What Does Your Speed Test Tell You?
So you’ve successfully run an Internet speed test, and the test results include a variety of information: upload speed, download speed, ping, and sometimes more. What does all this data mean? You probably spend a good chunk of your hard-earned money on your Internet service, so making sure you get the bandwidth you are promised needs to be a regular part of your Internet usage.
In short, you need to regularly test your Internet speed, and understanding your speed test data definitely helps ensure you’re getting what you pay for.
Let’s take a closer look at the typical data returned by a speed test, and most importantly, what does that data mean.
A Closer Look at Internet Speed Test Data
The service level of your ISP account is normally based on the promised download speed when you first signed up, usually expressed in megabits per second (Mbps). A speed test verifies your download speed as well as other related data, including upload speed and network latency.
Download Speed: Download speed denotes how quickly Internet content is transferred to your computer or home network in Mbps.
Upload Speed: Upload speed is naturally the opposite of download speed, describing how quickly you are able to upload content to the Internet. This is important if you use your Internet to regularly share personal videos, music, and images.
Ping (Latency): Ping reflects the amount of latency in a computer network, denoting the amount of time it takes data to travel from one computer to another on the network. It is normally expressed in milliseconds.
Your Download Speed is Key When Enjoying Streaming Video
If you enjoy streaming video or other rich media content, the download speed is the most important data item in your speed test results.
Also note that the fine print of any agreement between you and your ISP usually includes the phrase “up to” before the bandwidth service level, as in “up to 20 Mbps.” Even with that caveat, performing regular speed tests — and documenting your test results — helps you earn any refunds from your ISP if your Internet speed tests regularly below the service level promised to you.
What follows is a listing of normal Internet streaming activities and the minimum speed needed to perform them without issues like stuttering video or extra buffering.
- 1 Mbps: Streaming compressed (MP3, AAC, etc.) music. Streaming SD quality video on your laptop or desktop computer.
- 2 Mbps: Streaming lossless music. Streaming SD quality video on your TV.
- 5 Mbps: Streaming HD (720p) video.
- 10 Mbps: Streaming Full HD (1080p) video with high definition audio.
- 25 Mbps: Streaming 4K or Ultra HD video.
Understand that these bandwidth ratings assume only one computer is using the Internet connection at a time. If the wireless router at your home regularly has multiple users connected to it, the overall streaming performance for all devices suffers accordingly. At this point, investing in a high-end dual band router with beam forming capabilities helps to improve streaming performance.
The bottom line is that performing regular Internet speed tests gives you the basic amount of data to begin to diagnose any media streaming problems on your home network.