How fast is BT Broadband?

Published 13/07/2005 16:33   |    Updated 01/10/2009 15:57
How fast is BT Broadband?

A speed of around 3 megabits per second (Mbps) is available for most users living in cities and large towns who wish to connect to broadband. A 3Mb broadband connection is about 50 times faster than a dial-up connection.


Speeds of 1Mb and up to 7.6Mb are also available. Whether you are able to receive higher speeds depends on the quality of your phone line and the distance from your house to the local telephone exchange.


BT Broadband has rolled out Up to 24Mb download speeds, offering faster connection speeds, improved stability and better reliability to more people in more places than ever before.


24Mb broadband (24Mbits/s) is approximately 480 times faster than standard dial-up Internet (0.05Mbit/s), and three times faster than our current fastest broadband service (7.6Mbit/s).



1024kbps? 3Mb? What do the numbers mean? What speed do I need?


When we're talking about Internet connection speeds, things can be really confusing! For a start, Internet transfer speeds are measured in kilobits per second and megabits per second, and those are not the same as the kilobytes and megabytes we use when we're talking about hard disks and files.


Let's not worry about the numbers. What matters is how they apply to the kinds of things you'll do on the Internet. Here's a table to make it simple:

Internet Connection Speed Time to load a typical web page
(assuming 100 kilobytes of data)
Time to download a typical 4 minute song (assuming a 4 megabyte MP3 file) Streaming Video Quality
56K dial-up modem 14 seconds 10 minutes
1Mb broadband 0.8 seconds 38 seconds
2Mb broadband 0.4 seconds 20 seconds Medium Quality
3Mb broadband 0.2 sec 12.5 seconds
6Mb broadband Instantaneous 6 seconds
24Mb broadband Instantaneous Instantaneous TV Quality
Note: all figures are approximate and represent best-case download speeds. Actually speeds will generally be lower.


So you can see that an entry level 1Mb broadband Internet connection is around twenty times faster than a 56K dial-up Internet connection, allowing you to view web pages with barely any noticeable delay, whereas with an 24Mb broadband connection, you could watch TV quality video over the web!


Any of the broadband speeds will be perfectly good for viewing the majority of web pages - having to wait a second or two for a page to load is perfectly acceptable. But the Internet is so much more than just pages of text and a few images: what about music, video, animations, games and all the other stuff that makes the Internet so much fun?


Consider the download time for a typical 4 minute pop song - around 40 seconds with a 1Mb connection. The time it takes to download is less than the time it takes the song to play. What this means in practice is that your computer will be able to play the song while it downloads. We call this streaming - the sound 'streams' to your computer fast enough that it can be played as it arrives, without all that waiting around.


Streaming also applies to video. You'll find that many web sites allow you to watch video, even live video, without having to wait around for more than a few seconds for it to start. In many cases video is offered in two or more different sizes or at different qualities - so that you can choose the one that plays best with your connection speed. Having a faster connection means you can watch the video at a larger size and better quality.


And what about gaming? Well, it depends on the type of game. For those of us who want to play a little backgammon or a card game on a wet afternoon, any kind of broadband connection will work fine.


If however you're one of those people who want to take on the world at Halo 3 or Call of Duty 4, or connect your XBox 360 or PS3 to the Internet, you may want to consider going for the fastest connection you can practically afford: playing first-person shooters is one of the most demanding ways to use a broadband Internet connection. But don't worry too much - you to upgrade to a faster connection at any time (you'll just pay a higher monthly charge).


See also: Understanding the BT Broadband monthly data download allowance


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