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David Anders is a senior writer covering broadband providers, smart home devices and security products. Prior to joining, David built his industry expertise writing for the Allconnect broadband market. In his 5 plus years of broadband coverage, David’s work has been cited by many sources including ArcGIS, DIRECTV and others. of David and currently resides in the Charlotte area with his wife, son and two cats.
How To Get Your Upload Speed Faster
This story is part of Home Tips, a collection of practical advice for making the most of your home, inside and out.
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The information road is not one-way. Download and upload speeds also play a role in our home internet usage, but most ISPs promote a program’s download speed, treating upload speed as an afterthought.
There is a reason for this. Downloading controls most of what we use the internet for, from streaming TV and music to surfing the web, and download speed determines how quickly and easily we can perform these activities.
So what about the upload speed? Are they not as relevant as some vendors suggest, or do they play a bigger role in our connected lives than we give credit for? I’ll explain the difference between download and upload speeds, why your upload speed matters, the reasons for your slowness, and how to improve them.
Let’s start with the basics of how your internet connection works. If you are connected to fiber then any internet activity involves data transfer through your modem or ONT. When you receive data — watching a TV stream, viewing a web page, scrolling through your social media feed, etc. — you are downloading from the Internet. When you send data — your face and voice in a video call, for example — you upload to the Internet.
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Download and upload speeds determine how quickly you can perform such tasks and how many devices can reasonably use the Internet at the same time.
Download speed refers to your ability to download data, and upload speed does the same for uploading data. Both speeds are usually published and tested in Mbps, or megabits per second. The higher your Mbps, the faster your connection.
About everything. Streaming TV, browsing social media, connecting Wi-Fi security cameras, and reading news online are some examples of downloading data over the Internet. Whether you’re streaming TV or music, you’re downloading information, although none of the files are stored on your hard drive like they would be if you downloaded a song versus streaming it.
Any data you send or upload to the Internet. This includes typing something into the search bar and hitting “Enter” or uploading files like homework or photos and videos to social media. Upload speeds are also important when it comes to hosting live streams, video conferencing, VOIP calls and online gaming.
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Just as download speed affects picture and sound quality when streaming a show to your TV, your upload speed affects how other people on the other end of a live stream, video conference or online game are received. How are you seen and heard? Slow or unstable upload speeds often result in weird frozen screens and broken audio when using apps like Skype or Zoom.
For average internet use at home on a Wi-Fi connection and four to five devices, I would recommend an upload speed of at least 5Mbps. It comfortably supports most data-intensive tasks including HD video calls and online gaming. Of course, as with download speeds, faster speeds will make for a better experience.
The FCC considers any upload speed of 3Mbps or higher to be “broadband”. However, the FCC set this speed threshold (along with the broadband download speed of 25Mbps) back in 2015 and has since received bipartisan congressional pressure to raise the bar on what officially counts as broadband.
Still, the FCC standard of 3Mbps is enough on paper, though not particularly high, to meet most of the minimum requirements for applications like Skype and Zoom. Skype recommends at least 100Kbps for calls and 512Kbps for a group video chat of seven or more people. Zoom is a bit more demanding, requiring at least 600Kbps for 1:1 video calls and 3.8Mbps for 1080p HD video group calls.
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Keep in mind that these are minimum requirements and you’ll likely benefit from much faster speeds, so it’s a good idea to know what your speeds are and how they might affect them.
A good speed test will give you an idea of what your upload speeds are. Of course, if you’re experiencing a lot of lag and stuttering on video calls, you may not need to run a speed test to know that your upload speed isn’t up to par with your needs.
If your upload speed falls short of your needs or expectations, there are many factors that can contribute to the slow speed. As a bonus, some of these tips may even improve your download speed in the process.
The main culprit for slow upload speeds, especially compared to your download speeds, is the internet plan itself. Most ISP plans, with the exception of fiber Internet services, typically come with maximum upload speeds around one-tenth or less of their advertised download speeds. If you sign up for an internet plan with a maximum download speed of 50Mbps, you can probably expect peak upload speeds of 5Mbps or less.
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Most cable ISPs, including Cox, Spectrum and Xfinity, have a maximum upload speed of 30 to 35Mbps, although gigabit download speeds are often available. The same goes for most DSL and satellite Internet services; Upload speeds are much slower than advertised download speeds.
How to fix it: The best thing you can do is find out what the maximum upload speeds are available with a particular carrier or plan before signing up. Most providers will list upload speeds on their website, but you may need to look at the fine print or design details to find this.
If you already have Internet service, you may want to consider upgrading to a faster plan. You’ll likely get not only faster upload speeds, but a nice boost in download speeds as well. Another option is to switch providers, especially if fiber optic service is available from providers like AT&T, CenturyLink, Google Fiber, or Verizon Fios. Fiber technology supports the bandwidth required for symmetrical or nearly symmetrical download and upload speeds. So if you sign up for a 300Mbps plan, you can expect download and upload speeds of around 300Mbps on a wired connection.
Wi-Fi is an alternative to a wired connection, not its own separate internet service. If you’re using a Wi-Fi connection, expect download and upload speeds to be slower than what your carrier actually sends to your home.
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Range and signal interference can also be problems when using Wi-Fi. The farther you get from your router, or if you move to a different room or floor, your upload speed will likely slow down.
How to fix it: Using a wired Ethernet connection will almost always give you a faster and more reliable connection. If you need fast and stable upload speeds for an important meeting or school project, try using a wired connection.
A wired connection isn’t always practical and Wi-Fi is much more convenient, so there are times when Wi-Fi is your only option. There are many ways to improve your Wi-Fi connection, such as elevating the router or repositioning the antenna.
Upgrading equipment is also an effective way to improve your Wi-Fi speed. If you’re not sure where to start shopping for a new router, check out our list of the best Wi-Fi routers. And for better whole-home Wi-Fi connectivity, consider upgrading to a dual network router system.
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There is only so much bandwidth available. When you have multiple video conferences at once, they may all be competing with each other, reducing everyone’s available upload speed. While simultaneous meetings or class participation may be unavoidable, try to reserve meetings and limit the number of connected devices where possible.
How to fix it: In addition to strategically scheduling meeting times to accommodate everyone in your household, make sure your router is set to broadcast on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. You’re likely to experience less interference on the 5GHz band, allowing for better connection quality and faster upload speeds.
Additionally, upgrading your Internet plan or ISP to one with faster maximum upload speeds will help ensure there’s enough to do.
Believe it or not, uploading files and participating in video calls contribute to your monthly data usage just as much as downloading files or streaming TV. Depending on your carrier, going over your data limit could result in miserable speeds for the rest of your billing cycle.
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This will likely only be a problem if you have satellite internet. HughesNet and Viasat speeds will be drastically reduced once customers exceed their monthly data allowance
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