Understanding your speed test results

So you ran your speed test. What do those results really tell you about your internet performance? 

Below are recommended speeds for common activities. Learn more about what internet speed you need for different activities.

  Download Speed   Activities
  1.5 Mbps or less   General browsing, email, social media, music streaming, video chat
  3 - 4 Mbps   SD Video streaming
  10 Mbps   HD Video streaming & group video calls
  5 - 8 Mbps   Large file downloads
  25 Mbps or  less   Remote work or learning (varies by activity)
  25 Mbps or  more   4K (UHD) Video streaming

Multiple factors will determine if you have adequate speed. You should consider how you use the internet, the size of your household, and which activities happen at the same time.

The internet speed test starts by identifying the server closest to you, which is displayed in the lower right-hand corner of the testing window. 

A "packet" of information is sent from your device to the server and back. The amount of time it takes for that information to make the trip determines your ping. Next, the speed test downloads and uploads a packet of data over that connection. How quickly your internet can transfer that data from the network to your device and from your device back to the network determines your download and upload speed. 

This speed is measured to and from the device you are using to run the test, which means the type of connection has a real impact on the result. A wired (Ethernet) connection straight to the modem will give you the most accurate test of your internet service speed, because the wired connection is the most direct pipeline from the network through the modem/router to your computer.

Ping, also called latency, is a specific measure that primarily has an impact on online gaming, as well as a few other activities. Ping is the amount of time it takes for your network to transfer information from your computer to a remote server and back. There will always be some amount of latency over your network, but the lower this number, the better your performance will be. Typically, you want to keep a close eye on ping for online gaming, as high latency can result in a noticeable delay between your actions in the game and the actions of the other players.

Learn what else to consider for online gaming.


In talking about the speed you get and the speed you're paying for, it's important to understand the difference between speed to your premises and speed to your device.

The first of these is the network speed, which tends to remain steady and should be very close to your purchased plan speed. (Log in to My CenturyLink to view your plan speed details.)

The second, speed to one device, is what our speed test measures and is more dynamic due to various ever-changing factors. If you run the test on a WiFi-connected device, with several other devices in your home sharing your bandwidth, the result will be lower than your network speed (and your plan speed). This is because as more bandwidth is used across all connected devices, speed is reduced. Some speed is always lost over WiFi as well.

To see what internet speed you're getting to your home, you should:

  1. disconnect all other connected devices; and  
  2. plug a computer/laptop directly into your modem/router with an Ethernet cable.


If you do both of these before running the speed test, the results will be quite close to the speed to your premises, as little bandwidth is lost from the modem to the computer over a wired connection, and no bandwidth is lost to other devices.

If you take the steps to test the speed to your premises, and it comes back significantly lower than your plan speed, you can either run the automated Troubleshooter to look for problems on your line, or can contact technical support for additional help.

The internet speed test is based on real-time network conditions. Tests taken within a few minutes of one another tend to vary slightly, because those conditions are ever-changing. Tests taken farther apart may differ even more, due to dynamic network congestion and bandwidth availability. CenturyLink recommends running the test a few times at different points throughout the day to get a better understanding of fluctuations that occur at certain hours.

CenturyLink recommends that you connect directly to the modem with an Ethernet cable and turn off other connected devices for the most accurate test of your internet speed (speed to your modem). However, if you are looking to test your WiFi speed, you can also perform the speed test on a wireless device. Wireless speeds will almost always be lower than the wired speed of a network, due to signal loss, device limitations, and interference.

When you stream video, stream music, or view a website, the information is downloaded to your device. Download speed measures how fast data travels from the Internet to a device.

When you upload videos, photos, or files to a site, the information is uploaded to the internet. Upload speed measures how fast data travels from your device to a location or site on the Internet.

The internet speed test includes both upload and download speeds, so you don't have to test upload speed separately. The test results give you a full picture of your internet connection. Upload speed impacts how quickly you can send data from your devices through your network. This is relevant when uploading files, gaming, live streaming your own video, and video conferencing.

At this time, there is no remote option for the CenturyLink Internet Speed Test. In other words, you must be connected to the network you would like to test.

When working with a tech support agent on the phone or chat, the agent can perform a remote speed test from the network to your modem to help determine if you have internet speed issues.

Internet speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). A megabit (Mb) is equal to 1,000 bits. There are eight bits in every byte, so a larger unit of measurement is the megabyte (MB), which is primarily used to describe file sizes. 

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