Whether your home internet connection seems slow or you’re wondering whether your 4G speeds on your phone are indeed fast, you may be wishing you had a speedometer for your computer or phone. Internet speeds have come a long way from the dial-up days when you could brew a pot of coffee in the time it took to load your email account. But even though Internet connection speeds are faster than days of old, you may be curious how fast your speed really is.
When your Internet provider promises you download and upload speeds to entice you to sign up for service, there is always an asterisk by the number. As with EPA ratings for fuel efficiency, your experience may be quite different from the promised numbers, usually worse.
Your Internet speeds can be affected by a variety of factors, including whether you are connecting to a router with a cable or Wi-Fi, the number of people accessing your Internet provider’s network and the quality of your connection.
A slow Internet connection not only tests your patience, it can make video streaming slow or impossible. Connections can drop just when you’re getting to the good part. Pages, especially those with high quality images, can load slowly or have errors.
So how can you tell the speed of your Internet service?
Speedtest.net is a free service that measures your Internet speeds, both download and upload. The site was founded by Ookla Net Metrics in 2006 and recorded its 3 billionth test earlier this year.
If you’re curious about your Internet speeds, go to speedtest.net from your computer and click Begin Test.
The test takes a matter of seconds to deliver the results. You will be shown the download speeds and the upload speeds. You will also be given options to rate your Internet service provider, compare your results with others and look at the history of your results.
The speeds will be given as numbers, preferably in the mbps (megabits per second) range. If your speeds are in the kbps (kilobits per second) range, your connection is slow and streaming videos will be a struggle. (1 mbps = 1,000 kbps)
Try testing your speeds at different times of day. I have Verizon FIOS and tested my home Internet speeds one night at 8 pm, a busy time for the Internet. My speeds were 18 mbps download and 18 mbps upload. I tested another day at 9:30 in the morning and my speeds were 28 mps download and 18 mbps upload, a big difference in download speeds.
If you have a big file to download, such as a video or a large app, it may be very handy for you to know which time of day your connection speeds will be the fastest.
3G vs. 4G/LTE
If this is making you wonder about the speed of your Internet connection on your smartphone, good news. There’s an app for that! Speedtest has free apps for Android and the iPhone/iPad. With all of the controversy over the 4G speeds of different cell phone carriers, it’s good to test your coverage to see exactly the speeds you are getting.
You can also use the speedtest.net app to see whether that Wi-Fi hotspot you’re using is faster or slower than your 3G or 4G data connection. You may be surprised to learn that your cell phone’s data connection is often faster than public Wi-Fi. Just make sure to watch your monthly data limits . If you’re approaching your monthly limit, you may want to use public Wi-Fi, no matter how slow it is.
Speedtest.net app runs the same test on your smartphone as on your computer. The app keeps a record of your results with the date of the test and whether you tested over Wi-Fi or through your cell phone signal.
Speeds Around the World
I used to run this test regularly when I lived in England and was frustrated to discover that my speeds were in the kbps range (1000 kbps = 1 mbps). The news wasn’t surprising as I had great difficulty streaming videos and loading web pages.
If you’re in Lithuania, good news. Your country has the fastest average download speeds in the world, 32 mbps, as measured by Net Index. If you’re looking to live where download speeds are fast but moving to Lithuania isn’t an option, try:
- 2. South Korea 27 mbps
- 3. Latvia 27 mbps
- 4. Romania 25 mbps
- 5. Macau 24 mbps
The United States ranks 35th in the world with 12 mbps.
If you want to move to the place in the world with the slowest recorded place for Internet connections, ranking 174th in the world, head to the Northern Mariana Islands with 0.5 mbps per second.
This video will probably make you jealous, but check out the speedtest.net test in this video, the fastest time I found on YouTube:
Have you tested your Internet speeds on your computer? How about on your phone? Let us know what your speeds are in the Comments section below!
I am traveling, though not in search of faster Internet speeds, and away from the blog. I will return on April 9 to answer comments. Until then, keep checking back with The Wonder of Tech because I will be posting articles on my regular schedule while I’m away.
* Monorail photo by Joe Penniston