The Best Internet for Streaming

Find out what speeds you need for streaming video and music, or going live on Twitch—plus get our ISP recommendations.

Overview

If buffering went the way of the dinosaurs, no one would be sad, amirite?

Instead of waiting for a metaphorical meteor to destroy it, there’s one thing that might get you closer to being buffer-free: a faster internet plan. But how much speed do you need for streaming?

Recommended ISPs for streaming

PlanPrices starting atDownload speedsBest for streamingLearn more
Xfinity$24.99/mo.*15–2,000 MbpsOverallview plans
AT&T Fiber$50/mo.**100–1,000 MbpsUltra HD/4Kview plans
Verizon Fios$39.99/mo.†Up to 100–up to 940 MbpsTwitchview plans
Cox$29.99/mo.‡10–300 MbpsMusicview plans

Data effective 8/15/18. Offers, speeds, and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 or 24 months with a 1- or 2-year agreement.
** For 12 months with a 1-year contract.
† Plus taxes, equipment charges, and other fees.
‡ For 12 months with a 1-year contract.

Whether you’re streaming movies on Netflix, jamming out to the latest hits on Spotify, or broadcasting your own livestream on Twitch, your internet speed matters.

But not all streaming is created equal, so here’s a quick guide to the recommended internet speeds for streaming. Plus, we’ll share our recommendations for internet service providers (ISPs) that should meet your needs.

Find a provider in your area

What internet speed do I need for Netflix and Hulu?

You don’t need a lot of speed for Netflix or Hulu—unless you want to stream in 4K.

If you love to budget but also love to stream The Fellowship of the Ring on Netflix, good news: you don’t need to shell out your life’s savings to keep your streaming smooth.

But you’ll at least need 5 Mbps if you want to watch the fellowship traverse the wilds of New Zealand. Otherwise, your Netflix will be saying, “You cannot wield it. None of us can.”

Here’s what Netflix recommends1 as minimum speeds for streaming your favorite shows.

Recommended internet speed for Netflix

QualityPixelsNetflix recommends
SD480p3 Mbps
HD720p–1080p5 Mbps
Ultra HD/4K>4,000p25 Mbps

Even 25 Mbps for streaming in Ultra HD (a.k.a. 4K) isn’t that fast—and a plan with that speed shouldn’t set you back much.

Hulu’s streaming requirements are pretty much the same as Netflix’s, but are based on whether you watch Hulu On Demand or upgrade to the Hulu with Live TV package.

Recommended internet speed for Hulu

QualityPixelsHulu recommends2
Hulu On Demand480p (SD)–1080p (HD)3 Mbps
Hulu with Live TVUp to 720p (HD)8 Mbps

How fast does my internet need to be to stream 4K?

Want to live that ultra high-definition life? You’ll need at least 25 Mbps.

ATT Logo

We mentioned it before, but it bears repeating: if you want to bust a gut watching Chris Rock: Tamborine on Netflix in full 4K glory, you’ll need internet speeds of at least 25 Mbps.

An internet plan with at least 25 Mbps shouldn’t cost you much cash, but keep in mind that if you’re streaming 4K movies on multiple devices, you’ll want more Mbps.

Because no one likes that smug little buffering icon. No one.

Recommended internet speed for 4K streaming

QualityResolutionRecommended speed3
4K Ultra HD>4,000p25 Mbps

What internet speed do I need for livestreaming on Twitch?

Want to become the next streaming sensation? Check your upload speeds.

Looking to become the next Ninja, sodapoppin, or Asmongold? You’ll need some dedicated upload speeds before you can start gaining viewers.

If you’re starting out, you should check out Twitch’s recommendations for your setup. Your upload speed will depend on what quality you aim for with your livestream. We mainly looked at resolution and framerate here, but you’ll also want to consider keyframe intervals and more.

Recommended internet speed for Twitch streaming

ResolutionFrame rateRecommended download4Recommended upload
240p–480p25 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps0.4–1.2 Mbps
720p30 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps2.5–4 Mbps
1080p30 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps3.5–5 Mbps
480p60 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps1.5–3 Mbps
720p60 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps3.5–5 Mbps
1080p60 fpsMinimum 4 Mbps4.5–6 Mbps

A fiber connection will get you way more upload speed than Twitch recommends. For example, Verizon Fios’s 100 Mbps plan also gets you 100 Mbps of upload speed. And that matching 100 Mbps of download speed will keep the lag away every time you take aim, pull a boss, or jump out of the plane.

Yeah, we know the FCC recommends a download speed of only 4 Mbps for online gaming,5 but that’s not going to cut it for most multiplayer games. So, play it safe and assume you’ll need a faster connection—we’ve made some recommendations in our Best ISPs for Gaming review.

Light Bulb icon

What is Twitch?

Twitch is an online service that lets you watch live broadcasts—or stream yourself so others can watch you. It’s mainly focused on live video game broadcasts, but you can also find music, TV, art, and various other streams on Twitch too.

What internet speed do I need for streaming music?

To shake it to “Natural” by Imagine Dragons, you’ll need only about 2 Mbps.

Cox Internet Review Summary

For me, the difference between waking up on the right side of the bed versus the wrong side is a list of great tunes. If my Amazon Music stream isn’t working, I’m a zombie in the mornings.

Luckily for those of us who energize with a dope bass drop, you don’t need a lot of speed to stream music.

You’ll be all set to jam out even if your speeds won’t push past 2 Mbps. (Unless you’ve got a Deezer Elite subscription—then you’ll need a bit more.)

Recommended internet speed for streaming music

ServiceRecommended speed6
Deezer5 Mbps for Deezer Elite, 10 Mbps for multiple Elite streams
Tidal1.5 Mbps
All others (Spotify, Pandora, etc.)Up to 1 Mbps

How we picked our recommended ISPs

There’s a method to our madness, we promise.

Here’s how we picked each recommended ISP.

Best overall—Xfinity

Xfinity may not have the best track record when it comes to customer service, but it does have a history of delivering on the speeds it promises. Netflix ranked it 1st out of the large ISPs in July 2018—a rank it’s held since January 2018.7

We also picked Xfinity as the best ISP for any kind of streaming due to its range of download speeds and wide availability. Here’s a quick look at some of Xfinity’s most popular internet packages.

Xfinity internet plans

PlanPrice*Download speed**Recommended uploadLearn more
Performance Starter$24.99–$49.95/mo.15–25 Mbps0.4–1.2 MbpsView plan
Performance Plus$49.99–$84.95/mo.60–100 Mbps2.5–4 MbpsView plan
Performance Pro$54.99–$89.95/mo.75–150 Mbps3.5–5 MbpsView plan
Blast!$44.99–$92.95/mo.100–150 Mbps1.5–3 MbpsView plan
Gigabit$89.99–$115/mo.1,000 Mbps3.5–5 MbpsView plan
Gigabit Pro$299.95/mo.2,000 Mbps4.5–6 MbpsView plan

Data effective 9/13/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 or 24 months with a 1- or 2-year agreement.
** Speeds vary by location.

Reasons we picked Xfinity

  • It’s available almost everywhere. Can’t get AT&T Fiber? Chances are Xfinity’s in your area—you can check here. You’ll find it in 39 states versus just 16 states for AT&T Fiber or 15 states for Cox—and even smaller cities and more rural areas are included in Xfinity’s coverage.
  • It has a wide variety of plans. You can get an Xfinity plan that offers just enough Mbps to stream in 4K on your main TV—or go big with more Mbps to stream Netflix in HD in three different rooms. Compare that to ISPs like AT&T Fiber, which you pay more money for more speed right up front, and you’ll likely start appreciating all those choices.
  • It has no-contract options. If you’re still unsure if Xfinity is going to let you stream every episode of Rick and Morty on Hulu without buffering, you can go for a no-contract option. Sure, you’ll pay a little more each month, but that may be worth it for the freedom to say “Bye, Felicia” whenever you want. Better to have the option than be confined to a contract with ISPs like Cox, amirite?

Best for streaming 4K—AT&T Fiber

AT&T Fiber is our go-to recommendation if you’re streaming in 4K.

Sure, you’ll find lower prices with Verizon Fios. But AT&T Fiber may be available where Verizon Fios isn’t—and the prices aren’t too far off, anyway.

AT&T internet plans

PlanPrice*Download speed**Learn more
Internet 100$50/mo.100 MbpsView plan
Internet 300$70/mo.300 MbpsView plan
Internet 1,000$90/mo.1,000 MbpsView plan

Data effective 9/13/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

Reasons why we picked AT&T Fiber

  • AT&T Fiber may be available where Verizon isn’t. One of our gamer friends moved from Virginia to Florida and ended up going with AT&T Fiber since Verizon Fios wasn’t available there. He uses the 1,000 Mbps plan to play World of Warcraft and run a Plex media server—so far, no issues. You can check if AT&T Fiber is available where you are on the AT&T site.
  • It’s a well-priced top performer. We think the price for the Internet 100 package is pretty good—well worth it for the speed and reliability of fiber, if you ask us. Not only that, but Netflix bumped up AT&T Fiber’s score from 5th to 4th place in May 2018, and it’s holding steady there.8  So you get what you pay for—if not more.
  • Fiber is perfect for families who always be streaming. Keep in mind fiber isn’t just for streaming in 4K. If you have several family members who love to stream in HD, game, and upload large files all at the same time, those zippy fiber speeds will keep everyone happy

Best for streaming Twitch—Verizon Fios

When it comes to livestreaming, there’s no beating fiber. So it comes as no surprise that we recommend Verizon Fios if you plan to broadcast your gaming adventures to the world on Twitch.

Verizon Fios internet plans

PlanPrice**Download speedLearn more
Fios Internet 100/100$39.99/mo.Up to 100 MbpsView plan
Fios Internet 150/150$74.99/mo.Up to 150 MbpsView plan
Fios Internet 300/300$59.99–$94.99/mo.Up to 300 MbpsView plan
Fios Gigabit 940/880$79.99/mo.Up to 940 MbpsView plan

Data effective 9/13/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Plus taxes, equipment, charges, and other fees.

Reasons why we picked Verizon Fios

  • You’ll get reliable speeds. Verizon Fios has pretty much held steady in the top five on Netflix’s ISP leaderboard since January 2018.9 Not bad. And those upload speeds leave a lot of room for livestreaming or uploading your own YouTube videos and everything in between. Check here to see if you live in one of the nine lucky states that get Verizon Fios.10
  • Verizon Fios prices are perfecto. Verizon Fios also boasts low prices compared to other fiber internet providers. It’s honestly hard to beat a price of less than 50 bucks for 100 Mbps.
  • It gets you almost a gig of speed. Compared to Frontier FiOS, which caps out at 500 Mbps, you can get up to 940 Mbps with Verizon Fios in some areas. Now that’s speedy.

Best for streaming music—Cox

Weirdly enough, it’s hard to find lower-tier internet plans anymore. But Cox still has a 10 Mbps plan, and the price isn’t half bad. Why pay for more speed if all you want to do is ”Go Your Own Way” streaming Fleetwood Mac?

Cox internet plans

PlanPrice*Download speedLearn more
Cox Internet Starter 10$29.99/mo.Up to 10 MbpsView plan
Cox Internet Starter 30$39.99/mo.Up to 30 MbpsView plan
Cox Internet Starter 100$59.99/mo.Up to 100 MbpsView plan
Cox Internet Ultimate$79.99/mo.Up to 300 MbpsView plan

Data effective 9/13/18. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For 12 months with a 1-year agreement.

Why we picked Cox

  • Did we mention the variety of plans? Along with that 10 Mbps plan, Cox also offers 30, 100, and 300 Mbps plans. That’s four options, giving you just the right amount of speed without blowing your budget.
  • Cox is a top-three performer. If Cox’s recent Netflix scores are anything to go by, you’ll get your money’s worth and the speed to fuel your jam sessions too. The streaming service has consistently ranked it in second or third place since January 2018.11
  • It’s pretty widely available. Although it doesn’t quite have the coverage Xfinity does, Cox is available in 15 states coast-to-coast. That’s great if you live in a state with no fiber internet at all. Check to see if you can get Cox here.

Recap—what’s the best internet for streaming?

Pop quiz: what internet speed do you need for streaming? Don’t worry, we’ve got your cheat sheet here.

  • Netflix and Hulu: Look for speeds of at least 3–8 Mbps. We recommend an Xfinity plan because it’s widely available and has lots of speeds to choose from.
  • Ultra HD/4K: You’ll want at least 25 Mbps. Our choice? AT&T Fiber, because it offers reliably fast speeds.
  • Twitch: Upload speeds matter—look for 3.5–5 Mbps upload speeds and download speeds of at least 4 Mbps. We recommend Verizon Fios because it’s got killer download and upload speeds.
  • Music: A little goes a long way, so 2 Mbps is likely enough. Cox offers a lower-tier 10 Mbps package at a decent price, so it’s our pick.

Got a question about streaming or an ISP recommendation? Share it with us in the comments below.

Related video: What is a VPN?

Sources

1. Netflix, “Internet Connection Speed Recommendations
2. Hulu, “What Internet Speed Is Recommended to Watch Hulu?
3. Netflix, “Internet Connection Speed Recommendations
4. Twitch, “Broadcasting Guidelines
5. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), “Broadband Speed Guide
6. HighSpeedInternet.com, “How Much Speed Do I Need to Stream Music?
7. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard
8. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard
9. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard
10. Verizon, “Verizon Fios Availability
11. Netflix, “United States ISP Leaderboard

  • Dock Butler

    Thanks for info. live in rural area with only 1 internet provider, century link. Subscribe to 5mpbs but get 4mpbs dwnload speed when test. Tech says that 5mpbs speed will be at beginning of service line coming into house and every connection at a split or modem will decrease speed. I am no tech person, but sound reasonable. It was at 2 to 3mpbs with 2 splits in line. 1st split coming into house into an inline filter, going to a direct tv box then across house to modem, then router. I told century link about 3mpbs vs 5mpbs speed, they tested it remotely. Sent tech who put a new service line from pole to house, took out inline filter & replaced modem and router with a new 1 piece unit. Now speed steady at 4mpbs, not 5mpbs, Does your subscribed speed differ from your actual speed at device being used because of losing speed at each connection?

  • Stojka Marcel

    Which online internet speed meter do you recommend? I’ve tried this one: http://www.netmeter.co.uk/ but I don’t know if I can trust those results. Are they accurate or not? I should have much higher speed than it shows me… What can be problem? Thanks for help.