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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 every day, you’ll need a broadband package that’s up to the job.

For many, it’ll 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’ll use video streaming pretty often to catch up on your favourite TV shows. For that reason, streaming can justify upgrading to faster fibre optic broadband.

In this guide, we’ll explain the minimum speeds 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 Internet service provider is up to the task. If you don’t already know how fast it is, use our free broadband speed test to check.

Broadband and streaming video: the key points

  • The higher the video quality, the faster your broadband will need to be
  • We recommend 10Mb per device if you're streaming in HD
  • If you're looking to stream in 4K, you'll need 35Mb-100Mb per device
  • Mb/Mbps stands for megabits per second
  • These speeds are broadly similar across almost every streaming service

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 services. But tracking down the numbers for a specific service isn’t always easy, as not every platform offers detailed, official guidance.

You should remember that these are broad recommendations, but they should meet the requirements of most platforms.

However, it’s also vital that you account for other users or devices that share your broadband connection. Especially if others will be streaming or online gaming, as every computer, tablet, phone, or console 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

5Mbps minimum speed, 10Mbps recommended

Standard Definition, 480p or SD content can be streamed at speeds of less than 5Mbps. Most providers recommend a minimum of 1-3Mbps, which is a lower speed than a lot of you will actually have.

But at Broadband Genie, we think 5Mbps is a more reasonable minimum speed. Yes, this is faster than what the providers themselves are suggesting, but it will mean that it’s a lot less likely that you’ll have to deal with buffering.

If you want to ensure that you can stream SD content whilst others are online too, we recommend at least 10Mbps. This’ll provide you with the best experience as you’ll have enough bandwidth for doing other low-impact tasks such as web browsing at the same time. It’ll also 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’ll 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)

10Mbps minimum speed, 35Mbps recommended

Most platforms recommend a minimum 5Mbps 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 full HD video streaming. 

However, we suggest a fibre broadband service with superfast average speeds of around 35Mbps would be a better fit. This will easily provide enough bandwidth for HD streams without completely choking the connection.

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Ultra High Definition (4K)

35Mbps minimum speed, 100Mbps+ recommended

4K or ultra HD video streaming is demanding. Some providers state 15Mbps to 25Mbps as the recommended minimum, but we suggest a speed of 35Mbps as the starting point for the best broadband for 4K streaming.

Stepping up to fibre optic broadband with a download rate of 100Mbps or more will be a lot more comfortable. Especially if you want to take full advantage of a 4K smart TV without compromising on quality.

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What broadband speed do you need for Netflix?

Netflix recommends the following broadband speeds:

High Definition (HD) (720p): 3Mbps or higher
Full High Definition (FHD) (1080p): 5Mbps or higher
Ultra High Definition (UHD) (4K): 15Mbps or higher

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. 

What broadband speed do you need for Amazon Prime Video?

Amazon recommends the following minimum speeds:

  • SD quality recommended speed: 1Mbps
  • HD quality recommended speed: 5Mbps
  • Ultra HD/4K recommended speed: 15Mbps

What broadband speed do you need for Disney Plus?

Disney recommends the following broadband speeds:

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

Disney+ also offers lower-quality streams, but doesn’t state a recommended speed for these settings.

What broadband speed do you need for BBC iPlayer?

The BBC recommends the following broadband speeds for the Player:

  • SD quality recommended speed: 1.5Mbps
  • HD quality recommended speed: 5Mbps
  • 4K quality recommended speed: 24Mbps

How to improve streaming video and avoid buffering

Buffering is annoying for any streamers, 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 streaming, download the video instead.
  • Make sure you’ve got a good Wi-Fi signal. 
  • Use a wired network connection instead of Wi-Fi. 

These tips can also work for gamers watching gaming streams on websites like YouTube or Twitch, as well as for video calls also.

How do I check my current internet speed?

If you’re having problems with your streaming services, or if you want to check your connection speed before you sign up for a service, you can use our deals checker to see what speeds you’re currently getting.

Broadband Genie deals checker

Our test will check both your download and upload speeds.

Your upload speed will generally be slower than your download speed, but that’s not a problem, unless you’re uploading files regularly or if you stream your own content online.

If you aren’t happy with the speeds you’re getting, then it might be time to get a new package and switch providers.

Expert Summary

Streaming is now such a common part of so many people’s lives. Even if you don’t pay for the more traditional TV services like Sky or Virgin Media, you likely use at least one streaming service to get your TV.

In general, you don’t need superfast broadband to be able to stream. We recommend download speeds of 5Mbps if you’re streaming at standard definition and 10Mbps for HD streaming. If you’ve got multiple people in your home who will likely be using the internet at one time, you definitely want to make room for everyone to be using it at once.

If you’re not sure your broadband can handle streaming, you can use our speed test to see what speeds you’re currently getting. If you aren’t happy with the results after multiple tests, you can use our postcode checker to see what other broadband packages are available in your area.

Meet the author:

Contributor

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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