Regardless of whether you have booked an Internet line with 16, 50, 100, 250, 500 or even 1000 megabits per second (Mbit / s) for surfing, streaming or gaming: The frustration is great if the bandwidth is lower than promised.
But before customers contact their Internet provider, they should use a speed test to check how large the bandwidth actually is. “During a speed test, data packets are sent back and forth to one or more test servers in order to obtain information on the speed and latency,” explains Christian Just from “Computerbild”.
The download and upload rate is measured directly in the browser or with programs for installation, but also the so-called ping value, which measures the reaction time of the Internet connection. “The higher this value, the slower the line,” says Just.
Test only on the LAN cable
The results are often very different. “There are a lot of imponderables in speed tests, it starts with the computer itself and ends with the test servers involved,” says Ernst Ahlers from the specialist magazine “c’t”. “The most important thing: you should always perform a speed test with a LAN connection, so the computer should be connected directly to the router via cable,” says Ahlers.
Measurements via WLAN are not meaningful because the actual bandwidth can be influenced by too many disruptive factors. Nothing else should run during the test: no programs, no downloads, no videos, no open browser. And the computer mustn’t be too old. “If the test is carried out, for example, with a laptop with an old processor, the result can be worse,” says Ahlers.
Another decisive factor for the result of a speed test is how many intermediate stops the signal has to make to the test server and how powerful the remote station is. If the test server is overloaded, the rate drops. “With some speed tests you can choose the test server yourself and you will find that the results can be very different when you switch,” says Ahlers.
Documentation is everything
The measurement result can also be influenced by the antivirus software. “You should only switch them off or even uninstall them if the results of the speed test are completely out of the ordinary,” advises Just.
If you want to confront your Internet provider with speed test results, you should document the measurements. On many websites with speed tests, this is possible after registration. The broadband measurement of the Federal Network Agency has integrated a campaign function in the desktop version. “After completing the prescribed measurements, the consumer then receives a measurement report with which he can contact the provider,” explains Michael Reifenberg from the Federal Network Agency.
For this purpose, ten measurements must be carried out at least twice over two days. Then there is also an assessment of the extent to which the actual bandwidth corresponds to the contractually agreed. The providers must publish a product information sheet with all the important values for each tariff.
It doesn’t get enough
In the event of a discrepancy, for example, you can demand the lack of more speed from the provider. If this is not possible, you can perhaps agree to a change to a slower tariff in conversation with the provider and then of course pay less.
“If no solution can be found in this way, the Federal Network Agency’s consumer service can help,” says Reifenberg. Overall, the situation is sobering when you look at the agency’s figures. According to the 2018/2019 annual report, only 16.4 percent of users of a stationary broadband connection received the contractually agreed data transmission rate when downloading. 70.1 percent came to half.
Speed tests should be started at different times of the day, especially when it comes to cable internet connections. “Since the bandwidth is shared among all users in the case of cable connections, the fluctuations in the measurements are particularly high here,” says Just. Cable customers have to struggle with speed drops, especially in the evenings.
One measurement is not enough
“It is generally advisable to carry out as many different tests as possible in order to determine reliable values,” advises Ernst Ahlers from the “c’t”. The broadband measurement of the Federal Network Agency is always a good address because the results are included in the overall view of network coverage in Germany.
Editor’s note: This text originally said that the Federal Network Agency’s browser test could only measure connections with up to 500 Mbit / s. According to the Federal Network Agency, this restriction is no longer valid since February 1, the browser test can also be used for gigabit connections. We apologize for this error.