How to Prepare Your Internet for Streaming Live Football

Prevent your internet from buffering while your team is in the red zone.

Chantel Buchi
Dec 13, 2023
Icon Time To Read6 min read

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There’s no question that streaming is becoming king for watching live sports.

Yes, cable and satellite have their issues, but the biggest issue with streaming live sports is buffering and lag during the most crucial moments of a sporting event.

It’s important to get your internet functioning properly for the game so you can just sit back and relax—or yell at your team through the TV—during the game. And we can’t express enough how important it is to have a fast and reliable internet connection for an enjoyable sports streaming experience.

We’ll go through a step-by-step guide to ensure your internet is ready for streaming live football games and how to troubleshoot your internet connection if it's giving you trouble during the game.

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Understanding your internet needs for live sports streaming

You'll need specific download speeds for different streaming qualities and a stable and fast connection to avoid buffering issues.

Speeds needed for different picture qualities

There are three common streaming qualities: SD, HD (or 1080p), and 4K.

SD picture quality gives you low, standard quality, but if you need to save money, you’ll only need about 1Mbps to stream.

For HD (high definition), you’ll need 2.5–5Mbps and at least 20Mbps for streaming in 4K.

The higher your download speed, the clearer your picture will be and the less likely the football game will freeze. So don’t go too cheap.

What causes buffering when livestreaming and how to prevent it

Buffering occurs when your internet connection is slow or overloaded.

There are a few ways to stop your stream from buffering while you’re watching the Dallas Cowboys game:

  • Reduce your video quality (switch to HD from 4K, for example).
  • Disconnect devices that are currently using your internet.
  • Upgrade your internet plan.
  • Pause the game for a few moments for the stream to catch up.

Step-by-step guide: Preparing your internet for live sports streaming

We have eight steps to help prepare your internet before tonight's big NFL game. No one wants their stream to lag or buffer during the fourth quarter of a tight game.

1. Check your current internet plan

First, let's determine your current internet speed. You need to know your true speeds because although you signed up for a 100Mbps plan with your internet provider, unfortunately, it doesn't always mean you get those speeds.

It’s common with most internet providers, and that’s why they advertise as “up to 100Mbps.” They under-deliver like 2022 Alvin Kamara.

So, test your speed with our broadband internet speed test

Now that you know, refer to our speed requirements above for specific picture qualities. Does your current internet plan meet HD or 4K streaming requirements ? If not, step number two might be for you.

2. Upgrade to a higher-speed plan

If your internet speed doesn't reach HD or 4K streaming requirements (scroll back up a little to see those numbers), get a faster internet speed plan to watch the game in vivid picture.

Our favorite fast internet providers are Xfinity Internet, Google Fiber, Verizon Fios Home Internet, Cox Internet, and Spectrum Internet.

They offer speeds from 30–8,000Mbps. And if you need help figuring out the best internet speed for you and your family, we have a guide for that too.

Fastest internet providers for streaming football
Service
Price
Download speed range
Details
Xfinity Internet$25-$80*200-1200 Mbps
Google Fiber$70-$1501000-8000 Mbps
Verizon Fios Home Internet$49.99-$89.99300-2300 Mbps
Cox Internet$30–$149.99^100-2000 Mbps
Spectrum Internet®$19.99-$89.9930-1000 Mbps°
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* Pricing for some packages are for the first 12 months. Some packages require a 1- or 2-year contract.
Plus taxes and fees. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc.
Price per month with Auto Pay & without select 5G mobile plans. Fios plan prices include taxes & fees
^ Prices exclude taxes, surcharges, usage-based charges, certain equipment, and other fees or charges, which are subject to change.
° Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.

3. Prioritize wired connections

Let’s say your high-speed internet plan is still buffering because of the crowded network. This is when you might consider an ethernet cable.

We recommend using wired ethernet connections for a solid signal, especially if you're streaming the game on devices like smart TVs and gaming consoles.

And it’s a simple setup. Just connect one end of the cable to the LAN port of your modem and the other to your streaming device. Then you have yourself a foolproof hardwired connection.

4. Optimize Wi-Fi for wireless devices

If you’re streaming on your smartphone or tablet, placing your router in a central location of your home could help your Wi-Fi connection.

But if you’re on the top floor while your router is in the basement, a Wi-Fi extender can help the wireless signal expand its coverage. Or you can put the Wi-Fi extender near your patio to stream the Green Bay Packers game in the sun.

5. Reduce network congestion

While streaming the game, you can offload your internet connection by disconnecting devices from the Wi-Fi.

You won’t be asking your Alexa questions or using your indoor home security cameras while you’re home watching the game. And we recommend refraining from bandwidth-intensive activities during the game, like uploading a YouTube video.

So, consider removing Wi-Fi-guzzling devices from your internet so your live stream of the game is smooth.

6. Use quality of service (QoS) settings

If you don’t want to disconnect and reconnect all your devices to stream the Pittsburgh Steelers game seamlessly, the QoS setting is another option.

When you enable the QoS setting on your network router, the technology will prioritize streaming traffic. This helps your internet prioritize high-performance activities, like streaming the football game in 4K, gaming, and videoconferencing.

The QoS setting will tell your router how to use your bandwidth to ensure a smooth streaming experience even with multiple devices connected.

7. Update firmware and software

If you haven’t updated the firmware on your router recently, put that on your to-do list. Updating your firmware will help your router perform and communicate properly with your devices.

As for software updates, ensure your streaming service app and devices are updated for optimal performance.

8. Monitor and manage data usage

Unless you have an internet plan with no data cap, you’ll receive a limit on how much you can stream, check the internet for NFL updates, or use your smart thermostat to its full potential.

After reaching your data cap, you must endure slow internet speeds.

You can monitor your data usage (and avoid unexpected charges) through your account with your internet service provider.

If you keep reaching your data cap before the month ends, consider an unlimited data plan.

Unlimited data internet providers for streaming football
Service
Data cap
Price
Download speed range
Details
AT&T FiberUnlimited$55–$225**300-5000 Mbps
Google FiberUnlimited$70-$1501000-8000 Mbps
Spectrum Internet®Unlimited$19.99-$89.9930-1000 Mbps°
CenturyLink InternetUnlimited$50-$75††100-940 Mbps
Astound Broadband Powered by GrandeUnlimited$25-$60‡‡300-1500 Mbps
Data as of 04/05/2023. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
** 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 and fees. Upload/download speed and device streaming claims are based on maximum wired speeds. Actual Internet speeds are not guaranteed and may vary based on factors such as hardware and software limitations, latency, packet loss, etc.
° Limited time offer; subject to change; valid to qualified residential customers who have not subscribed to any services within the previous 30 days and who have no outstanding obligation to Charter.
†† Speed may not be available in your area. Paperless billing or prepay required. Additional taxes, fees, and surcharges apply.
‡‡ Includes $10 discount for 12 months w/ ebill & autopay. Experienced speeds may vary. Excludes surcharges and fees. New residential customers only.

Troubleshooting: Common issues and solutions

We have four solutions to troubleshoot your internet connection during your college football or NFL game.

1. Buffering and lag

If you’re experiencing buffering and lag, it could be because of one of these reasons:

  • Your network is crowded (high-traffic).
  • Your internet speeds aren’t fast enough.
  • You’ve reached your data cap.

Test your internet speeds here to find out what speeds you’re working with.

To mitigate buffering and lag, consider disconnecting devices using your Wi-Fi that you won't use during game time.

If you want enough bandwidth to support all of your devices at home at once, upgrading to a higher-speed internet connection might be your next step—with a plan that gives you unlimited data.

2. Slow load times

If you’re experiencing slow load times, here are a few ways to speed up your connection:

  1. Check your data cap.
  2. Restart your router.
  3. Move your router closer to your streaming device.
  4. Use ethernet cables.
  5. Order a faster internet plan.
  6. Switch internet providers.

3. Inconsistent video quality

If your video quality is clear one moment and fuzzy another, you might not have the bandwidth to support the quality you’re streaming in.

You'll only need about 1Mbps for SD picture quality to stream. HD requires 2.5–5Mbps and you’ll need at least 20 Mbps for streaming in 4K.

Test your internet speed here to see if that’s the problem.

Recap: How can I prepare my internet for live sports streaming?

There are eight steps to preparing your internet for live sports streaming:

  1. Use our broadband internet speed test to find out if you have the bandwidth to stream the football game in your current internet plan. You’ll need 1Mbps for SD streaming, 2.5–5Mbps for HD, and 20Mbps for 4K.
  2. Upgrade to higher speeds if your current ISP plan isn’t up to par. You can check out our favorite fastest internet providers, and we have a guide to help you determine the best internet speed for your household.
  3. An ethernet cable might be the next best option if your high-speed internet is still buffering because of an overcrowded network. Nothing beats a hardwired connection.
  4. If you’re streaming on wireless devices, like smartphones and tablets, a Wi-Fi extender can expand the Wi-Fi coverage to upstairs and other far-from-the-router areas.
  5. Reducing your network congestion can help you save money by not needing to upgrade your internet plan. To do this, you’ll want to disconnect all of your devices connected to the Wi-Fi network that you won’t use during the football game, and then you can reconnect them afterward.
  6. If disconnecting and reconnecting sounds like a nuisance, enabling the QoS setting on your router is another option. By doing this, your internet will prioritize bandwidth-intensive activities, like streaming the Dallas Cowboys game.
  7. Ensure your router firmware, streaming apps, and streaming device are up to date.
  8. If you have an internet plan with data caps, monitor your data usage through your internet service provider account. Once you reach your data cap, your internet network can run slow. If this is your situation, you might consider an unlimited data plan.

FAQ

You can prevent your live stream from slowing down by disconnecting devices from the Wi-Fi, using an ethernet cable or Wi-Fi extender, upgrading to a higher-speed internet plan, and enabling the QoS setting on your router.

The best live TV streaming service is fuboTV because it has the best dollar-to-channel ratio, a great variety of channels, 50 sports channels, lots of channel add-ons, and a vast DVR storage. YouTube TV is one of the best, but it offers 100 channels, while fuboTV has 260+. 

 

Chantel Buchi
Written by
Chantel Buchi
Chantel is all about finding the best tv or streaming service to watch as many football games as possible to keep her Fantasy Football team in check. Prior to being a TV and Streaming Tech Reporter for Reviews.org, she worked for NFL Network and The Alliance of American Football. Before that, she received a B.A. of Communication at the University of Utah and an M.S. in Sports Journalism at USC. Go Utes and Fight On. Contact her at chantel@reviews.org

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