Broadband speed – what does it really mean?

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We know broadband speed is something that confuses a lots of you, so here’s our simplified guide to what it means.

How Broadband Speeds Work

The majority of fixed-line broadband services travel into your clinic via your telephone wire and there are different broadband technologies which have different maximum connection speeds, for example 24Mb or 80Mb. If a broadband service uses telephone cables made out of copper, then this means that the amount your broadband speed drops from its maximum capability is determined by the length of the wire. In terms easier to understand, the further the length of the copper cable, the greater your broadband speed will drop below its maximum capability.

Furthermore, broadband services that use purely-copper wires are generally a lot slower than newer services; this is because the speed of the broadband is determined by the distance in cable length from your local telephone exchange to your clinic. On the other hand, newer services use fibre optic cables and this is advertised as Fibre Broadband. Although the final connection from street cabinet to your clinic is done via copper wires, fibre optic cables are used to transfer data from the telephone exchange to the street cabinet. This means that Fibre Broadband will still have some slowdown from maximum connection speed, determined by the length of copper wire from cabinet to your clinic, but this service should provide you with much less slowdown than copper-services. These rules have one exception and these are Virgin Media’s fibre services. Instead of using copper wire to link the cabinet to your home, Virgin uses steel coaxial cables and this ensures that the broadband speeds they advertise are the actual speeds which customers experience.

Peak Time Slowdowns

Using copper cable services means the connection speed our clients experience is permanently limited, however all broadband services usually experience temporary slowdowns in connection speed during peak times.  Typical working and sleeping hours determine the peak times for broadband connection; when a service is uncontested (usually at night) our clients will be more likely to experience their broadband’s maximum connection speed because the connection will be available to more people. On the other hand, at the busiest peak-times in the day our clients are likely to experience some degree of slowdown due to a lot of people connecting to the same street cabinet and telephone exchange.

The severity of the slowdown depends on how much the broadband provider, for example Plusnet, has invested into their network capacity; the more expensive network providers focus on connection speed for home and office users and they will have more network capacity than cheaper providers. The cheaper providers save money by focusing on reaching more customers rather than increasing their network capacity.

Minimum speeds

Broadband providers often advertise their connection speeds as ‘up to’ a certain amount and these ‘up to’ speeds are actually what only 10% of their customers experience. Customers who have a short distance from the street cabinet to their clinic are most likely to be in this 10% of customers that experience good connection speeds. However, some customers with the longest distance of copper cable will be achieving much less and, on a phone line based broadband service, the lowest speed lines will only achieve around 0.5Mb compared to the up to 16Mb that 10% achieve.

There are a lot more street cabinets for fibre services and the cabinets are generally closer to the customers homes and clinics; this means that the minimum supported speed for these services is higher than copper cable services at 15Mb. However, 15Mb is still a significant reduction compared to 76Mb that the fastest 10% of customers can achieve. It is very important that our clients research what connection speed their personal line can support because some may sign up for a service advertised as ‘high speed’ and their line will only support the lowest speed.

Upload Speeds

The information above relates to download speed, or how quickly you can access information from the internet, however it is also massively important to consider the uploading speed of your provider too.

Upload speed simply means the rate at which you can transmit information from your devices to websites or servers based on the internet, for example uploading and attaching a patient’s x-ray photos to their personal account. As more and more of us move towards using the cloud to store data it is becoming increasingly important to research your upload speed and make sure you are achieving near to your maximum capability. Upload speeds limit the rate/speed at which you can upload information to social media sites as well, if your upload speed is low then posting pictures and videos can take a long time.

Advertising campaigns are usually promoting and boasting their download speed. This is because most people see downloading information as more important than uploading information and generally people use the internet to download content a lot more than they use it to upload content. However, most of our clients at e-clinic are reliant on upload speeds. Our clients use the e-clinic software to upload before and after pictures as well as x-rays and therefore they rely on good upload speeds to be able to do this efficiently.

If you have any questions about broadband speeds, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us

With thanks to   – take a look at their guides to choosing the right broadband providers.