The speed of the Internet as it enters a home or business varies widely depending on a number of factors including the type of connection and equipment used.

Obviously, the type of connection will make the most difference. Over the years different methods have been used to connect to the Internet, from early dial-up to ISDN, DSL and now fiber to the home (FTTH).

Speeds are typically measured in bits per second with dial-up reaching a maximum of about 56 Kbps in the late 90s. Then came broadband, which basically meant a continuous high-speed connection that did not require a dial-up.

There are many types of broadband. Cable companies used their existing copper coaxial network that was originally installed to provide TV along with cable modems to deliver download speeds of up 250 Mbps to residences.

The telephone companies used their twisted-pair wiring with a system called DSL or digital subscriber loop. The most common kind being ADSL with downloads speeds of 20 Mbps. Improvements to the standard such as VDSL or very-high-bitrate DSL are capable of 100 Mbps download and upload speeds.

Now gigabit speeds (1000 Mbps) are available using FTTH where the Internet service providers (ISP) connect their fiber networks directly to the home.

Tiers of Speed

The ISPs package their broadband service based on download speeds in tiers:

But wait a second – these are all advertised speeds. In reality, the actual speed entering a home is usually quite a bit less. Don’t believe us? Take a look at this National Broadband Map from the U.S. government – it shows the difference between the advertised speed and actual speed tests.  See how the majority is slower?

Why the discrepancy? Some would blame the ISPs for misleading advertising but there’s quite a few reasons including distance, quality of wiring, number of people sharing the connection and the equipment used.

The Internet itself does not run all at the same speed. Website servers in various parts of the world are affected by network bandwidth and congestion just like freeways are affected by the amount of traffic travelling over a certain number of lanes.

Cyber traffic

There may also be congestion between you and the ISP as you (the home or business) are sharing the connection with other customers. This shared connection gets even more congested during evening hours so you can expect slower speeds at that time of day. Also being farther away from the ISP will reduce signal strength and network speed.

Although the ISPs use fiber optic for their backbone the last mile connections, that is the final cabling between distribution cabinets and the household, are usually copper. High speeds over copper are usually limited to quite short lengths of 250 to 300 meters.

Finally, how the cabling enters the premises and the local area network it connects to, can severely limit Internet speeds. A smart home will benefit from proper media panels and structured wiring as any poor quality or damaged cabling will cause a bottleneck in the home network. A network with components that are only capable of 10 Mbps will not be able to deliver the speeds that are now available.

It’s also worth considering the demands each home or business has on the Internet. This global network is expected to handle phone service, multiple TV streams, web browsing and video gaming. On top of that, more and more devices are becoming connected from home security to thermostats. The more bandwidth used the more of an impact on Internet speed.

To find out what the Internet speed of your client’s home or business is, visit the SpeedTest website.