How accurate are Speedtest.net and Broadband Speed Checker with their download speed tests?

8
Found 28th Aug 2015
We have what seems to be an ongoing problem with our internet speed. We are with TalkTalk and have been for the last 9 months. Prior to that, we were with Sky and before that it was BT. Didn't have any real problem with either of them, any issues were dealt with in a matter of days. We are fairly rural and our top speed is only going to be around the 8.0 Mb/s, I find that we only need 5.0Mb/s to do what we need with no problems and whilst we do have lots of things which connect to the internet, in reality there are only 3 or 4 things connected at once and it is not often streaming stuff. When all is working well we can easily watch Netflix at the same time as another in the house.

The speed with BT and Sky was always 7.0 Mb/s or above. TalkTalk often drops very low regularly below 0.50 Mb/s, as low as 0.02 Mb/s recorded but probably lower as often can't get the page to load. It will be very low for up to several hours, then go back to normal, then drop low again for several hours. The current problem has been ongoing since 22/8/2015 and TalkTalk have so far been useless at sorting it out. This has previously happened on 9 different occasions prior to the current problem, but has either resolved itself in 24 hours or has been resolved by them altering my settings when I tweeted them with a link to the Speedtest.net results (that was after 3 calls in 30 minutes, where they cut me off twice and each one started with there isn't a problem at the exchange so is the modem plugged in and switched on, which I'd already got beyond twice but they hadn't noted and wouldn't listen to me without going through their 'script'). Now we are back to 'there is nothing the matter with the exchange so it must be your equipment'

We have spent several hours running speed tests, swapping cables around, plugging the laptop in so it is a wired connection and not wi-fi, plugging it into the 'test plug' under the fascia of the phone socket. I think I've covered nearly every possibility to rule out the cables and equipment my end. So I think it is either the line in or the modem itself. Is there anything else I should do? I don't understand why it is so up and down. This is all download speeds, the uploads seem to stay fairly steady regardless.

I want to understand what the problem is or could be before I go back to TalkTalk with a formal complaint. They are £20 a month cheaper than Sky for a supposedly similar package, but I can't watch or record any of the internet channels, watch anything I've recorded off of an internet channel, use catch up tv or watch Netflix, all of which are supposed to be part of the package, let alone not use the internet itself on any device. The TalkTalk Service Centre shows the router speed as either 7.8 Mb/s or 8.1 Mb/s regardless of what is going on elsewhere. It also says I should get between 3.0 and 7.3 Mb/s. I'm pretty certain that no-one else is on my wi-fi as I use 'Who is on my wi-fi?' to keep tabs on the children's usage.

Can anyone help me, please?
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8 Comments
I have exactly the same issue with ee ADSL broadband. Sky was perfect now once a week it drops to .5mb if I'm luck for 1/2 hour or so. So far ee have no idea. Be interested to see if anyone has any idea.
WTF ? Broadband is classed as a minimum of 25mbit/s now, 0.02mbit/s is dial up speed. You need to get on to them about this.
had a similar problem with ee to. kept dropping speeds to below 0.5mbps. did line test etc and would be fine for a week then go again. happened months on end then finally one day an operator with a bit of knowledge managed to sort it out. i think she reprogrammed the router as it was the router that actually was the fault as when ever they did a line test it was fine. i used speedtest and it picked up very low speeds and at some points the page would not load. And after all the excitement and joy over the past few months it all started happening again over the last few weeks but not as bad. I am just going to change provider next month.
Try factory reset your router and use the talk talk forums.
I had a similar problem with talk talk and after several attempts to discuss this with the call centre abroad to no avail I contacted their head office in London on 020 34171000 and spoke to the engineering management team. They were more than helpful and sorted it and sent me a decent router instead of the bog standard one and this improved the speed greatly.
The reason you never had any problems with SKY and BT was because the type of broadband supply they were supplying you was not what is called IP Stream.

It is very likely from what you experiencing with Talk Talk is that their broadband is on IP Stream at your exchange, and you are getting 'throughput issues', which simply means your router speed is receiving a good speed, (as your comments state '' The TalkTalk Service Centre shows the router speed as either 7.8 Mb/s or 8.1 Mb/s'') but the output speed which is your speed test results, are very poor and will vary considerably at different times in the day.

This is not a fault with your router or your cables if you have done your checks, or an issue with the speed test websites etc, this is their issue and they may send an engineer to correct this or change the setting over the phone and your speed will improve, but be aware this will be a very short term fix (as you have already experienced), and you will be back to where you started within a few days.

The best solution may be to change back to SKY or BT or anyone that is not going to use IP Stream in your exchange.
We had similar problems with our BT broadband for 5 years. Everytime it rained our speeds would go down to around 0.2mbs, the BT service recognised a problem and automatically capped our speed, for reasons that I never fully understood. The engineers knew the problem was with the copper cable, but BT always refused to replace it, as when it dried out and they un-capped the service things went back to normal. In the end we transfered to a local village wifi network and exorcised BT from our lives. Ironically, this year they replaced the cables in the village and rang me up to try to get me to take a service with them again, need less to say...
Maybe, especially if you are out in the sticks, you have a local hardware fault, try asking an OpenReach engineer if you see one working locally as they know where the trouble spots are.
Thank you for all of your replies. I suspected that it was their equipment that was the problem, as my understanding is that TalkTalk is 'LLU' in my exchange. I also suspected that heavy rain plays a part, as I know where the cabling comes along the side of the main road, it always floods right across the road on a certain corner. I have noticed that it always deteriorates when it is 'road-flooding' wet. This last time it just hasn't improved after a while, if anything it was just getting worse and worse. I haven't been well so couldn't follow it up until now. I shall be phoning the engineering department in the next hour. I will now be confident when I speak to them - I always find when they say it will cost you £100+ if we have to send an engineer around, a bit worrying.

The only upside is that due to their price increase on the 1/10/2015 I can leave TalkTalk now without a lot of hassle (me saying they aren't delivering the service I'm paying for, them saying they are/it's not their fault/some other excuse to not let us go). Sky are offering us a deal to go back that makes them only a couple of pound a month dearer, which I'm more than happy to pay to be honest. I am old enough to have had dial-up internet - AOL! - this is way worse.
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