What broadband do I need for streaming?

Streaming services, such as Netflix and YouTube, are becoming increasingly popular. But how fast does your broadband need to be to use these services successfully and how much data allowance should you have in place? Read on to find out.

What broadband speed do I need?

The broadband speed you need depends largely on which streaming service you want to use. Watching catch-up TV, for example, has a very different speed requirement to downloading your favourite tunes or watching a movie in high definition (HD).

Broadband speed is usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Below are some of the speeds you’re likely to need to be able to stream certain services.

Watching movies and streaming TV

Service

Needed for non-HD

HD

Ultra HD

BBC iPlayer

1.5 Mbps

2.8 Mbps

Not available

Netflix

3.0 Mbps

5.0 Mbps

25 Mbps

Amazon Prime Instant Video

0.9 Mbps

3.5 Mbps

25 Mbps

Now TV

2.5 Mbps

5 Mbps

Not available

YouTube

2 Mbps

6 Mbps

15 Mbps

Streaming audio and music videos

Music is similar to TV and movies in that downloads come with varying qualities. For example, if you want to stream Spotify, you’ll need just 0.16 Mbps for a consistent service; for Spotify Premium, you’ll need a connection of at least 0.32 Mbps. However, if you want to stream music videos, say from YouTube, a minimum of 2 Mbps is recommended.

Video calling services

Skype and FaceTime are two of the most popular video-calling services; if you use either, you need to be aware of both your download and upload speeds. This is because your connection will be receiving and sending data at the same time. Below are the minimum download and upload speeds you’ll need:

Type

Download Speed

Upload Speed

Skype

0.3 Mbps

0.3 Mbps

FaceTime

1 Mbps

1 Mbps

Google Hangouts

0.3 Mbps

0.3 Mbps

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. 

While fibre optic broadband connections provide a fast and, importantly for gaming, stable internet connection, you might find it more of a struggle with copper wire-based broadband (ADSL), as this has more potential for so-called ‘latency’ or ‘lagging’, which can reduce speed.

If more people within your home are connected to your broadband, your speed will be shared across your household. It follows, then, that the more people and more devices that are connected, the slower the speed you’ll see.

What broadband speed do I have?

If you have a fibre optic broadband connection, your broadband speed should be pretty close to those that you see advertised. This is because the signal doesn’t weaken over distance with fibre optic cables.

If you’re on standard ADSL broadband, internet connectivity is delivered down the copper wires used by your existing phone line and speeds vary according to how far you live from your local telephone exchange. If you live in some remote rural areas, your actual speed could be very different to those advertised.

There are free web-based tools and apps available if you want to check out your actual broadband speed. And use our broadband comparison service to find out what speeds and deals are available where you live.

What about data usage?

Unless you have an unlimited broadband package, it’s worth noting that streaming TV, particularly HD programmes, could very quickly use up your monthly data limit. For example, Netflix uses about 1GB of data every hour for a standard definition stream, which rises to 3GB for a HD stream. So, if your monthly usage consists of streaming 10 hours of HD films on Netflix, you would need more than 30GBs of data a month and a speed of at least 5 Mbps. See our data allowance page for more info.

Compare broadband packages

It always makes sense to compare TV and broadband packages before you commit to a deal. That way, you can make sure you’re getting good value for money. Use our broadband or broadband, TV and phone comparison services and we’ll list the deals available, leaving you to choose the one that suits you best.

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