Banner graphic for SafeWise's Australian health insurance comparison

What internet speed do I need to stop Zoom calls from dropping out?

Alex Kidman
Feb 19, 2024
Icon Time To Read5 min read

Zoom has become one of those essential business tools for meetings; while a few years ago it exploded in popularity as many of us had to work from home, it’s stuck around as one of the key ways to get everyone into a meeting no matter where they happen to be.

Which is great, because Zoom clients exist for just about anything that connects to the Internet, and all you need is to click on that meeting link and get down to business, right?

Well… that’s the theory. For far too many of us (we’ve all been there, right?), the reality is that you get into a Zoom meeting, start up whatever it is you’re talking about… and then you drop out, or the quality drops to a level where participants may as well be using morse code to communicate.

There are a few key reasons why Zoom calls drop out, and Internet speeds are key here. Let’s roll through the basics first.

What Internet speeds do I need for Zoom?

Zoom can be remarkably modest in terms of Internet speed requirements. Technically speaking, it advises that it’s possible to join a 1:1 Zoom chat from a 600kbps up/down Internet connection, though that’s the absolute floor of performance.

The issue here is that there’s a scaling effect depending on required video quality and the quantity of participants in a given meeting. For 1:1 video calling, it’s relatively modest:

Quality Setting
Bandwidth Requirement
High Quality Video600kbps (up/down)
720p HD Video1.2Mbps (up/down)
1080p Full HD Video3.8Mbps up/3.0Mbps down

Once you start adding in additional attendees to your meetings, however, the needs scale up:

Quality Setting
Bandwidth Requirement
High Quality Video1.0Mbps up/600kbps down
720p HD Video2.6Mbps up/1.8Mbps down
1080p Full HD Video3.8Mbps up/3.0Mbps down

The important detail here is that these figures are the bare minimum to maintain a connection. Internet speeds are never ever fixed entities, with fluctuations in speed very much an issue. The more speed you can bring to your Zoom game, the more padding you’ve got to deal with any speed fluctuations in your broadband connection, whether that’s over the NBN or from a 4G or 5G mobile data connection.

So how does that track against the typical speeds you get from most consumer NBN plans?

The baseline cheapest fixed line NBN plan is an NBN 12/1, with 12Mbps down and only 1Mbps up. Pretty clearly there, you’re asking for trouble at anything but Zoom’s so-called “High Quality” setting, mostly because your upload speeds are likely to be only just suitable. Stepping up, you hit the NBN 25/5 tier, then typically NBN 50/20, a choice (depending on your NBN provider) of NBN 100/20 or NBN 100/40, and then if you’re on FTTP or HFC NBN you can step up to NBN 250/25 and NBN 1000/50.

Most NBN speeds are more than Zoom wants – so why do my calls keep dropping out anyway?

While mathematically that might seem to be true, the reality here is that Zoom tries to scale video quality for best results in most cases, but it’s fighting a battle against the dynamic nature of call participants when doing so. The real key aspect here is the upload speed attached to your plan and the provisioning that your provider has for it in terms of NBN fixed line connections, or the network conditions if you’re on a mobile 4G/5G or fixed 4G/5G connection.

You might have more than enough download capacity to “see” all the other participants on a call, but if your upload stream is running a little slower – and especially if there’s more than one user on the same network connection – you may find that there’s not enough bandwidth to send your data up to others. In some cases, Zoom’s solution to this can be to cull the connection entirely.

So how can you tell what kind of upload quality you’re getting? One easy way to check is to run a series of Internet speed tests:

Why a series of tests? One test in isolation will only tell you what the network is like at that point in time, and what you really need is a more rounded picture of your achievable Internet speeds, especially where uploads are concerned.

If you’re on a lower tier NBN 12 or NBN 25 plan, stepping up to NBN 50 or NBN 100 might be the right solution for you. Here’s a range of affordable NBN 50 and NBN 100 plans to consider.

NBN 50 Plans

NBN 100 Plans

If you’re in part of the NBN covered by FTTP or HFC – or you’re eligible for an FTTP upgrade from FTTN or FTTC – you may want to consider a higher speed plan such as NBN 100/40, NBN 250/25 or NBN 1000/50:

NBN 250 Plans

NBN 1000 Plans

What else can I do to stop my Zoom calls dropping out?

There are a few other factors that can affect Zoom call quality. If you’re still having constant dropouts, try the following:

  • Make sure your Zoom client is up to date: If you’re on an older version of the Zoom client, you may find it’s less stable than newer releases. Zoom is constantly iterating, so it’s always worthwhile making you’re running on the most up-to-date version. If you’re joining Zoom calls from a browser interface, make sure it’s up-to-date as well; Zoom advises that you should generally try to be within the last two series of updates of a given web browser.
  • Reboot before the call: Yes, this is the classic “switch it on and then off again” solution, but here’s why it works. When you reboot your computer, smartphone or tablet, you’re also clearing out the memory cruft from every application that was running. If you then launch into Zoom, there’s more general memory resources to go around, and fewer programs also trying to upload data along the way – both of which can seriously impact your Zoom call quality and stability.
  • Switch to Ethernet: Wi-Fi signals have to compete with other radio waves and every other Wi-Fi network out there to get attention, and these days it’s quite rare for there to be only one Wi-Fi network in range of your devices. Cut through the noise by connecting an Ethernet cable from your modem/router directly to your computer to get the best possible signal from your connection. 
  • Switch from Wi-Fi to Mobile (or vice versa): Sometimes the connection just isn’t cutting it for reasons beyond your precise control. If it’s feasible (and as long as you have enough mobile data to spare) try connecting via mobile hotspot to your phone for the Zoom call and see if that makes a difference. Equally if you’re joining on your phone or SIM-enabled tablet device, try connecting to Wi-Fi to see if you get better stability that way.
  • Disable video effects: Zoom has all kinds of neat effects that you can apply to your video, from simple background blurring to custom backgrounds and more. All of these add to your overall data load, as well as how hard the app actually has to work in memory terms on your computer or device. Disabling them can help to make your Zoom calls a little smoother – but maybe hide that basket of laundry hiding in the background of your “home office” before you do!
  • Disable other devices on your network: If you’re working from a home office and need to make some Zoom calls, consider switching off other network-connected devices that might be taking a vampire draw on your bandwidth. They might all only need a little data, but combined up, you can get a lot back for when you really need it – just remember to re-enable them or power them back up when you’re finished.
  • Disable video: This might seem counterintuitive, because Zoom is a video platform. But if your data connection just isn’t cutting it during that vital meeting, dropping down to audio-only will significantly lessen your needs for bandwidth – and may just keep you on the call.
Alex Kidman
Written by
Alex Kidman
Alex Kidman is some kind of word-generating AI from the future that somehow worked out how to sneak back in time to 1998 to start its journalism career. Across that time, including editorial stints at ZDNet, CNET, Gizmodo, PC Mag and Finder, as well as contributions to every major tech masthead, nobody has quite managed to figure out this deeply held secret. Let’s keep it between us, OK?

Related Articles