, and how many walls and other blockages are between the devices. Because of the myriad of factors that can affect your speeds over WiFi, it’s a good idea to keep an ethernet cable so you can run a speed test directly from your modem if you think your speeds aren’t what they should be. This allows you to figure out if the issue lies with your WiFi or your internet itself.

The time of day that you do the speed test will also have some impact on the results. During evenings, when there are more people using the internet, there will be a decline in the overall speed. Typical evening speeds with Aussie Broadband range from 22Mbps on an nbn™ 25/5 (25 Mbps maximum download) connection, through to 86 Mbps on an nbn™ 100/20 (100 Mbps maximum download) connection.

As you can see, as a general rule you should be expecting internet speeds of between 80-90 per cent of the maximum available on your plan.

What do I do if I’m not getting good speeds?

If you find that your internet is running well below expected speeds, and the speed test confirms it, there are a couple of things that you can do to troubleshoot:

1. Consider the age of the modem and/or router – it might be as simple as the modem and/or router is no longer sufficient to deliver the speeds you expect. At the very least you should ensure that your router is a dual-band device. If you have a more modern router, try switching to the 5GHz spectrum, as that will often result in faster access. For more information on the WiFi spectrum, click here.

2. Change your password – check and see the list of devices connected to your internet connection (you can do this in your router’s admin portal – refer to your device’s instruction manual). If there are any devices that you don’t recognise, it could be that a neighbour has figured out how to access your internet. Change your password frequently to prevent this from happening, and make sure that you’re using strong passwords.

3. If you do prefer wireless internet, consider adding a WiFi booster to your network, and installing mesh devices to make sure the signal is carried more strongly to all corners of the house.

You can also give your ISP a call to see if there are any issues on their end that might be slowing down the signal. Service disruptions to an area might be slowing down internet access, rather than stopping it completely. The Aussie Broadband support team is available 8am – Midnight, Monday – Sunday on 1300 880 905, or via LiveChat on the website.