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What broadband speed do I need for Netflix and other video streaming?

Streaming video can ask a lot from your internet connection, and as it’s something that millions of us do on a regular basis you’ll need a broadband deal that’s up to the job.

For many, it will be the only thing that really tests the limits of broadband. Not everyone regularly downloads massive files or backs up gigabytes of data to the cloud, but there’s a good chance you’re going to use video streaming pretty often. For that reason, streaming can justify an upgrade to faster fibre optic broadband. 

But what speed do you need for video streaming, and is your current broadband deal fast enough?

As a bare minimum, a download speed of 5Mb will let you stream standard quality and some higher-quality video.

But that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for other things (problematic if you share the connection with housemates or family) and you won’t be able to enjoy the best quality picture.

That’s why we recommend fibre optic broadband with an average speed of 35Mb as the best minimum speed for most homes.

Want to learn more? Read on below; we’ll explain what minimum speeds are needed for different quality videos, and provide specific speeds for some of the most popular streaming platforms. 

It will help to know your current broadband speed so you’ve got an idea of whether your current provider is up to the task. If you don’t already know how fast it is, use our free broadband speed test to check.

What broadband speed do you need to stream in SD, HD, and 4K?

In this guide, you’ll find the official recommended speeds for a few popular streaming video providers. But tracking down the numbers for a specific service isn’t always easy as not every platform offers detailed official guidance. 

Below are our recommended minimum speeds for various quality settings/resolutions. These are broad recommendations that should accommodate the requirements of most platforms.

However, it’s also vital that you account for other users or devices which share your broadband connection as every computer/tablet/phone/console/etc. will reduce the available bandwidth.

This might mean you need to lower the video quality to stream without buffering, even if your connection should be quick enough. Or you may need to get much faster broadband to give everyone in your home enough bandwidth to do what they want without interruption.

Standard definition (SD): 5Mb minimum speed, 10Mb recommended

SD (480p) content can be streamed at speeds of less than 5Mb; most providers recommend a minimum of 1-3Mb.

However, we think 5Mb is a more reasonable minimum speed. But we recommend at least 10Mb for the best experience as this will provide enough bandwidth for other low-impact tasks (web browsing, for example) and give you some headroom to account for fluctuations in the performance of the broadband line.

If you try to stream at the very limits of your connection, you will probably encounter very frequent buffering.

These speeds are achievable with any ADSL service, so you can comfortably stream in SD on even the cheapest broadband deal.

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High Definition (HD): 10Mb minimum speed, 35Mb recommended

Most platforms recommend a minimum 5Mb speed for HD (720p or 1080i/p) content. But in our experience, this is optimistic. A speed of at least 10Mb is our minimum for hassle-free HD video streaming. 

However, we suggest a fibre optic service with average speeds of around 35Mb would be a better fit, as this will easily provide enough bandwidth for HD streams without completely choking the connection.

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Ultra High Definition (UHD/4K): 35Mb minimum speed, 50Mb+ recommended

4K (or ultra HD) video streaming is extremely demanding. Some providers state 15Mb-25Mb as the recommended minimum, but we suggest a speed of 35Mb as the starting point.

Stepping up to fibre optic broadband with a download rate of 50Mb or more is going to be a lot more comfortable if you want to take full advantage of a 4K TV without compromising on quality.

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What broadband speed do you need for Netflix?

Netflix recommends the following broadband speeds:

  • Minimum speed: 0.5Mb
  • Recommended speed: 1.5Mb
  • SD quality recommended speed: 3Mb
  • HD quality recommended speed: 5Mb
  • Ultra HD quality recommended speed: 25Mb

Netflix can work on speeds as low as 500Kb, but the picture quality will be badly impacted, especially if you’re viewing on a big screen. If you’re watching on a TV, then you should aim to stream at least SD quality.

What broadband speed do you need for Amazon Prime Video?

Amazon recommends the following minimum speeds:

  • SD quality recommended speed: 1Mb
  • HD quality recommended speed: 5Mb
  • Ultra HD (4K) recommended speed: 15Mb

What broadband speed do you need for Disney Plus?

Disney recommends the following broadband speeds:

  • HD quality recommended speed: 5Mb
  • Ultra HD quality recommended speed: 25Mb

Disney+ also offers lower quality streams but does not state a recommended speed for these settings.

How to improve streaming video and avoid buffering

Buffering is annoying, but it’s often something you can avoid, even on slow broadband. Here are a few quick tips to help reduce buffering and improve video streaming: 

  • Switch off other devices which may be using the broadband connection. 
  • Lower the quality of the video stream.
  • Instead of trying to stream, download the video instead.
  • Make sure you’ve got a good Wi-Fi signal. 
  • Use a wired network connection instead of Wi-Fi. 

For more advice, read our guide to eliminating video buffering.

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