Most internet users have likely heard the terms “upload speed” and “download speed” before, but what do these tech terms mean and how are users’ online experiences affected by them? This blog will dig into upload and download speeds, provide definitions and explanations for both terms, and outline the important roles they play in the quality of a user’s internet experience.
A Critical Connection
Most web-enabled devices, such as smartphones, laptops, smart TVs, tablets and even washing machines, would face mild to severe limitations in their functionality without a strong internet connection. Take a smart TV, for example: While this device can show its user an antenna- or cable-delivered TV program without a web connection, most of the television’s “smart” functionalities are web-based. Without an internet connection, the smart TV would be unable to stream movies or TV shows via Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu; stream music via apps like Pandora or Spotify; search the web using its built-in web browser; or complete a host of other tasks that require communication with other devices or databases connected to the world wide web.
Uploads vs. Downloads
In the smart TV scenario above, most of the functions mentioned as examples of what would not work without an internet connection require the device to download files from the internet, including the movies, shows and songs that the TV can stream, and the information returned when the user performs a web search using the smart TV’s web browser. The download is the in-house device’s retrieval of a file from another device or database connected to the web. It is done via the transmission of data over the device’s internet connection, and it must be performed before the smart TV can show a video file to the user. The downloading process gives users access to a virtual world of outside data and files, all without the need for huge amounts of storage space.
Alternatively, the upload would be represented by the information the user enters into the smart TV’s browser to perform a web search. Before the device can download any search results, the search-query terms must be uploaded to the web, where a search engine uses this digitally submitted information to provide its subsequent search results back to the TV’s built-in browser.
The upload is performed when the user’s device submits information or files to the web. It is worth noting that, in this case, the amount of information being uploaded during the web search is fairly minimal, as it usually amounts to just a few words. Upload sizes, however, can increase significantly when a user is, for example, making a video call for which the user’s device would have to continually upload the video and audio from the user’s end of the call.
The Need for Speed
So, where do upload and download speeds come into play? These are both reflected — to a high degree, in fact — in the quality of a user’s internet experience. When a user’s internet connection offers a high download speed, it helps the device get the information or file it needs from the web more quickly.
In the smart TV example used previously, a fast download speed would allow the device to retrieve a movie it is showing more quickly than the movie plays in real time, which would result in a smooth viewing experience with no buffering (the much-hated moments epitomized by the dreaded “loading” messages or spinning download wheels that internet users often experience when using a slow connection). When the download is happening more slowly than the movie plays in real time, the TV must pause the presentation while it works to download the file, resulting in buffering. The same goes for audio files, video chats and much more: When the connection is not fast enough to sustain the activity, it regularly results in slowdowns, pauses and even session timeouts.
While perhaps not as frequently noticed by the user, fast upload speeds also help to facilitate a good user experience, especially when the user is participating in upload-heavy activities such as videoconferences or online calls. In these cases, a fast upload speed will result in a smooth user experience while an inadequate upload speed will result in other participants being unable to hear or see the user, the user’s feed on other participants’ devices being choppy or even incomprehensible.
It is also important to have a fast upload speed for use of surveillance equipment. In order for cameras to have a reliable connection to the user, they must have access for fast uploads. Upload speed is the key factor to get the footage sent to a remote when the customer wishes to view their cameras while not at home.
Further, the more cameras a system has, the more bandwidth will be needed for a positive experience. If there is not enough upload speed for the number of cameras, the feed could be slow to load or blurry.
FTC Speed Test
Want to know how fast your upload and download speeds are? Take the FTC Speed Test to find out!
FTC Speed Calculator
What is the right internet plan for you and all of the internet-connected devices in your home? Use the FTC Speed Calculator to find your ideal internet speed.
Need a fast and reliable internet connection — along with fast upload and download speeds — to keep all of your online devices running smoothly? Explore the range of rates and blazing-fast internet packages available from FTC Internet.