Connectivity is king. Whether you’re a bandwidth buff, or brand new to the buying experience–you know that you’re at the mercy of those 5G and WiFi bars. Almost everyone in the United States (a whopping 74 million subscribers) stream some sort of video every day–from Netflix to Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock TV, Hulu, and even Youtube. Every time you press play, whether you like it or not, you’re only as good as your internet speed.

So if you’re suffering from buffering or lamenting your lag, it’s time we broke down the difference between download and upload speeds. Knowing the difference could mean a world of difference in how, where, and what you stream.

For starters, take an Internet Speed Test. This allows you to see the download speed, upload speed, and ping rate of each individual device you’re using. You can use these results to compare the speeds you’re actually getting vs what you’re paying your Internet Service Provider (ISP). 

 Next, let’s just clear the air. Your upload speed is going to be drastically lower than your download speed. There’s not really a whole lot you can do about it. It always has been, and always will be controlled by your provider.

Now–technical crap. Both upload and download speeds are measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). While you can’t control the difference between them, there are a few things you can take to improve them.

 

What’s The Difference?

Download Speed: The rate at which data is transferred from the Internet to the user’s device.

Upload Speed: The rate that data is transferred from the user’s computer to the Internet.

Symmetrical Load: Download and Upload speeds are Equal.

ISP: Internet Service Provider.

Ping Rate: The delay of messages sent between any given set of hosts.

Bandwidth: The amount of data you can transfer.

Again, most internet companies set the default download speed to be faster than the upload. However, demand for symmetrical speeds have increased mostly due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. People are doing everything from home–working from home, studying from home, streaming, video conferencing. It’s our new normal.

It’s still standard though that most people download or receive information, stream videos, or search for faster results, more than they upload it. Providers just want their users to be happy. A good network bandwidth for the most part just means quick streaming of movies and songs, and easy use of social media platforms. Maybe even a good upload speed for all the live streamers.

There are, on occasion, some larger businesses (Google, Apple, Amazon, Disney, etc.) and social networks (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.) that require fast upload speeds with unconventionally large bandwidths. Most of the time, network performance like this is only because they use a ton of streaming platforms and multiple types of social media uploads. 

Still, most ISPs don’t won’t budge for big businesses–since the economy is moving more and more towards a WFH standard.

Check that internet vocabulary. Test Your Internet Speed.

The Process

Here’s how running the test works. Checking your Download net speed just means the server sends packets of binary files to the computer. Be aware that many sites use Flash to transport their data. Flash often doesn’t count about 30% of the slowest transfers. 

However, Bandwidth Place replaced Flash with HTML5. No loss of data makes for a faster, cleaner test. Whatever site you use, check to make sure it’s not using Flash. Flash is on the outs, and it’s a pretty archaic test anymore.

The Upload process is similar but reversed. On the upload test, your computer is sending info to the server from the device. The device grabs generic bits of data and transfers it to the server. This data isn’t whole pieces of information–and what’s sent is encrypted, so it’s safe and anonymous.

The Results

Download Speed

“High Speed” Internet – anything above 25 Mbps. Most ISPs have an advertised max of 1,000 Mbps. Typically the fastest residential tests are around 150 Mbps. Anything between 3 and 25 Mbps is still considered fast.

Slow Speed Internet – anything below 3 Mbps.

Dial-Up – Anything below 1 Mbps is considered Dial-Up. It’s almost non-existent and can’t support streaming, most internet searches, or any form of online gaming. Typical speeds are measured in Kilobits per second as opposed to Megabits.

Upload Speed

“High Speed” Internet – anything above 5 Mbps. Most ISPs don’t advertise their maximum speed simply because it’s not nearly as crucial as download speeds. Some symmetrical providers can see uploads as fast as 150 Mbps – though it’s unusual. Anything between 3 and 5 Mbps is standard and won’t affect your day-to-day.

Slow Speed Internet – anything below 1 Mbps.  It’s not uncommon for internet upload speeds in high traffic areas to dip into the Kbps.

If you find that your home internet service is not what your provider promised, there are a couple of easy fixes you can perform. 

First, make sure it wasn’t a failed test. Sometimes iffy WiFi, downloading large files, playing games, or streaming videos while you’re performing a test can short your test altogether. Stop what you’re doing for a minute and focus ALL your bandwidth on the test. 

Also, make sure you understand your internet plans. Some people demand high speeds, but simply aren’t paying for them. You might need to up your plan if you’re paying a low tier service.

Next, you can use a wired connection with an ethernet cable to the router or modem, instead of relying on your wireless connection. Performing a speed test with a wired network will always give you better results than a WiFi Speed Test.

Finally, reset your modem or router. Sometimes a good ‘ol, “did you turn it off and on again,” actually works wonders.

You can also remove any firewalls in place while the test is active (just make sure to turn them back on after). If you still have slow speeds and you’re sure it’s not a hardware or user problem, contact your Internet provider.

Are you getting what you’re paying for? Let’s find out! 


Grace Alano
Grace Alano