CoverageMap.com is built around community-submitted speed tests.
But, what is a speed test?
A speed test is a measurement of how fast your wireless connection is.
Speed tests can be used to measure cellular connections, Wi-Fi connections, and wired connections.
Four main variables are measure during a speed test:
Let’s walk through each variable so you understand what they mean.
Download speed is how quickly your device can receive data from the Internet.
Download speed is typically measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
You are downloading data anytime you are loading a web page, browsing social media, watching a YouTube video, scrolling through TikTok, or receiving a Snapchat.
The faster your download speed, the faster content is transferred to your phone, leading to quicker download times for files, less buffering for videos, and faster loading times for pages.
What speeds are good download speeds?
A great way to understand download speeds is to understand what speeds you need to stream certain qualities of video:
For most everyday tasks, a download speed of 5 Mbps or higher will be plenty fast.
Download speeds can be affected by various factors.
The type of connection you have (LTE, low-band 5G, mid-band 5G, or mmWave), the distance you are from the cell tower, the capabilities of your device, the amount of network traffic, and even obstacles between you and the cell tower can all affect download speeds.
Upload speed measures how fast your phone can send data to the Internet.
It is also measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
You are uploading data to the internet anytime you are publishing a post on social media, sending a picture to a friend over iMessage or WhatsApp, sending a Snapchat, live streaming on Instagram, or FaceTiming your grandfather.
The faster your upload speed, the quicker your content is shared to the Internet.
Most people don’t upload data that frequently. As a result, you can typically be fine with slower upload speeds. An upload speed of 3 Mbps would likely meet the needs of a majority of people.
However, if you do a lot of video calls, then it is beneficial to have faster upload speeds so that your video quality looks better. An upload speed of 10 Mbps would be much better for a video call.
Upload speeds are affected by the same factors as download speeds.
The type of connection you have (LTE, low-band 5G, mid-band 5G, or mmWave), the distance you are from the cell tower, the capabilities of your device, the amount of network traffic, and even obstacles between you and the cell tower can all affect your upload speeds.
Latency, sometimes called ping, is the amount of time it takes for a user to receive a response from a server.
In the case of a mobile network, latency would be the time it takes for a data packet to go from the server to your phone and then back to the server.
Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms).
You always want your latency to be as low as possible.
That means you have a good connection to the server and everything will feel snappy and responsive.
In terms of latency for cellular connections:
Low latency is particularly important for real-time applications, like video calls, online gaming, and certain types of cloud-based work. Having high latency in these scenarios can lead to noticeable delays, lag, or unsynced audio and video.
Latency is affected by factors such as how much physical distance a data packet must travel, what type of connection you have (LTE, low-band 5G, mid-band 5G, or mmWave), how much available capacity your connection has, and the amount of traffic on the network.
Jitter is a measure of how much variability there is in the latency of the connection.
Like latency, jitter is also measured in milliseconds (ms).
A low jitter means you have a stable connection with consistent performance.
A high jitter means there is high variability in your connection, and you may experience negative side effects like poor voice quality in VoIP calls, video freezing or buffering during video streaming or conferencing, or lag in online gaming.
In most cases, a jitter of 30ms or less is considered acceptable.
A jitter of 20ms or less is considered good.
You can use a speed test to:
Now that you know the four factors a speed test measures, download speed, upload speed, latency, and jitter, how do you actually run a speed test?
The easiest way to run a speed test is to use a speed testing application.
When you download the app, simply make sure you are connected to the network you want to test (either a Wi-Fi network or your cellular connection), and then tap “Start Test.”
SpeedSmart, or your speed testing app of choice, will then perform a series of tests to measure the download speed, upload speed, latency, and jitter of your current connection.
You may notice your speed test results will change if you go to a different location, you swap to a different device, or you change to a different network.
Most people use speed tests to compare the performance between different cellular networks in a given area.
If you’d like to help build a better, more accurate map of the cellular networks for everyone, you may consider uploading your speed tests to CoverageMap.com. Your tests will instantly appear on the map and help everyone get a better picture of how your carrier performs in the areas you tested.
You can learn more about how to contribute to the crowd-sourced coverage map here.