Frequently Asked Questions

What are ‘actual’ and ‘up to’ broadband speeds?

Remember when you signed up for your broadband package, there was a maximum speed advertised for the connection? That’s the ‘up to’ speed your service is capable of. If everything’s working perfectly, you’ve got a fantastic home network set up and you live very close to the broadband exchange then you might get the maximum speed for your package, but in the real world it’s not very likely.

Your ‘actual speeds’ are the ones you receive day-to-day while using your service. You measure them by taking a free broadband speed test, like the one on our website. If your ‘actual speeds’ are pretty low compared to the advertised speeds for your package, there might be a problem with your connection.

How do I test my broadband speed?

There’s a free broadband speed test on our website, and it’s really easy to use. All you have to do is enter your postcode, press the button and wait for your results to show up on the screen.

The speed test works by sending a request (called a ‘ping’) to your server, and seeing how long it takes to receive a response. That’s how your download (information received) and upload (information sent) speeds are measured. Results are shown in Megabytes per second (Mbps) – or Gigabytes per second (Gbps) if you have a very fast connection!

We think it’s a good idea to run several broadband tests at different times of the day and compare the results. That’s because speeds fluctuate at different times of the day, depending on the number of people trying to use the network and whether there’s any interference. If you consistently run broadband speed tests at different times of the day and find that your ‘actual’ speeds are nowhere near the advertised ones, there may be a problem with your connection.

What is a data allowance, and how does it affect me?

A data allowance is the amount of internet usage included with your broadband package. Some deals come with unlimited data, while others offer a specific amount of usage that resets every month, just like the minutes and internet allowance that comes with a mobile phone contract.

Broadband data is measured in megabytes (MB) and gigabytes (GB). A ‘light’ broadband allowance would be anything from 2-20GB, while a ‘medium’ broadband allowance offers around 20-100GB, and a ‘heavy’ broadband allowance includes close to, or unlimited data.

Here’s a handy guide to the amount of data you use up by doing things online:

  • 100KB of data: Downloading a web page, reading an email, having an instant messenger chat, downloading a document
  • 2MB: Downloading a single photo
  • 5MB: Downloading a single 4 minute song
  • 15MB: Watching a 5 minute YouTube video
  • 1GB: Streaming an hour of HD online video, e.g. via Netflix or BBC iPlayer
  • 2-5GB: Downloading a full HD 1080p movie from iTunes

How does traffic management work, and am I impacted?

During peak times, when lots of people are connecting to the same internet service provider (ISP), some suppliers put speed caps in place that ensure everyone can get online with a minimum speed for browsing, emailing and catching up with social networks.

This policy is known as broadband traffic management and is typically used from 6pm-midnight during the week and from noon until midnight at the weekend.

Not all providers use traffic management policies to manage connection speeds; we recommend checking your ISP’s traffic management policy on their website, so that you’re aware of the speed cap (if any) that’s in place for your connection during peak hours:

What do I do if my provider increases the cost of my package?

From 23rd January 2014, new Ofcom guidance will come into play that allows you to leave your broadband contract during its minimum term, if the price increases or the level of service you are receiving decreases. You will be able to terminate your contract after giving 30 days written notice. More information can be found on the Ofcom website.

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