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Understanding internet speeds

Many factors affect the home internet service you purchased from AT&T and influence the actual internet speed you experience at any given time. Learn what factors influence your internet speeds.




Internet service levels & speeds

Your Service Capability Speed (internet speed) is the rate we deliver internet traffic to and from your home. Many factors affect the internet service you purchased from AT&T and influence the actual internet speed you experience at any given time.

Data and content you send or receive travels many paths before reaching its final destination and being returned back to you:
  • Through the wiring in your home.
  • Between your connected computers and devices and your modem or gateway.
  • Through the Network Device located outside your home to the AT&T Network.
  • From the AT&T Network to the internet, which has millions of private networks.
  • Through various Internet Service Provider (ISP) networks used by websites to send you content.

Internet speed
Each internet service option has a different capability speed range. The term speed is used to describe the rate a particular broadband internet access service can transmit data. This capacity is measured by the number of kilobits (Kbps), megabits (Mbps), or gigabits (Gbps) that can be transmitted in one second.

Some applications don’t require higher speeds to function optimally. Examples of these applications include sending short emails without attachments or basic Web browsing. Other activities perform better with higher-speed services. This includes transferring large data files or streaming high-definition video. 

Lower speeds may not be suitable for some applications, particularly those involving real-time or near real-time, high-bandwidth uses such as streaming video or video conferencing.

Learn more about the current speed ranges offered by AT&T or get more information about our broadband internet access services.
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Factors impacting internet speed

AT&T broadband network
AT&T delivers internet service to your home through copper or fiber wiring, depending on the internet service you have purchased.
  • DSL and lower broadband services are usually wired using copper.
  • Most high speed broadband services deliver internet via a hybrid fiber/copper network.
  • AT&T Fiber delivers internet directly to your home using 100% fiber network.

Home network
Many factors inside your home affect the rate you send or receive internet data. These include:
  • Age of wiring inside your home 
  • Distance between the gateway and your device
  • Age and type of gateway or router
  • Number of devices connected to the gateway
  • Type of connection used

Connection types
You can access your internet through a wired Ethernet connection or a Wi-Fi connection.
  • Wired connections use Cat5e or Cat6 cables plugged into the Ethernet port on your wall or gateway. These connections provide the best performance, consistently.
  • Wi-Fi connections give you flexibility to move throughout your home, but it isn't as fast as a wired connection. You get the best Wi-Fi signal closest to your gateway, with fewer devices running.

Type and number of devices
Internet devices come in all shapes and sizes. Each device has a maximum internet speed it can reach. But, that speed might not be as fast as your possible internet service level. For example, if your laptop only supports 100Mbps and you have 1Gbps internet service, your laptop will not be able to reach the maximum speed.

When devices connect to your network, they each use a portion of your allotted speed. Multiple devices sharing your internet connection can affect the speed each device experiences.

TV and internet speed
Your TV and internet enter your home through the same terminal. Using both services at the same time consumes more available bandwidth and can affect your internet download speeds. For example, in certain speed tiers, watching multiple HD TV shows at the same time as very data-intensive internet usage, such as downloading an entire HD movie file on your laptop, may lead to reduced internet speeds as compared with such speeds when no other uses are placed on the home network.

Other networks and websites you visit
Even though you purchased a specific speed and the AT&T network is highly reliable, the websites you interact with may not provide their services at the same speeds. Things to consider as you surf websites:
  • Websites may not have the same network speeds as you.
  • Website server capacity can impact your Internet speeds.
  • Website owners may use other ISPs to deliver content back to you. These network serving arrangements can also impact your Internet speeds.
  • Visiting sites during their peak hours may also result in slower speeds.

Additional impacts on internet speed performance and Speed Test results

As noted, many factors can affect service speeds and speed test results. These include:
  • Customer equipment
  • Connection type
  • Network issues
  • Internet usage 

In addition, protocol overheads, such as IP overhead in IP technology, diminish internet speed and speed test results. Overhead(s) means the various control and signaling data (e.g., transmission control protocol (TCP)) required to achieve the reliable transmission of Internet access data.
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Tools & troubleshooting

The AT&T Speed Test
The AT&T Speed Test is available to help you measure your throughput speeds and gauge the maximum performance of your internet service at the time of measurement.

Testing speed over a wired connection ensures you have the most accurate reading of your AT&T internet service. Wi-Fi delivers good, but slower speeds due to the wireless technology.

Visit the AT&T Internet Speed Test to see how quickly you are transferring data to and from the internet.

Optimize your speed
If you've found your speeds aren't performing as you like, learn how to optimize your connection.
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