Why do broadband speed tests vary so much?

  Onizuka 16:39 30 Mar 2012

I have just downloaded Kaspersky PURE 2.0 and saw that the download speed barely managed 1.2MB/sec. As I have Virgin Media 30MB fibre optic broadband I immediately did a number of broadband speed tests with at least half a dozen different sites. In quick succession they ranged from 5MB to 50MB.

I know that Virgin are doubling everyone's speed this year but my area isn't due until July so two of the readings (44Mb and 50MB) puzzled me and made me doubt the validity of any of the tests.

My question is why the Kaspersky download was so slow. I know that speeds can vary during the day but it would also be helpful if anyone can suggest a speed testing site that is accurate and consistent.

  rawprawn 17:10 30 Mar 2012

Download speeds can vary enormously, one of the main reasons other than your own connection is how busy the web site is from which you are downloading and which servers are handling the download.

  Ian in Northampton 17:35 30 Mar 2012

Plus the general volume of web traffic. It slows noticeably when the Americans wake up... :-) It get slower again when my daughter and her peers get home from school. Doesn't really explain the weird numbers you got, though.

  DaleF 20:13 30 Mar 2012

Are you using wired or wireless, wireless can provide some strange results in terms of what speed you will receive depending on the wireless card/adapter your using. Or at the time of the download, the web server for the download could be a little busy, although I too, have the virgin media 30MB, the super hub is awful for managing wireless connectivity.

It may be down to the time of day, peak downloads and whether your wireless may of had a little disturbance.

  frybluff 20:33 30 Mar 2012

There were a couple of days, last week, when some weird things were happening with my downloads using Virgin. I had speeds that were varying by a factor of up to five, every few minutes. It seemed to return to a normal, fairly constant speed, by the weekend. You may now have a similar thing, which will soon return to normal. May be something to do with preparatory work, for the upgrade. I did try phoning Virgin, to check, but, as usual, that was a waste of time.

  DaleF 23:25 30 Mar 2012

If you want a quick fix to something I tried myself and it seems to be quite stable, if you log into your superhub, you can change your wireless channel to channel 9, and change the frequency to 145Mbps rather than 300Mbps, this worked for me.

Other things to change would be some services in the maintenance panel on the left:

Untick - Firewall features & IP Flood Detection. This will increase your data packet retrieval rate considerably.

  Onizuka 15:02 31 Mar 2012

I downloaded the new version of Kaspersky PURE to my desktop using a wired connection from the Virgin super hub so the speed shouldn’t have been affected by any wireless problems. However, in due course I shall be downloading the same update to my laptop wirelessly so DaleF’s suggestions may come in handy.

As all have suggested it would seem that the busyness of the web site, the load on its servers and the amount of traffic were all factors which slowed matters down but it did seem excessively slow. It makes one wonder if there is any advantage in paying for up-to 30MB (soon to be up-to 60MB) if, as in my recent experience, the speed was only 1.2MB (and that was the highest it reached, a lot of the time it was less than 1.0MB/sec).

  frybluff 15:36 31 Mar 2012

There may be some confusion between MB (megabytes) and Mb (megabits). Commercial download provision is normally quoted in Mb/s. Download managers, however, normally indicate actual speed in MB/s.

1MB/s = 8Mb/s, so an actual download of 1.2 MB/s is equivalent to 9.6 Mb/s. Not 30 Mb/s, but not awful.

  Onizuka 10:21 02 Apr 2012


Thank you for this. I, for one, am certainly confused by the use of different units. It would help if there was a single standard speed quoted but I don't suppose that will ever happen.

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