What Internet Speed Do I Need for Streaming?

Trevor Wheelwright
TV, Streaming, & Internet Expert
Read More
February 08, 2022
2 min read

You need anywhere from 3–25 Mbps of internet download speeds to watch video streaming services like Hulu, Netflix, Disney+, and others.

Lower speeds like 3–18 Mbps work for lower-quality video formats like SD (standard definition) or HD (high definition), while 25 Mbps is the bare minimum recommended download speed for 4K or ultra-high definition (UHD). If you have more than one user or device, though, you’ll want more than 25 Mbps—probably closer to 50 Mbps or more.

So let's dig in and figure out just how much internet speed you need to stream your favorite shows.

Find faster internet for streaming in your area.

The best internet speeds for streaming

Your streaming device needs anywhere from 3–25 Mbps of dedicated internet speed, depending on which video quality you want.

  • SD (480p): 3+ Mbps
  • HD (720–1080p): 5–13+ Mbps
  • 4K (UHD, 2160p): 16–25 Mbps

Speed is measured in megabits per second, or Mbps. It's how fast your computer downloads or uploads data.

With Mbps, it's important to know that even if your ISP lists download speeds that are fast, you may still run into buffering issues if you don’t have enough bandwidth for everyone’s devices to be on the Wi-Fi network.

To get the best high-speed internet for streaming, you’ll need to account for multiple devices and users. You’ll also want to consider the types of media you need to play. 4K TV shows and online gaming require more Mbps than browsing the web or checking email.

We tend to go higher than the recommended streaming speed minimum requirements listed by websites, mostly because you'll need more speed to support multiple devices and people.

So if you work from home or have friends over to watch movies often, you may want to upgrade your download speed plan to make sure your Wi-Fi signal is strong enough for everyone and every device.

Recommended minimum speed by streaming activity1,2

Activity
Recommended speed

Streaming SD video (480p)

3 Mbps

Streaming HD video (1080p)

5 Mbps

Streaming 4K video (2160p)

25 Mbps

Streaming music

1–10 Mbps

How to improve your TV streaming experience

If your streaming session got cut short thanks to that annoying little buffering icon, we recommend starting with our tips for speeding up your internet.

Sometimes, a simple little trick like repositioning or restarting your router can do wonders for your internet connection.

But if you've tried all the tips in our guide and still have to give up couch space for that buffering bully, there are two more things you can try.

Upgrade your equipment

If you’ve purchased a high-speed internet plan but still get buffering issues, you may need to upgrade your modem or router. If you have an older model from your internet service provider, see if they’ll swap you out. If not, consider it an investment in your internet life.

And if your internet speed seems slow only when you stream movies, you should look into getting a Roku or another dedicated streaming device. That way, high-definition video streams won't have to buffer because of other apps.

Upgrade your internet plan

The average internet speed across the nation is around 100 Mbps, but some fiber internet providers have built networks that can reach up to 1 gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) or more. They even offer symmetrical internet speeds where your upload speed matches your download speed.

However, 100 Mbps download speeds are enough for HD streaming for multiple devices and users.

And upload speed isn’t as crucial for streaming unless you’re livestreaming from Twitch, playing online games, or uploading HD videos to YouTube or Facebook. Upload speeds also help if you download and upload large files or hi-def video through file-sharing programs.

You can check your current internet speeds using a speed test. If your speed test results don't look as fast as what you need, see if you can get a deal on upgrading your download speed. Or check out our recommendations for the best internet service providers.

The best internet service providers for streaming

Provider
Monthly price
Download speeds
Learn more
Xfinity Internet$19.99$79.99*501200 Mbps
CenturyLink Internet$50$65100940 Mbps
Verizon Fios Home Internet$39.99$89.99300940 Mbps
AT&T Fiber$55$180^3005000 Mbps
Suddenlink Internet$29.99$79.99°50940 Mbps
Data effective 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
New customers only. Rate requires paperless billing and excludes taxes. Additional fees apply.
w/ Auto Pay + taxes & equip. charges.
^ Price after $5/mo Autopay & Paperless bill discount (w/in 2 bills). Plus taxes $ fees. Limited availability. May not be available in your area.
° Plus taxes, fees, and other charges.

Now that you know how much internet speed you need for streaming, check these out next.

Enter your zip code to find fast internet providers in your area.

Or check out our picks for the best internet providers for streaming.

Sources

  1. Catherine McNally, Reviews.org, “Best Internet for Streaming,” February 2022. Accessed February 08, 2022.
  2. Catherine McNally, Reviews.org, "How Much Internet Speed Do I Need?" January 2022. Accessed February 08, 2022.
Trevor Wheelwright
Written by
Trevor Wheelwright
Trevor’s written about YMYL (your money, your life) topics for over six years across editorial publications and retail/eCommerce sites. His work’s been featured on Forbes, RealSimple, USA Today, MSN, BusinessInsider, Entrepreneur, PCMag, and CNN. When he’s not researching and writing, you can find him around Salt Lake City, Utah, snapping photos of mountains and architecture or seeking out some good tunes and friendly faces.

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