A beginner’s guide to internet speeds and what they mean

One of the most important factors when choosing a broadband plan is knowing what the average speed on that plan is. Even if you find a response to this question, you may still wonder how this will affect your internet usage.

Below we have provided a guide to broadband speeds. Finally you can understand the difference between kbps and mbps. We’ll provide answers to all things speed, with tangible examples that you can relate to.

Most people who connect to broadband may come across the terms ADSL, ADSL2+ and cable. Which type of connection you receive will depend on the type of plan you are after and which type of connection is available in your area. For more information in this article about ADSL and ADSL2+.

Please note that the speed cited with most plans is a theoretical maximum speed only. Users will rarely reach this maximum speed. For more information on what types of factors can affect broadband speeds, refer to this article.

While we have provided examples to give you a better idea of what the difference in speeds actually mean, it is a guide only.

Glossary

Kilobits per second (kbps)
Megabits per second (mbps)
Gigabits per second (gbps)
Terabits per second (tbps)

Broadband speed unit converter

1000kbps = 1mbps
1mbps = 1gbps
1gbps = 1tbps

The speeds

Dial-up

The dial-up speed generally has a theoretical maximum speed of 56kbps. Most dial-up speeds tend to reach an average of 48kbps. We would not recommend dial-up connections to customers who often view websites with a large amount of images. Websites will generally take a little while to load. It is also too slow stream videos (i.e viewing clips on YouTube).

Dial-up connections are being phased out in Australia, and most customers are opting for broadband instead.

ADSL1

If ADSL1 is the only broadband option in your area, you will have a range of speeds to choose from. There is generally a choice between 256kbps, 512kbps, 1500kbps and 8000kbps. Remember that these speeds are theoretical maximum speeds only!

256kbps

Given that broadband prices continue to become more affordable, the 256kbps speed is slowly being phased out. Unless you only use the internet to check emails and occasionally surf the web, don’t be fooled by cheap plans on a 256kbps speed with an enormous amount of data. You may not be able to get through that much data on this speed!

256kbps is fast enough to occasionally browse the web, however if you want to watch videos on YouTube, you may be waiting at least 15 minutes for the video to load. We wouldn’t recommend this speed if there are multiple users in your home accessing the internet at the same time, as the speed will slow down considerably.

512kbps

The 56kbps speed should be fast enough for general web browsing and other online activities such as downloading songs and loading pages with more graphics. You may be able to stream videos with a bit of buffering beforehand (i.e it may take a minute or so to load), but again this will depend on the actual speed which can be achieved in your home.

1500kbps

If you plan on streaming videos, we would recommend connecting to a plan with a theoretical maximum speed of 1500kbps (1.5mbps). With this speed, you should be able to use VoIP services such as Skype. It could take only 5-10 minutes to download a TV show. A song could take about a minute to download, while a two-hour movie could take about an hour and a half to finish downloading.

8000kbps

This premium ADSL1 speed is for customers who may be using services such as YouTube, Skype and peer-to-peer file sharing. Songs could be downloaded as quickly as 10 seconds, a half hour TV show could only take five minutes to download and a two hour movie may be ready to view in 15-25 minutes.

Exetel, iiNet and Netspace have some of the cheapest plans on ADSL1 plans at the moment, with contract periods as low as six months.

ADSL2+

ADSL2+ has a theoretical maximum speed of 24,000 kbps; however most users will never see their internet reach this speed. Most users will see their speed average 6000-9000 kbps (or 6-9 mbps).
You should be able to stream videos on an ADSL2+ or cable connection.

A rough guide to an average ADSL2+ speed:

To view a picture: 2 seconds
To download a song:  6 seconds
To download a movie: 16 minutes

TPG, iiNet, Netspace and Westnet have some of the cheapest ADSL2+ plans at the moment. You can bundle these plans with a home phone, or you could rid yourself of the home phone altogether by opting for Naked DSL instead.

Cable Broadband

Cable broadband is targeted toward customers who are happy to pay a bit more to access a super fast broadband speed. If you download a large amount of files each month and you’re really into online gaming, cable broadband may be for you. Cable broadband can theoretically run at a maximum speed of 30mbps, however it will generally run much slower than this.

If you think cable broadband may be for you, you could check out the Optus cable plans.