Wifi Speeds and Expections Print

  • 2

A quick explainer regarding speedtests and WiFi expectations for our fibre service

The fibre link to your premises operates at full gigabit, both on the downstream (downloads) and the upstream (uploads) channels. This means the link between your router and our equipment runs at 1000Mbps in both directions. Of this, a maximum of 940Mbps is available. The encoding of data passing in both directions takes up a certain amount of capacity, which is called ‘overhead’.

The results you see on speedtest sites will vary enormously, depending on the route to the survey site across the internet, the browser you are using, the capability and age of your testing device (more on this below), also how many other people are trying to use the same speedtest site at the same time. Many speedtest sites can only service a limited number of customers at the same time. In the near future, we will be launching our own speedtest facility.

Speedtest sites can be highly inaccurate, so we strongly recommend customers use the Ookla Speedtest App, which is designed to more accurately test links with a capacity of over 100Mbps. This app can be downloaded for PCs, Apple and mobile devices. This is the address for the Ookla website -  https://www.speedtest.net/apps.

The majority of these tests are designed to be used with wired (Ethernet) connections. When it comes to speedtests conducted over WiFi, the situation is far more complex.

No single website is capable of sending or receiving data to all individual users at the same time at gigabit speeds. Data is “queued” before passing over the internet between its origin and its destination, meaning that speedtests will often give varying results, even if conducted to the same speedtest server. Indeed, some offline storage sites, such as Google Drive, are capped (in the case of Google Drive, at 500Mbps).

It is not possible to provide gigabit speeds over WiFi in real-life conditions.


WiFi – theoretical capacity vs. real-life results

There is a dramatic difference between the maximum theoretical speed of WiFi connections and the real-life performance you will see. WiFi is a very convenient but imperfect technology and we recommend, wherever possible, that customers use wired connections where this is practical.

WiFi has various formats. You will often see these printed on the devices themselves, their packaging or their instruction guides. The current formats in use and their maximum theoretical capacity are:

802.11b – 2.4GHz – 11Mbps

802.11a – 5GHz – 54Mbps

802.11g – 2.4GHz – 55Mbps

802.11n – 2.4GHz and 5GHz – 600Mbps

802.11ac – 5GHz – 1300Mbps

Please be aware that these are the theoretical limits. In real life use, WiFi speeds are affected by a number of factors such as:

  • Distance from the transmitter to the receiving device. For example, walls, ceilings, furniture or reflective surfaces, will all negatively impact speed
  • Interference from other wireless devices and networks; these can often spread over a considerable distance
  • Shared bandwidth – if you are using the connection over multiple devices, the total available bandwidth will be shared between them all. This applies to wired connections too
  • Capability and age of the receiving equipment – Older devices have less processing power to decode WiFi signals in real-time; speed performance is degraded as a result.

As a result of these factors, you can expect to see real-life performance of:

802.11b – 2-6Mbps

802.11g – 20Mbps

802.11n – 40-50Mbps

802.11ac – 100-300Mbps

2.4GHz vs 5GHz and WiFi6

There is a further complexity…

2.4GHz signals are much slower but penetrate walls and ceilings, travelling a longer distance.

5GHz signals are much faster but will poorly penetrate walls and ceilings and work only over a shorter distance.

Far higher speeds can be achieved using WiFi6-enabled devices connected to our routers. Some latest generation smartphones are WiFi6-enabled; so far, very few laptops or other devices have this capability. Where customers have these devices, we would expect you to see speedtests of 500Mbps or higher (we have seen around 800Mbps ourselves using these devices).

If customers are using older devices using the 2.4GHz frequency band, speedtest results can be poor, 5-15Mbps. This is due to the age of the equipment and is fully beyond our control.


How much speed is enough?

You may be using your connection to browse the internet, watch online media, send and receive large files (such as photographs and videos) and to use communication tools (Skype/WhatsApp/Teams for example). The capacity required by these uses is typically:

  • 25Mbps will suit a home of one or two people watching HD video. Speed of this level struggles with 4K/UHD video
  • 50-100Mbps will suit a home of three or four people, will suffice for 4K/UHD video, and online gaming
  • 100Mbps and more will suit a large home or property where several people are streaming 4K video at the same time or moving large files to and from the cloud.

Gigabit connections (i.e., 1000Mbps) will provide enough capacity to the largest of households for all their digital needs for several years to come. Investing in fibre to the home boosts the attractiveness and value of your property and is particularly attractive for the increasing number of people now working from home on a permanent basis.


Speed is not everything!

While the focus of our customer questions is on measured speed, there is another, important, measurement of the quality of the connection. This is called ‘latency’.

Latency is a measurement of the time it takes a block (known as a ‘packet’ of data) to go from your device to the internet or in the opposite direction. Low latency guarantees better streaming of video or music, VoIP telephone calls, and video conferencing.

Colchester Fibre’s network provides standard latency of 3-5ms, which is industry-leading. This is provided by our own dedicated links to the UK’s core internet exchanges in London. The latency measurements for our competitors are currently far higher than the level we provide.


Improving WiFi coverage in larger properties

We are happy to work with customers to recommend solutions to improving WiFi coverage and speeds where poor penetration of WiFi signals through walls and ceilings is a problem.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to this issue, but the most common approach is to look at the layout of the property, establish where signal levels are a problem, then to recommend a solution.

In some cases, we will recommend use of one of our own ‘WiFi repeaters’; in others, ‘powerline adapters’ (which plug into your mains sockets) may be a better solution. There are some of the larger properties where we will recommend you look at investing in a wired Ethernet network to get the maximum benefit from your new fibre connection.  

In some cases, a significant improvement can be achieved by looking at the WiFi radio environment in your property and making minor changes to the frequency of your access point.

Was this answer helpful?

« Back