Things you should know about Broadband
What is Broadband?
Broadband refers to the use of a wide range of frequencies to communicate a large number of messages simultaneously. Most commonly it is used to refer to the system with which your communication with the internet is handled, for example a wired (fibre-optic) connection or even just your mobile data connection.
What is Ping / Latency?
Ping refers to the method of calculating latency, it’s like ringing a doorbell and latency is the time to get a response.
Latency (often measured in millliseconds) generally refers to the round trip time it take for a signal to get from your device to another device and then the response to get back to you. An example of this would be the time it takes for you to click a button and then to get a response from a web server related to your button click.
Although a latency of 999ms would be bad, this shouldn’t be confused with your internet download speed being slow. A server could initially take a long time to respond but send data fast after it’s received your signal, or it could take a long time to respond and send your data slowly.
For someone who wants quick response to their actions, which most commonly would be gamers (or traders), latency is a very important measure of how good the connection is.
What does Upload & Download Speed mean?
Upload and download refer exactly to what you expect. Upload is the speed at which data from you can get to someone else, while download is the speed it takes for someone else data to reach you.
There is generally a noticeable difference between quoted speeds of your internet provider and those that you get in person. You can find out more data of this discrepancy in the UK from Ofcom (although they have recently announced that they will no longer be collecting this data)
Although you may be paying for your internet, sometimes it may not respond fast or the systems that control it go offline and you are left with no way to get what you wanted to done. It is important to make sure that your broadband has high uptime otherwise what are you paying for. This uptime also applies to the router that is in your home. It’s no good if your connection is good but your router keeps crashing or breaking.
An interesting example of a service that increases your uptime is the Hybrid System BT Halo, which if for some reason your wired connection is down, can connect you with mobile data instead, which could be a big help with online meetings from home. Other operators likely offer a similar service so it is worth shopping around.
What are download speeds measured in?
Download speeds are given in Mb/s. Many people would see a download speed in Mb/s and think that this is Megabytes per second but this is a common misconception.
It actually refers to Megabits per second (I believe they know that customers won’t pay attention to the difference between megabytes and megabits and therefore they end up paying for what they think is a faster Wi-Fi then they get). The actual speed you receive in Megabytes is 1/8 of the download speed you see quoted in megabits.
For reference a download speed of 1Mb/s would let you download an average 2MB photo in around 16 seconds. Pretty slow right…
A download speed of 6Mb/s would likely allow you to watch a stream at 1080p at 60fps. Or two people could probably stream videos at 720p.
A download of 30Mb/s would likely allow you to stream content in Ultra HD -though better make sure no one is on your Wi-Fi as best believe it will buffer at the worst moment in your drama.
Most Popular Broadband Providers [UK Specific]
Below I will list the top 10 broadband providers in the UK (correct as of 2023 thanks to ISPreview UK). Unsurprisingly when checking the top 5 providers, none of them come in the top 5 best rated. It shows that being a popular supplier can also have the negative effect of worse service – though it shouldn’t be this way.
thinkbroadband.com offers a good service to find providers specific to your local area.