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The functioning of your internet connection is affected by a variety of factors, such as the data communication technology used, your location, how many other users the connection is shared with and the devices that you use. There are also differences between fixed network and mobile network connections. You should also be aware of what telecommunications operators are required to state in their agreements and when a service can be considered defective.

What are the elements that determine the quality of an internet connection?

The most important elements that determine how well an internet connection works in practice are:

  • The download speed, meaning the speed at which e.g. software updates and video are downloaded to your device from the internet.
  • The upload speed, meaning the speed at which data is sent from your device to the network, e.g. when you upload backups of your photographs.
  • The latency, which tells you how much time it takes for data to be sent from your device to the network and back again.

What factors affect the speed and quality of internet connections?

Fixed network

The network and device. The speed of a fixed network broadband connection is primarily affected by the data communication technology used and the type of connection. Optical fibre and cable network technologies support very high speeds, whereas xDSL connections based on the traditional telephone network are much more limited in terms of their maximum data transfer speeds. Regardless of the technology used, connecting a device to a router or network interface device directly via cable usually guarantees a higher speed and better quality connection than using a wireless (WLAN/Wi-Fi) connection. Connection quality can also be affected by the internal network of the building. Modern internal networks built within the last ten years do not usually negatively affect connection quality, but decades-old internal telephone networks can have a more notable negative impact, especially if the building’s distribution point is located far away in a basement, for example.

Other users of the network. Most of us have multiple devices at home that are all connected to the network at the same time. If you have multiple users accessing several different services at the same time at home, you may start to experience slowdown or disconnects on individual devices.

The mobile network

The network and device. The speed of a mobile network connection depends especially on the network technologies used in the area, the user’s subscription type and the technology of the device:

  • 4G and 5G network technologies support extremely high speeds in the right conditions.
  • The 3G network is more widely available, but offers lower maximum speeds. Finnish mobile network operators will be shutting down their 3G networks by the end of 2023. 
  • The GSM network has the most extensive coverage, but offers very limited data transfer speeds.

Location. Connection speeds are also affected by the user’s location relative to the nearest base station, as the signal strength varies in different parts of the coverage area. You can examine the coverage areas of different networks in your area by checking coverage maps published by telecommunications operators. Regional coverage information is also published on Data.Traficom maps-service.

The speed and quality of a mobile connection can also be affected by any obstacles between the user and the base station, such as geographical barriers or buildings.

Other users of the network. The capacity of the mobile network is shared between all the people using the same network in the area. Mobile networks usually have a large number of simultaneous users at certain times of day, which slows down the connection speeds of individual users.

Additional information:

Mobile network speed measurements (External link)

What does your agreement say about connection quality?

One of the most important things defined in a broadband subscriber connection agreement is the connection speed. The operator must make the subscriber connection agreement with the customer in writing. The written agreement can also be made electronically. Typically, the set of agreements consists of a summary of the terms of the agreement provided before the actual agreement, a contract form to be signed and the standard conditions of the operator's consumer services.

The subscriber connection agreement must include at least the following information about the speed of the connection:

  • in the case of a fixed broadband connection, the minimum, normally available and maximum speeds
  • in the case of a mobile broadband connection, the estimated maximum speed
  • the advertised speed of the connection. 

In its opinion regarding the speed of internet access services (External link), Traficom has provided instructions on how the actual speed achieved by the user, meaning the range of variation of the connection speed, must be indicated on the subscriber connection agreement:

  • If the connection has a maximum speed of up to 100 Mbit/s, the minimum speed must be at least 70% of the maximum speed. In practice, this means that a 100 Mbit/s connection must, as a rule, provide a speed of 70 Mbit/s at all times.
  • Traficom recommends that for connections with a maximum speed of up to 100 Mbit/s, the normally available speed should be defined as 90% of the maximum speed, and it should be achieved 90% of the time during each four-hour period. In practice, this means that the speed of a 100 Mbit/s connection should not fall below 90 Mbit/s for a total of more than 24 minutes during each four-hour period.
  • The maximum speed must be such that the user can expect to receive it at least some of the time, such as once a day.
  • The estimated maximum speed must be realistically achievable in actual usage conditions. Therefore the maximum speed specified for the connection cannot be the theoretical maximum speed of the connection.
  • The maximum speed and estimated maximum speed cannot be lower than the advertised speed of the connection.

If your subscription has a data cap (a so-called data package), the agreement must also indicate how exceeding it will affect the speed of the connection.

In addition to the speed of the connection, the use of a broadband connection can be affected by the latency typical for the technology used, for example. If the latency affects the use of the subscription, this must be indicated on the subscriber connection agreement. For example, the latency of a satellite broadband connection is high enough to affect the use of real-time applications. 

Additional information:

Is your telephone or internet connection not working as intended? Here are some tips (External link) on how to solve the most common problems.

Defect in a connection

Your telephone or internet connection is defective if the quality or delivery method of the connection are not as agreed, or the service does not match the information provided in marketing. 

Typical defects include service downtime and slower than promised speed. However, temporary downtime or slower than agreed speed are not automatically defects, and the assessment of whether a connection is defective is always carried out on a case-by-case basis. After all, connection speed, for example, can be affected by a variety of factors, such as the device used, the network technology and other users of the same connection.
You can find more information about matters such as establishing a subscriber connection agreement, the marketing of subscriptions and potential defects on the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority’s website. (External link)

Traficom does not investigate individual agreement or compensation matters between customers and telecommunications operators. 

Universal service broadband

All consumers and companies are entitled to certain affordable and functional basic communications services, i.e. universal services, at their home or business location. For areas that have no broadband services available otherwise, Traficom may designate a telecommunications operator for the role of a universal service enterprise.

A universal service broadband subscription differs from other, so-called commercial subscriptions in terms of connection speed. The download speed of universal service broadband must be at least 5 Mbit/s, although some variation is allowed. The minimum speed must be at least 3.5 Mbit/s and the normally available speed must be at least 4.5 Mbit/s. As a rule, the minimum speed must be achieved at all times, and the normally available speed must be maintained 90% of the time during each four-hour measurement period.

Please note that telecommunications operators are free to choose the technological solutions that they use to provide universal telephone and internet services. In other words, the right to universal service does not give you the right to demand that the operator offer a mobile phone subscription instead of a fixed network telephone subscription or a fixed broadband connection instead of a mobile broadband subscription, for example.

Additional information:

Read more about your rights to basic communications services (External link)