Even though we are now entering the 5G era, many people are still not able to enjoy the internet without constant buffering even with a broadband connection. Why? Because they are not getting the internet speeds they pay for. What’s worse, they don’t even know how to test internet speed to come up with concrete evidence that things are not as they should be.
In a perfect world, your internet connection would always be at its top speed, and you would never experience any slowdowns and connectivity issues. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. However, we do live in a world where increasingly many activities depend on a fast internet connection, and where internet service providers often promise one thing and deliver something completely different.
Here are our top three reasons why you should regularly test your internet speed:
In 2007, the average internet connection speed in the United States was just 3.6 Mbps. Ten years later, the average internet connection speed was 18.75 Mbps, that’s an increase of 420 percent in a single decade.
Despite the fact that the average internet connection speed is increasing at a steady rate, many people are still experiencing problems with browsing, downloading, streaming, and online gaming because all these activities have become significantly more bandwidth-intensive as well. Here’s our up-to-date list of recommended internet speeds by activity:
To test internet speed using Speedtest by Ookla, all you have to do is open the service in your favorite web browser, close all applications that connect to the internet, make sure that nobody else on your network is downloading or uploading, and click the prominent “Go” button. The test takes just a few seconds to complete, and all results are conveniently displayed right there on the test page.
Another highly rated speed test internet users can turn to is Fast.com. With this test, no user input is required. All you have to do is open the test in your web browser, and it will automatically begin as soon as it loads.
By default, Fast.com displays only your internet speed, but you can click on the “Show more info” button to see your latency, upload speed, and other useful information.
You can also simply type “internet speed test” into Google and tap or click the Run Speed Test button to instantly measure the speed of your internet connection. Google’s speed test is powered by Measurement Lab (M-Lab), the largest open source internet measurement effort in the world. You can expect it to transfer around 40 MB of data and take less than 30 minutes to complete.
Of course, not every internet speed test Google knows about is guaranteed to be accurate, and even popular internet speed tests like Speedtest by Ookla or Fast.com may occasionally display misleading results. That’s why we recommend you always use multiple internet speed tests and calculate the average latency, download speed, and upload speed yourself.
The main thing that influences your internet speed is your online activity. You might be surprised by just how much of your bandwidth can even a single high-definition online video take, not leaving much for browsing the web or downloading files from the internet. The same can be said about the online activity of other people who are on the same network as you. Unless you are lucky enough to have a fiber optic connection, you can’t reasonably expect to play online games without any lag when several other people on your network are in the middle of a Netflix binge.
When it comes to wireless connections, the placement and configuration play an important role. Unless you use a software tool for wireless network assessment, scanning, and surveys like NetSpot to verify that your wireless router can cover all parts of your home with a strong and stable wireless signal, you may run into dead zones.
All you need to use NetSpot is a MacBook running Mac OS X 10.10+ or any laptop with Windows 7/8/10 on board. NetSpot can be downloaded for free, and even regular internet users with no expert knowledge of how networks operate can use it with ease.
If you’re not satisfied with your current internet speed, we have good news for you: there’s a lot you can do to increase it. Let’s take a look at 10 simple things you can do to enjoy the internet without endless loading times, constant buffering, and other annoyances.
You wouldn’t expect a budget computer to play the latest video games or run professional applications, and you shouldn’t expect a budget router to deliver stable internet speeds and cover a large area with a strong WiFi signal.
A new router can cost anywhere between $30 and $300, but there’s no reason to spend a large sum of money on an expensive router if you don’t have a use for its features. Instead, shop for the best value and select a router that can provide the required coverage and capacity without costing an arm and a leg.
Of course, you can always keep your old router and use it to create another WiFi network to reinforce an area of a signal weakness.
Modern routers are basically small computers created with a specific purpose in mind. And just like personal computers, they receive updates that fix bugs, improve performance, and close security holes. While some routers update themselves automatically (usually at night when nobody’s on the internet), most older routers and many new ones don’t.
To update your router, you need to access its administrator interface by following your brand’s instructions. Once there, go to Settings and look for a firmware update option. The update itself likely won’t take more than just a couple of minutes, but you will have to restart your router to install it, so keep that in mind and don’t update your router while downloading a large file from the internet or expecting an important Skype call.
Do you have a lot of neighbors or live in a heavily trafficked area, especially near a school or playground? If so, you should probably change your WiFi password because you might be unknowingly sharing your internet connection with the whole neighborhood.
For a WiFi password to be secure, it must be at least eight digits long and impossible to find in the dictionary. If you have trouble remembering weird symbols and special characters, don’t be afraid to use a long passphrase instead.
Just remember that even the longest, most random password won’t be able to protect your WiFi network unless you secure it with at least Wi-Fi Protected Access 2, or WPA2 for short. If your WiFi router doesn’t support this security method, we highly recommend you get a new one.
A poorly chosen spot for your WiFi router is guaranteed to negatively affect your internet speed. You should always place your router away from large obstacles and RF-emitting devices, such as wireless security cameras, cordless phones, microwave ovens, and so on. Because WiFi routers transmit in all directions, it makes sense to position your router approximately in the middle of the area you want to cover with a WiFi signal.
A WiFi range extender is a handy device that can expand the reach of your WiFi network by repeating the wireless signal from your router. Most WiFi range extenders are fairly inexpensive, costing between $20 and $100.
To install a WiFi range extender, you simply plug it into a wall outlet and use a companion smartphone app to connect it to your existing WiFi network. Some WiFi range extenders can even help you find the ideal installation location, which is typically about halfway between your router and the area with a poor WiFi signal.
If the device you want to connect to the internet is close enough to your WiFi router, you can easily achieve the best internet speed possible by connecting it using a wired Ethernet connection. In fact, Ethernet connections can be up to 100 meters long, but you’re probably not keen on paying a large sum of money for a massive spool of cable Ethernet cable just to connect your computer or smart TV to the internet.
In North America, the 2.4 GHz band is divided into 11 channels. You can think of these channels as lines on the highway. To achieve the best internet speed possible, you want to select a channel that’s used by the smallest number of WiFi networks. The problem is that only three of the 11 channels are non-overlapping, which means that the data packets that travel on them can’t bump into each other.
If you’re not sure which WiFi channel to use, you can easily collect information about surrounding WiFi networks using NetSpot, including their channel, and use this information to locate your busiest and least occupied channels.
Most WiFi routers these days support two separate bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band tends to be far less congested than the 2.4 GHz band, so you should take advantage of it whenever possible, especially because it’s capable of transmitting data at faster speeds. Its only downside is the fact that it can’t penetrate solid objects, such as walls and furniture, nearly as well as the 2.4 GHz band.
Since the 5 GHz band has up to 23 non-overlapping channels, co-channel interference is rarely a problem, even in densely populated urban areas. To benefit from the 5 GHz band, you need to make sure that your wireless devices support it otherwise, you would be broadcasting it for no reason.
Does your router have a removable external antenna? Then you can increase your WiFi speed by replacing it with a high-gain antenna. You can purchase a new WiFi antenna on Amazon or eBay for around $10, and installing it is as easy as removing the original antenna and screwing in the new one.
If your router doesn’t have an external antenna, you might still be able to connect one to it by disconnecting its internal antenna and using a pigtail to SMA adaptor cable.
Truth be told, you might not always be able to improve your internet speed using the tips above. The problem could be your internet service provider and its inability to live up to its promises. In such a case, your only option is to find a different internet service provider.
Internet speed tests are indispensable tools that every single internet user should add to his or her toolbox. Modern web-based internet speed tests are easy to use, and they provide instant and accurate results. Equipped with the results of multiple internet speed tests, you can contact your internet service provider and demand the internet speeds you pay for.
Alternatively, you can use a software tool for wireless network assessment, scanning, and surveys like NetSpot to improve your internet speeds yourself.