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Your speed test results explained
When it comes to broadband basics, speed is an important factor as it is linked to reliability - a slow connection can’t be trusted to keep you and your family securely online without interruption. But what makes a good broadband connection, and what do things like megabits, ping and jitter say about the overall quality and experience? We explain what your speed test results mean.
How is internet speed measured?
Upload and download
The basic unit of measurement for a piece of computer data is the bit, which can be either 0 or 1. When we talk about the speed at which data moves across the internet we refer to megabits per second (1,000,000 bits per second) and more recently gigabits per second (1,000,000,000 bits per second).
The faster you can download and upload data, the more enjoyable your internet experience will be. That's because the things we like doing on the internet - like streaming movies, TV and music, and playing games - require lots of information to move quickly from the internet to our computer, device or TV. So the more megabits per second you see in your speed test results the stronger your connection.
Don't confuse megabits (Mb) with megabytes (MB)! Megabits are usually used to talk about the speed data travels, while megabytes refer to the size of a file or the storage capacity.
Learn more: How to run a broadband speed test
Ping is a basic yet effective tool for checking connections between two computers or devices on a network.
As the name suggests, ping sends a signal out to another computer and measures in milliseconds how long it takes to receive a response (for the maritime experts out there, it's a similar principle to sonar!). If that other computer is far away or the network is busy then it will take longer to receive a response and the ping value will be high.
The Chorus Speed Test should automatically select a test server that is close to you, so you can expect a low ping rate. A typical ping rate across the same city should be lower than 20ms, while between cities you'd expect to see ping values between 30-60ms, and between continents that figure can climb to 150-200ms.
Ping is sometimes referred to as latency, which in computer terms means the time (or delay) it takes for data to move from one device to another. Online gamers are especially keen to see low latency to ensure they experience fast, smooth game-play and can keep up with other players on fast broadband connections.
Learn more: How to ping a computer or website
Data is transmitted across the internet as a series of packets - sort of like the individual frames of a celluloid film strip. These packets usually move at a regular rate (think: frames per second) and are stitched back together on the destination computer into whatever they started off as - perhaps an image, email, video or voice call.
If the rate of delay between those packets becomes irregular or increases then your jitter value will go up.
Networking devices on the internet are usually smart enough to account for jitter and smooth out the rate of data packet transfer, so you won't notice any disruption to your broadband experience. At other times networks (fibre less so) get congested with so much traffic that it becomes difficult to smooth out the flow of data.
Internet services where it's essential for data to travel in near real-time are particularly sensitive to high rates of jitter. You'll notice high jitter during internet video and voice calls when the connection momentarily stutters or breaks up.
Learn more: What is jitter in networking?
What is a good download speed?
Different connections and cable types (copper, fibre, wireless) carry data at different speeds, so a good download speed will depend on which of these connections you have at home.
If you’re not sure what type of broadband you have, you can use the Chorus Broadband Checker to find out what connection you’re on now and what options might be available at your place. The four main options and their average download speeds are:
ADSL (5-25 Mbps)
Traditional copper cabling (like the old phone lines) and enough for the basics of internet usage (web browsing and emailing). The further away you live from the cabinet or exchange, the slower your speed will be.
VDSL (15-130 Mbps)
A mix of copper and fibre, VDSL is available to 80 percent of New Zealand homes and can be fast enough for activities like high-definition streaming. You'll get higher speeds if you live within a kilometre of the cabinet or exchange.
Fibre (50-200 Mbps, and beyond)
Pure fibre is faster and more reliable than VDSL and comes with dedicated capacity for multiple devices to connect at once - ideal for families.
Fibre Pro (Up to 950 Mbps or almost a gigabit per second)
If you need the very best broadband available Fibre Pro combines top-tier connection with the fastest speeds.
What does good broadband look like?
Broadband speed results are typically broken down into different numbers representing upload and download speed and delay or latency. This might sound complicated, so if you're looking for benchmarks to compare your broadband performance against, here are the numbers to look for.
Cisco - an industry leading manufacturer of networking and telecommunications hardware - says that for a good quality of service:
- Ping (or latency shouldn't go over 150 ms or 300 ms for a round trip)
- Jitter should remain below 30 ms
- Packet loss should be less than 1%.
Your download and upload speeds should match the rates specified by your broadband provider for your plan unless you're on ADSL or VDSL and live far from a cabinet or exchange.
What can affect your speed test results
Good broadband is more than just your connection – it’s a combination of factors including your broadband plan, the router (sometimes referred to as a modem) you use, the age of your device or computer, the number of people online and the capacity of your provider's network can all affect your speed test results.
Learn more: What can affect my broadband performance?
How to speed up your broadband connection
A lot of technology sits between you and the content on the internet you desire. Think of it as a chain of links, with each link responsible for some component of performance. There are some links in the chain you can’t do much about, but others you can strengthen and optimise to improve your broadband speed. We’ve identified some practical steps you can take to improve your broadband performance and overall experience.
Discover more: Tips to improve your broadband speed