What broadband do I need for a smart TV?

A smart TV might not be able to make you a cup of tea yet, but they increasingly come with a range of features that can make the viewing experience much more enjoyable and interactive.

A smart TV is any TV that is automatically set up to connect to the internet. This allows access to a range of online services including video on demand (VOD), social media and instant messaging.

With smart technologies widespread in new TV’s, one of the things holding you back might be your broadband speed. So, just how fast a connection do you actually need and how much data do smart TV services consume?

What broadband speed do you need?

Catch-up TV and Streaming

What speed you need depends largely on which service you’re looking to use. Watching catch-up TV has a very different requirement from downloading HD films or streaming Netflix in Ultra HD for example.

Some of the TV services are shown below along with the speed required.


Needed for non-HD


Ultra HD

BBC iPlayer

1.5 Mbps

2.8 Mbps

Not available


1.5 Mbps

5.0 Mbps



0.9 Mbps

3.5 Mbps


Now TV

2.5 Mbps

Not available

Not available

These speeds might not sound like a lot, but remember, this is the minimum that the service requires to function. Also if more devices are connected to your broadband the speed will be shared across the household.

Online gaming

Playing games online can put more of a strain on your broadband speed.  Multiplayer games also require a faster upload speed as well as the more widely used download speeds. 

Whilst fibre optic broadband connections provide a fast and importantly for gaming, stable internet connection, copper networks might be more of a struggle. Copper based broadband has more potential for so called ‘latency’ or ‘lagging’ which can reduce speed.

What speed do I have?

So called ‘fibre to the home’ (FTTH) broadband where the fibre optic cable goes all the way to your house, your speed should be very close to that advertised.

However, if you have ‘fibre to the cabinet’ (FTTC) you have fibre optic cable to the local junction box, and then copper wire from there into your home. If this is the case you may see a slower speed the further you live away from the junction box.
That said, there’s probably not a lot you can do about this and even with FTTC services, your broadband should be fast enough to handle most smart TV applications without a problem.

If you’re on copper wire, standard broadband, where you live matters a lot. If you live very close to the exchange, you’ll have more chance of getting speeds closer to the ‘up to 17 Mbps’ you’ll often see advertised.

The further you live from the exchange, and the further your house is from a local junction box, the slower your service will get. For some rural areas in particular, actual speeds can be just a fraction of the ‘up to’ speed.

With standard broadband then, you need to check your actual broadband speed to determine whether your connection is capable of supporting your smart TV.

What about data usage?

As well as considering speed, it is worth saying a quick word on data usage. Unless you have an unlimited broadband package, streaming TV, particularly HD programmes could very quickly use up your monthly limit. See our data allowance page for more info.

For example, Netflix uses about 1GB of data every hour for a standard definition stream which rises to 3GB for a HD stream. As Netflix themselves say, “this can cause headaches for members who have a monthly bandwidth or data cap”.

If you plan to use a smart TV for streaming, how much data you need will depend on what you plan on watching and how often. For example, if your monthly usage consists of streaming 10 hours of HD films on Netflix, then you would need over 30GBs of data a month and a speed of at least 5Mps.

Compare broadband packages

It always makes sense to compare TV and broadband packages before you commit to a deal. That way, you’ll make sure you’re getting good value for money.

All you need to do is use our broadband or broadband, TV and phone comparison service. Just tell us where you live and we’ll do the rest, presenting back to you the deals that are available so you can choose the one that suits you best.

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