Dear Dominic, I’m a bit confused about download and upload speeds - what is the difference between the two and is the upload speed as important as the download speed?
Derek Amoako, via email, 9 January, 2009
Our expert says...
Hi Derek. Your download speed is how fast you can receive information from the internet - such as photos from your email, TV programmes from the BBC iPlayer or songs from iTunes. A high download speed is useful for a whole host of other things including online gaming, downloading movies and surfing the net at super-fast speeds.
Your broadband upload speed represents how fast you can send information from your computer to the internet. A fast upload speed would make it easier and quicker to upload photos to your Facebook profile, make video calls to friends and family, add files to secure file transfer websites and host online gaming servers.
Although most broadband packages advertise download speeds of up to 8Mb, signing up to one of these plans won't actually give you 8Mb downloads. Distance from the local exchange, contention and traffic management will all slow down your broadband. And this applies to broadband upload speeds as well as downloads.
Most up to 8Mb packages offer uploads at a maximum of 448Kb, but many packages that offer faster downloads also offer higher upload speeds too.
Packages with high upload speeds
Be Broadband (www.BeThere.co.uk) for example, offers an upload speed of up to 1.3Mb even on its 8Mb Be Value package, which costs £13.50 a month. The be Unlimited package, at £17.50 a month also comes with an upload speed of up to 1.3Mb but has a much faster download speed of up to 24Mb. And if you want even faster uploads, you can try the Be Pro package which comes with up to 24Mb downloads and a broadband upload speed of up to 2.5Mb for £21.50 a month. All of Be's packages come with unlimited downloads and a very generous fair usage policy.
O2 Broadband (www.O2.co.uk) also offers faster than average uploads on all of its packages. Customers on its Standard and Premium packages, with downloads of up to 8Mb and 20Mb respectively, all get uploads at up to 1.3Mb. The Standard package costs £7.34 a month for existing O2 customers or £12.23 a month for standard customers while the Premium package costs just £9.79 a month for O2 customers and £14.68 for standard customers.
O2's Pro package comes with download speeds of up to 20Mb and a broadband upload speed of up to 2.5Mb for £17.13 for all O2 customers and £22.02 for standard customers. As with Be, all packages come with unlimited downloads and a generous fair usage policy.
Virgin Media (www.VirginMedia.com), which recently launched the UK's fastest broadband with download speeds of up to 50Mb, also offers uploads at up to 1.5Mb for customers on its latest XXL Broadband package, priced at £35 a month if you take a Virgin Media phone line for an additional £11 a month, or £51 a month as a standalone product. It comes with unlimited download, subject to a fair usage policy, and a wireless N router. You will also have to pay a one-off activation fee of £50 plus £30 for installation.
How fast is your broadband?
If you're not sure how fast your broadband connection downloads and uploads data, use our free Broadband Speed Tester to find out how your provider performs.
NB. Best buy tables are always current.
Examples in the text of the article are correct at time of publication.