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Measuring your internet speeds can be a useful thing to do, especially if you’re having issues with your home Wi-Fi or your cellular connections are unreliable.
Speed tests allow you to quantify the exact figures behind the internet connection speeds you’re currently experiencing, helping you to troubleshoot dodgy apps or figure out the best signal hotspots around the house. It also gives you some facts to use against internet providers if they’re not offering the speeds you were promised.
We’ll use the iOS app’s interface in this example, but testing via the website is a similar process and can be done across any other device with a web browser.
In terms of a step-by-step breakdown, this may just be the simplest tutorial we’ve ever written. Open the app, press GO, and wait for your results. Make sure you know whether you’re connected to Wi-Fi or 3G/4G/5G by looking for the relevant icon on the status bar at the top of your screen.
That’s all it takes to run a speed test, but you’ll need some basic knowledge to understand what the results mean.
The most important figures you’ll be given are download and upload speeds, measured in Mbps. Download speeds track how fast you can download data from the internet, like when you visit a website or stream a movie. Upload speeds are typically slower and are used to send data out to the internet, like when you send an email or share photos on social media.
Mbps means megabits per second (and not megabytes per second, a common misconception). Without getting too technical it’s useful to know what speeds you’ll need for common tasks. Netflix and many other streaming services suggest minimum speeds of 5 Mbps to stream HD video, or 25 Mbps for 4K streaming. Around 2 Mbps should be enough for standard definition streams.
Note that if your internet connection shared with a large household, you’ll need to multiply those numbers if people are likely to stream different things on different devices. Four kids all streaming 4K videos on their respective iPhones and iPads would require connection speeds of 100 Mbps to run smoothly. Online gaming needs high speeds too, while web browsing can get by on any speed but pages will load noticeably faster if you have a faster connection.
Head to the Speedtest by Ookla app’s Video tab to run a separate test that specifically checks how well different quality video streams perform at your current connection speeds.
If you’re disappointed by your internet speeds, your best bet is to speak with your internet provider. Check what speeds they promised when you signed up and be sure to complain if the reality doesn’t match up – you could be overpaying. Being armed with these facts can help you navigate the plans available to you, although be sure to test your speeds at multiple times of day to see if any problems persist. It’s normal for the speeds to drop at “peak times” like early evening when local connectivity is at its most strained.