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What broadband speed do I need? Do I need fast broadband?

Welcome to Broadband Genie’s guide on finding the right internet connection speed. Here we’ll answer the question we're probably asked most: what broadband speed do I need?

Well, across our site we recommend the following as a rough minimum requirement:

  • 1 person households: ~10Mb or ADSL broadband may suffice. However, we do recommend that most individuals go for at least basic fibre (around 35Mb).
  • Up to 3 people: 35-50Mb broadband
  • Up to 5 people 50-100Mb broadband
  • 5+ people: 100Mb broadband

Genie tip: These are our minimum recommendations based on the speed required if everyone in the household is trying to stream HD video at once.

However, faster speeds can often mean a better experience. Different people can also have vastly different requirements, so find out more below!

If you’d like to know what speeds you need for specific streaming services, we also have a whole guide to streaming speeds for Netflix, Amazon Prime and more.

What broadband speed do I need?

To work out what broadband speed you need, you'll need to bear in mind the size of your household and the number of people using the web at the same time. We use a single device streaming high definition video as a guide for most of our recommendations.

This is a very rough guide to help you get started. You’ll need to adjust it to suit your requirements. You may find that your usage demands a very fast connection, even if you don’t share the broadband with anyone else.

One person: 10Mb (minimum) or ~30Mb (recommended)

If it’s only you in the house, you may be okay with ADSL broadband. This will allow:

  • 1 device streaming HD video/gaming/video calling.
  • Multiple devices web browsing, using social media and email.
  • Video calling on one device.
  • Audio streaming on multiple devices.

However, we’d still recommend fibre broadband. Prices are very similar, and you’ll get a lot more speed for your money.

1-2 people: 30-60Mb

Households of this size should look for average download speeds of 30Mb as a minimum or entry-level fibre. This should support:

  • 1-3 devices simultaneously streaming HD video/gaming/video calling.
  • Multiple devices web browsing, or using social media and email at once.
  • Audio streaming on multiple devices.

Our top entry-level fibre deal:

Dynamic deal panel

1-5 people: 60-100Mb

If you’re in a house of up to five people, we’d recommend minimum speeds of 60-100Mb.

  • 1-5 devices simultaneously streaming HD video/gaming/video calling.
  • Many devices web browsing, or using social media and email at once.
  • Frequent audio streaming on many devices.

Our top faster fibre deal:

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Five people or more: 100Mb+

If there are five or more people in your household. We’d recommend broadband speeds of 100Mb+.

  • 5+ devices simultaneously streaming HD video/gaming/video calling.
  • Many devices web browsing, or using social media and email at once.
  • Frequent audio streaming on many devices.
  • Frequent large file transfers.

Our top 100Mb+ deal:

Dynamic deal panel
  • What does ADSL mean?

    ADSL stands for ‘Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line’. It’s broadband technology that allows the transfer of data across regular telephone lines. You can make calls at the same time as being connected to the internet.

    An ADSL line will, at minimum, allow for a broadband connection of up to 8Mb. These days, that’s pretty slow and won’t allow you to do much other than emailing or basic web searches.

    ADSL2+ is now available at nearly all exchanges across the UK with slightly faster data transfer rates of around 10-11Mb.

Do I need faster broadband?

There are many reasons to go for a broadband deal that’s faster than these recommendations. Firstly, it’s just a lot more efficient. Look how much difference download speed makes to the time taken to download a 5Gb film:

  • 10Mb (ADSL): 67 minutes
  • 30Mb (fibre): 22 minutes
  • 100Mb (ultrafast): 7 minutes

Also, and perhaps most importantly, if you’re a heavier-than-average user you’ll want a faster connection. For example, UHD (4K) TV requires around 35-40Mb per device. So if you’ve got three people likely to be streaming in UHD at the same time, you probably want a connection with an average speed of 100Mb+.

Similarly, if you’re broadcasting/streaming online, you’d also count as a heavy user. So, once again, we’d recommend a faster connection, and also that you should focus more on upload speeds. If you’re streaming, slow upload speeds will impact you.

What upload speed do I need?

So what upload speed do you need? For many internet users, download speed is all you need to worry about. However, some people, such as YouTubers or Twitch streamers, need to consider upload speeds. These are likely going to be slower than your download speed, but ideally, it won’t take hours for a 20-minute video to upload.

We recommend a minimum upload speed of 10-15Mbs. Unfortunately, these aren’t advertised as widely, but as your helpful Genie here’s a rule we use:

  • Virgin Media: Look for download speeds of 100Mb+ to get a 15Mb+ upload speed.
  • Other providers: Look for download speeds of 60Mb+ to get 20Mb+ upload speed.

For more help on this, visit our 'guide to upload speeds'.

Speed requirements for browsing, streaming, gaming and more

We’ve listed some examples of common online activities, with information on typical data usage and bandwidth requirements to help get you started. Some of these are official figures provided by the services, others are our own estimates.

These numbers are a guideline rather than a strict limit, so it's not necessarily a problem if your broadband seems a little too slow for some services.

Just a note to say we’re going to get a little technical here. If you’re not sure what this all means, we have a 'guide to bits and bytes' you might find useful.

  • Web browsing, email and social media

    Web browsing, including social media, is how we spend a lot of our time online. Fortunately, it’s something that generally doesn’t require a fast connection. The average size of a web page is around 3MB, and most pages will load quickly even on a slower standard broadband connection.

    But if you’re visiting sites with large images or embedded video and audio then web browsing can put a lot more strain on the broadband.

    The speed requirements for email will depend on whether you’re frequently sending or receiving large attachments. Any broadband service can manage this, but faster connections will let you transfer data rapidly so there’s less waiting around. A simple text email is tiny and doesn’t require fast broadband.

  • Instant messaging and VOIP (Skype, WhatsApp)

    WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other chat tools aren’t dependent on fast broadband, even if your whole family is chatting at the same time. Sending or receiving video, audio, and animations is more demanding but you’re unlikely to be transferring very big files this way.

    Making voice calls with Voice Over IP apps, such as Skype, Apple Facetime or WhatsApp, doesn’t require a fast connection either. Skype recommends an internet speed of just 100Kb for voice chat. That means you can comfortably make calls on a relatively slow standard broadband service. Having a stable connection is what’s important.

  • Video calling (Skype, Facetime)

    To use video calling, you’ll need extra speed compared to the requirements for voice calls.

    Skype recommends 300Kb for both download and upload speeds for basic video calling or screen sharing. But at least 500Kb is recommended for HD video calls. The recommended speed increases as you add more people: to chat with five people, Skype says you should ideally have a speed of at least 4Mb download and 512Kb upload.

  • Streaming video (Netflix, iPlayer)

    Here’s where fast broadband starts to become more useful, as streaming services can put a much greater strain on your broadband.

    Netflix specifies a minimum speed of 3Mb for HD, which is easily achievable for most of us. But the requirements increase if you want to enjoy the higher quality video and avoid dreaded buffering. To stream full high definition content from Netflix, it’s recommended that you have a speed of at least 5Mb or 15Mb for Ultra HD.

    And of course, you need to factor in other people in your home. If everyone in your family is trying to stream from Netflix at the same time, a fast fibre broadband connection will be necessary. We go into this in much more detail in our broadband streaming speeds guide.


    • HD quality: 3Mb
    • Full high definition: 5Mb
    • Ultra high definition: 15Mb

    Amazon Prime Video

    • SD quality: 1Mb
    • HD quality: 5Mb

    BBC iPlayer

    • SD quality: 1.5Mb
    • HD quality: 5Mb
  • Streaming audio (Spotify, Apple Music)

    Audio streaming is nowhere near as taxing as video streaming because the amount of data is much smaller. Where iPlayer could be streaming at a rate of megabits per second, Spotify only needs to send kilobits per second to play your favourite tunes.

    Spotify doesn't specify a minimum or recommended internet speed. However, it does have three different quality settings: low (96Kbps), normal (160Kbps) and high (320Kbps).

    Kilobits per second (Kbps) is the bitrate – the amount of data sent every second. Higher bitrates mean better sound.

    A broadband speed of 0.5Mb would allow you to stream everything up to and including high-quality audio, so we don’t need to worry about fast broadband if high-quality music is the only concern.


    • Minimum: 120Kb
    • Recommended: 0.5Mb

    Apple Music

    • Minimum: 300Kb
    • Recommended: 0.5Mb

    Amazon Music

    • Recommended: 1.5Mb
  • Gaming

    When it comes to gaming, there are two considerations: the speed you need to play an online game, and the time it could take to download a game.

    Many games are only available from digital stores, but even if you purchase a boxed copy, it could still require a large download. That could take many, many hours if you don’t have fast broadband.

    For playing online games, you don’t need a fast download speed. But upload speed is important, as the game needs to constantly transmit data.

    Gamers are best off with a fibre optic broadband service, especially if the connection is shared. This will reduce the waiting time for downloading games and ensure the broadband is more than fast enough for online play. Check out our gaming broadband guide for more info and to see some download time examples.

Frequently asked questions about broadband speed

  • How is broadband speed measured?

    Broadband speed is measured in bits per second — usually megabits (Mbps or Mb) or gigabits (Gbps or Gb) for home broadband.

    Quick note: There are actually 8 bits in a byte. Confusingly, they are two different units of measurement. This means a connection speed of 10Mb can download a 10MB (megabyte) file in eight seconds.

    For more on this, read our guide to bits and bytes.

  • Why is broadband advertised with ‘average’ speeds? What do these mean?

    Broadband providers will advertise ‘average speeds’ on a package. What this means is each package’s advertised speed reflects the average download speed that’s available for at least half of its users, at peak times. They should be the most accurate reflection of what you might expect from your broadband.

  • How fast is my internet?

    You can use our broadband speed test to see what speed you’re getting right now. Run the speed checker a few times throughout the day for an accurate picture of what speeds you’re getting. When testing the speed you should shut down other devices and apps which may be using the internet, and connect to your Wi-Fi router with a network cable rather than Wi-Fi. If you can’t do this then you’ll need to sit or place your computer right next to your router.

  • What is a good internet speed?

    The simple answer is whatever speed is best for your requirements. Hopefully, we’ve helped you answer this question on this page. In terms of what makes a good deal - well we’ve got you covered there too. You can find our very best broadband deals in our comparison table.

  • What is the fastest broadband available?

    The fastest home broadband available right now is an ultrafast gigabit fibre optic service from a provider such as Hyperoptic or Gigaclear. In some places, you can get speeds of up to 10Gb!

    However, this requires a full fibre connection and only a very small number of premises can get this kind of broadband right now. For most of us, the fastest broadband available is a 1.1Gb fibre optic package from Virgin Media. But it’s worth noting that even that’s limited to certain areas. So it’s best to use a tool like our postcode checker to see what the fastest speed available to you is.

  • Do you need fibre broadband?

    The fastest home broadband available right now is an ultrafast gigabit fibre optic service from a provider such as Hyperoptic or Gigaclear. In some places, you can get speeds of up to 10Gb!

    In our guide above, we recommend fibre speeds of 30Mb+ as a minimum for everyone, except for individuals with very light usage requirements. In general, we recommend everyone go for fibre: the speed increase you get for an often-minimal price increase is usually worth it!

  • Do you need superfast broadband?

    Superfast broadband is just fibre broadband, so we’d refer to our answer above and recommend fibre to almost everyone.

  • Do you need ultrafast broadband?

    Generally, ‘ultrafast broadband’ is defined as packages with speeds of over 100Mb. So we’d recommend this to large households (5+) or smaller households who need more speed.

  • Do you need unlimited data?

    Not everyone needs unlimited data, but we would recommend it anyway.

    Unlimited broadband is available with most deals now, even on very cheap offers, so it’s usually best to opt for unlimited to eliminate any worry about how often the broadband is being used.

    And if you’re planning on getting a fast fibre optic broadband package there is really no good reason to go with anything other than an unlimited broadband deal. If you don’t very quickly exceed a usage cap due to the higher speed, then you didn’t need fast broadband in the first place!

  • How do I speed up my broadband?

    Not everyone needs unlimited data, but we would recommend it anyway.

    Improve the Wi-Fi signal. Your broadband might feel slow because of a weak Wi-Fi signal. Try repositioning the router, you can use signal boosters or upgrade to a new router.

    Check Wi-Fi security. Wi-Fi should always be protected with a password to stop neighbours from using the connection. You can also view connected devices via your router’s management panel to check that there’s no unauthorised use.

    Use a network cable. When possible, connect directly to your Wi-Fi router with a network cable. This is often faster and more reliable than wireless internet.

    Upgrade to fibre. If you’re currently on standard broadband you’ll get a very noticeable speed boost by switching to a fibre optic service. 

    Switch off unused apps and devices. Check that you don’t have any software trying to download or upload a big file, and always switch off unused devices to save bandwidth and electricity!

Expert Summary

If you take one thing away from this article, it’s that if you don’t use the internet for much more than standard web browsing with the odd streaming session, you don’t actually need very fast internet.

Most standard fibre packages will provide you with speeds that are more than good enough and usually for a decent price.

For the gamers and streamers out there, it’s definitely worth paying a little more for ultrafast broadband. Providers like Virgin and Hyperoptic will be the best to go with. But if they aren’t available in your area, then spend some time comparing the upload speeds of the deals you can get. It’ll be worth it to spend that time and money.

For more information on broadband for gamers, you can check out our guide to gaming broadband.

Meet the author:


Matt has been working with Broadband Genie since 2009. A lifelong tech enthusiast, he has 20 years of experience writing about technology for print and online.

Specialist subject: The technicalities of broadband

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