Understanding Broadband Speeds

Learn more about broadband speeds, how they're measured, and some common reasons you might be experiencing slower than expected speeds. Plus, get some troubleshooting tips to help improve your online experience.
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What is speed and how is it measured?

Internet speed is measured in bits per second (bps). Because modern internet speeds can handle a lot of data, speed is usually reported in megabits per second (Mbps), which is one million bits per second. Or, when speeds get really, really fast, we talk in gigabits per second (Gbps), which is a billion bits per second (1,000 Mbps = 1 Gbps).

Upload vs Download speed
Download speed (aka "bandwidth") measures how fast information from the internet gets to your device (e.g., how long it takes for your Netflix show to load). The quicker the download speed, the faster it reaches your device, and the more seamless your online experience – especially when watching a high-quality video or downloading software.

On the other hand, upload speed refers to how fast information on your device is sent to another destination on the internet (e.g., sharing photos and videos on social media).
For most connections, upload and download speeds are usually different, and when internet providers advertise their plans, they will include both.

Another important measurement for internet speed is latency (aka "lag"). Latency refers to the time it takes a signal sent from your computer to reach your internet provider and come back. The lower the latency, the better the connection; the higher it is, the more delays you'll experience (e.g., videos buffering on live chats, gaming characters slow to respond to your instruction).

You can test your broadband speed at our speed page.

Who supplies the internet to me and how?

Broadband (aka the internet) is delivered to your home via either a wired or wireless network.

Wireless broadband runs on 4G and 5G mobile networks, using the same technology your mobile phone uses to access the internet.

Wired broadband connections can be delivered in various ways, depending on your physical location and the type of connection/s available at your address. The fibre network covers most residential areas in New Zealand, but more remote areas are covered by either Copper ADSL and VDSL networks or Rural Broadband networks (links to RBI).

The Fibre and Copper networks are owned by Local Fibre Companies (LFCs), who provide a physical connection to your home. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like Vodafone pay these LFCs a monthly fee to access this physical connection so that we can provide an internet connection inside your home for you to use (your monthly broadband plan). Your Vodafone connection enables you to connect to the internet using hardware provided by us (where applicable) and is supported by our customer service team.

For a view of the types of broadband available to you, you can visit our ways to connect page.

How are advertised speeds measured?

Broadband speeds advertised are based on independent testing carried out by a New Zealand Commerce Commission-approved testing provider as part of the Measuring Broadband New Zealand Programme (MBNZ).

The speeds advertised are the average upload and download speeds experienced by customers using a similar service during the national average peak time (7pm to 11pm, Monday to Friday) at different locations across the country and using an ethernet (wired) connection.

Because they're averages, individual customers may experience different speeds during peak times - even on the same service – that can be higher or lower than advertised; they're not a personalised expectation or a guarantee.

A wired connection is used when measuring these speeds, as several situational factors can affect the performance of your internet when connecting over Wifi. To understand how Wifi works and its effect on performance, check out our Wifi tips video.

Why am I experiencing speeds different to what’s advertised?

Advertised speeds are measured using an ethernet (wired) connection, which provides the most reliable measurement. Several situational factors can affect your internet's performance when connecting over Wifi, and actual speeds experienced over Wifi are often lower than advertised due to several factors. To understand how Wifi works and its effect on performance, check out our Wifi tips video.

Factors affecting performance:

Factors within your (the customer's) control

  • Device performance: Older devices may not have the internal technology required to reach the full speeds on offers, and all devices (regardless of age) can run slower if they’re under heavy load or you’re using multiple applications at the same time.
  • Modem performance: Older modems may not have the newer technology needed in them to process the full speeds on offer either, limiting the maximum speed you can experience.
  • In-home Wifi setup (e.g. modem settings, physical location within your home) is one of the main factors affecting performance. The distance from your device to the modem, interference from objects such as walls, furniture etc between you and the modem, and the number of devices connecting via Wifi at the same time all impact performance.
  • Equipment specifications and maintenance (e.g. software, viruses, malware): To get the best performance from your device, it’s important to keep up to date with device updates and software scans etc, to optimise performance.

Factors within our (Vodafone's) control:

  • The location of the internet sites you're connecting to can be far away so slow things down.
  • Your physical distance from a cell tower can impact performance. If you’re far away from a cell tower, then your speed might not be as fast.
  • Vodafone’s network capability. We are constantly upgrading our network to meet increasing demand.
  • Network congestion is carefully monitored so we can ease bottlenecks.
  • We manage the traffic on our network to provide a smooth internet experience.

To understand how Wifi works and its effect on performance, check out our Wifi tips video.

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