If you have ever scoured through the different speed test tools, you will have stumbled across two key terms; download speeds and upload speeds. These terms define two different aspects of Internet speed. If you don’t know anything about download and upload speed, fret not.
In this guide, will discuss these two terminologies in detail. We will see what they are, define their use cases, and explain how to measure our internet speeds.
What is Download Speed?
The download speed measures how fast your internet connection can retrieve data and files from the web. Usually, the download speed is measured in Mbps (Megabits per second). In more technical terms, the download speed is defined as the downstream rate of the Internet. Slow download speeds can make streaming a video or online gaming very difficult.
Most internet providers in the United States advertise their services based on download speeds. So, the “up to 100 Mbps speed” tagline on your network provider’s website usually refers to the download speed. The higher the download speed, the better.
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What is Upload Speed?
The upload speed measures how fast your Internet can send data or files to the web. Like the download speed, upload speed is measured in Mbps (Megabits per second). Slow upload speeds can impact things like uploading images to social media or adding videos to YouTube.
Most broadband providers and network carriers do not mention upload speed when offering services. Most of the time, the upload speed is drastically less than the download speed, depending on the connection type.
Download vs. Upload Speed: How do they differ?
The main fundamental difference between upload and download speed is how they affect Internet usage. The speeds are used entirely for different purposes.
Some activities require data to be retrieved from the Internet. These activities include loading different web pages, downloading pictures, games, and other files, streaming videos, and such. For these activities and tasks, download speed matters more than upload speed.
Other activities require data to be sent to the Internet. Such activities in which data is sent to the Internet include uploading videos to YouTube, live streaming to Twitch, sending emails, uploading files to iCloud or Google Drive, making video calls, etc. For these activities, users will need a fast upload speed to eliminate any buffering.
The above picture shows that most Internet users in the United States have great download speeds. Anything over 100 Mbps means that you can stream your favorite videos, play video games, and download files without any slowdown or lag.
On the contrary, the 22.43 Mbps average upload figure depicts that most users in the United States do not have sufficient upload speed. Therefore, users with such upload speeds are expected to face lag or slow down when sending data to the web, such as backing up files in cloud storage or uploading videos to Twitch.
How to Test Download and Upload speed
If you are experiencing slow downloads or buffering when streaming content, chances are your Internet speed is not up to the mark.
A popular testing method involves using Ookla’s Speedtest to measure download and upload speed. While Ookla is better than its competitors, it is still a web-based tool. Therefore, it calculates the speed based on an estimate which can lead to obscure and inconsistent results.
How To Tell If You Are Getting Full Speeds
Ookla can be inconsistent. So, real-world testing is a more practical approach for measuring the download and upload speed. By running proper tests, you will know if you are getting the full internet speeds as stated by your Internet service provider.
We will check the download speed by downloading a file from the web and measuring the time it takes to complete the download.
However, before we do that, we need to see the ideal download time for a 100MB file at full download speed. For explanation, let’s assume the full download speed of our Internet is 100Mbps.
We will plug our Internet’s download speed into the download time calculator, select the file size, and press the calculate button.
Now, download a 100MB file from speed. hetzner. Once the file starts, the elapsed time for completing the download will be displayed.
Match the elapsed download time for a 100MB file with the ideal time you got from the download time calculator.
If the elapsed time and the ideal time match, you are getting the full speed of your Internet. However, if the speed does not match, you might need to ring your Internet service provider.
How to improve Download and Upload speed
So, you have checked your Internet speed, and as it turns out, it is insufficient. Here’s how you can get faster download speeds or faster upload speeds, depending on which you need.
Speak to Your Internet Provider
If you are not receiving the full speed according to your Internet plan that you are paying for, contact your Internet service provider. You should be able to make a case against them, and you never know; they might even increase your internet speed.
Upgrade to Fiber Connection
Fiber is the latest technology in the transmission of the Internet. FTTP (Fiber-to-the-premises) connections are much faster compared to cable internet or DSL connections. Fiber can provide faster speeds than other connection types.
Switch to a symmetrical connection type
There are two types of connections – asymmetric and symmetric. An asymmetric connection has less upload speed compared to download speed. For example, 100 Mbps download, and only 10 Mbps upload.
Unfortunately, most home broadband connections in the United States fall in the asymmetric category. If you can switch to a symmetric connection which will provide the same download and upload speed (known as symmetrical speeds).
Enhance Wi-Fi Range
Low Wi-Fi signals can also result in reduced internet speeds. To get optimal speeds on Wi-Fi, you should use high-quality routers from Netgear or Asus. These routers, paired with Wi-Fi boosters, can cover the entire area of your home and provide rock-solid Wi-Fi signals. Hence, resulting in optimal download and upload speed at all times.
Although download and upload speeds differ in what they do, we all can agree that they are equally important for ensuring a great experience when performing multiple tasks and activities, such as streaming content, downloading media, or playing online games.
Related: What is latency?
Tech enthusiast by the day and spirit gamer by night. Waleed loves combining his two passions into writing and is ready to contribute to making Tech easy and accessible for everyone.