Worried you’re not getting the broadband speeds that you pay a king’s ransom for every month? Worry no more. Here’s how to perform a BT Broadband speed test to reveal if you’re being ripped off.
Although the Thinkbroadband speed tests at the bottom of this page can be run on any broadband provider’s connection, the top two tests can only be run by BT customers.
BT Broadband speed test: check your sync speed
The first thing to do is check your so-called sync speed. This is the maximum possible speed your connection can achieve. If your sync speed is significantly slower than what BT has promised you, then you should be straight on the phone to technical support.
To check your sync speed on a BT Smart Hub, take the following steps. Other BT routers (such as the older BT Home Hubs) will have a similar facility, but the menus might be named slightly differently.
- Open the Smart Hub manager by typing http://192.168.1.254 into a web browser address bar or by clicking on the link above
- Click the Status section in the top left of the page and you should see a screen like this:
The two figures you’re concerned with here are Downstream sync speed and Upstream sync speed. These should roughly match the headline figures that BT promises on your broadband package. If they don’t, have a conversation with BT Broadband support.
BT Broadband speed test: run BT’s own test
Now, we want to start measuring the actual speeds you’re getting, not just what’s theoretically possible.
We’re going to start with BT’s own speed test. Why? Because if BT’s own results are significantly slower than what you’re paying for, they can hardly argue the speed test you’re running is inaccurate.
The speed test takes a few minutes and requires you to click the mouse a stupid number of times, but eventually you should see a results page like this:
You’ll notice the results are rather bare. You’ll get a single download speed result, which doesn’t feel like a great return for five minutes’ testing and a lifetime’s worth of mouse clicks, but the result is useful.
It shows the maximum broadband speed that’s achievable from your local BT telephone exchange to your BT Hub. If, like me, you’re on a fibre connection, it’s actually not the speed from your exchange that you should be worried about, but the speed from your local fibre cabinet.
Nevertheless, the test is a good indicator of what BT thinks you can achieve, and if it’s half the speed they’re charging you for, then you should be straight on the phone to BT.
In my case, it’s about 10Mbits/sec slower than the theoretical download speed of my fibre connection, which isn’t enough to lose any sleep over.
BT Broadband speed test: Thinkbroadband’s test
The BT Broadband speed test doesn’t tell you what speed you’re getting right now. Nor does it tell you anything about your upload speed. If you want to get a true measure of how fast your broadband speed is, run Thinkbroadband.com’s speed test from your computer.
To get the most accurate results and to minimise the chances of Wi-Fi interference giving you a false reading, run the test on a laptop that’s in the same room as the BT router. If you can plug your laptop into the router via an Ethernet cable, even better.
The test takes a fraction of the time of BT’s test, but gives you much richer information. Once the test has completed, you should see a set of results like this:
You’ll see two sets of results for download speeds. The TBB test shows how fast the connection is when downloading a single file, which is a useful measure of how fast your connection will be for streaming on services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer. ‘Burst TBB’ is the maximum speed achieved during the test and ‘Avg TBB’ is the average speed over the duration of the test.
The HTTP x6 test runs six different downloads at the same time. As the chaps from Thinkbroadband.com explain: “On a good connection with no congestion, traffic management or other issues the speed for a single download should match the multiple download test. The second test uses six downloads at the same time and in situations where Wi-Fi or provider congestion is a factor you may see the second download running a lot faster.” In my case it was the exact opposite!
Finally, the upload test shows how fast data travels from your computer to the internet. Upload speeds tend to be closer to the theoretical max speed of your line than downloads.
If the Thinkbroadband.com results are desperately worse than your sync speed, try running the test a few times at different times of day. Factors such as the number of people downloading files in your area and local Wi-Fi traffic can result in poor test speeds.
However, if your Thinkbroadband tests are consistently much slower than the connection speed you’ve been promised, get on the phone to BT and ask them to explain why.
Now read this: How can I check my BT broadband data usage?