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Broadband download times

When it comes to broadband download times, everybody wants to know how long something will take. But the problem is that many people fall into the trap of thinking that bits and bytes are the same – they’re not.

In simple language, a bit is a binary digit – either 1 or 0 – while a byte is 8 of these. Therefore a kilobyte is eight times larger than a kilobit and a megabyte is eight times larger than a megabit. Understanding this is vital to grasping how quick your broadband speeds are.

What is the difference between MBs and Mbs?

Megabits are written Mb and megabytes as MB, signifying the differences in size. All broadband speeds are measured in bits per second. For instance, an ‘up to 8Mbps’ or 8Mb connection means you can expect speeds of anything up to eight megabits a second, which is equal to 1MB.

Therefore it is important to remember what jargon is used when you are being sold your broadband services. An 8Mbps internet connection is not equal to eight megabytes a second – check with the salesperson if you think they are jumbling their figures.

If you are still not sure, ask them to speak in real terms about what the speed you’re getting will allow you to do online, to ensure you get the connection you want.

Broadband speeds

Speed is always denoted by time and if it isn’t then the figures being used represent a size rather than speed. For instance, Mb can never be written as a speed – it would need to be Mbps – as the time taken needs to be represented.

When it comes to downloads and uploads, you’ll want to know the broadband download times for whatever you’re looking at getting, as times will vary by size. It’s almost taken as a given that the larger something is, the longer it takes to download, while the quicker the speed, the less time it takes.

It’s also important to remember that broadband speeds are never as fast as they say they are as the figures represent the best possible connection if all factors are in your favour. Unfortunately, unless you’re the only person for miles around and the telephone exchange box is on your doorstep, it’s quite unlikely that you’ll get maximum speeds.

Broadband speeds are affected by a number of factors – line sharing will reduce speeds massively as will the time of day that you are browsing as speeds will be considerably slower at peak times than during the middle of the night for example.

The quality of wiring both in your house and in the neighbourhood will also alter speeds so realistically you can expect speeds of between 2Mbps and 4Mbps if you have an 8Mbps connection. However, there are some ways around this as fibre broadband services, such as those from Virgin Media, are unaffected by the distance between the exchange and your property.

As a result you can expect faster download times and a quicker service, although speeds will likely be impacted if many people are using the service at once.

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Estimated download times

Theoretically, the table below gives a rough indication of the sorts of download times* you can expect on any given connection speed for a number of downloadable files.

However, in realistic terms, these speeds need to be multiplied by four or five in order to get a more accurate figure.

ITEM Size (MB) 4Mbps 8Mbps 16Mbps 32Mbps 50Mbps 100Mbps
Single song 5 10s 5s 2.5s 1.25s 0.8s 0.4s
YouTube clip (LQ) 10 20s 10s 5s 2.5s 1.6s 0.8s
YouTube clip (HQ) 50 1m 40s 50s 25s 12.5s 8s 4s
Album (HQ) 100 3m 20s 1m 40s 50s 25s 16s 8s
TV Show (HQ) 450 15m 7m 30s 3m 45s 1m 52s 1m 12s 36s
Film (LQ) 700 23m 20s 11m 40s 5m 50s 2m 55s 1m 52s 56s
Film (HQ) 1500 50m 25m 30s 12m 30s 6m 15s 4m 2m
Film (full DVD) 4500 2h 30m 1h 15m 37m 30s 18m 45s 9m 22s 4m 41s
Film (BluRay) 10,000 5h 35m 2h 47m 1h 24m 42m 26m 40s 13m 20s

« Swipe left to reveal table

*The times are estimates and will vary dependent on location and a number of other external factors.