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What Internet Speed Do You Need for Cord Cutting? We Break it Down…

One of the most popular questions we get is about Internet speed. A common trick ISPs use on cord cutters is telling them they need a crazy fast Internet speed to stream video. (Often at a crazy high price tag.)

So we wanted to take a moment and update our post about what internet speeds you need to stream your shows and movies.

What speed do you need for an HD stream?

Let’s take a look at what Netflix requires to stream HD video per stream. According to the Netflix website you need 5 Mbps down for each HD stream, which means if you want to stream two HD streams at once you need 10 Mbps.

The following is what Hulu recommends for each stream:

  • 720p HD:3 Mbps
  • 1080p HD:6 Mbps
  • 4K Ultra HD:13 Mbps

So if you wanted to stream two 1080p streams at the same time on Hulu you would need 12 Mbps down.

What about live TV?

Thankfully Sling TV gives some guidance on what Internet speeds you should have to stream Sling TV. The following are the recommended speeds according to Sling TV’s Help Center.

  • Constant speed of 3.0 Megabits per second or more: Streaming video content on portable devices such as tablets and phones.
  • Constant speed of 5.0 Megabits per second or more: Single stream of video content on a TV, PC, or Mac.
  • Constant speed of 25 Megabits per second or more: Recommended for households that maintain Internet use on multiple devices.

What about other web needs?

Surfing the web on sites such as Facebook can work on very slow connections. I would not worry about taking into account basic daily web surfing when looking at what Internet speed to get.

What about gaming?

Gaming is one of the few areas that speed really helps. With that said there is still no reason to break the bank. Even speeds as low as 20 Mbps to 50 Mbps are more than enough for most gamers.

What speed do you really need?

Everyone has different needs. A single person living alone who only streams one stream at a time has a lower speed need than a family of six.

My suggestion is to add up how many streams you want at once and multiply it by 5 and then double it. So if you want two HD streams at once that would be 10 Mbps down but I recommend doubling that and getting 20 Mbps down so you can stream and surf without issues. (As always the speed you pay for may not be the speed you get.)

Again add up the number of streams you want at the same time. After you get that number multiply it by two. That should give you a good rule of thumb on what speed you need. (Remember many services limit the number of streams you can have at once.)

What if you are still having buffering issues?

If you are meeting our recommended speeds but are still seeing buffering and other streaming issues, we can help. Typically they are caused by issues in your home network or issues at the streaming service. Check out our guide on ways to fix buffering and other streaming issues for help.


Fast Internet speeds are great! Just don’t break the bank paying for a faster speed than you need.

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25 Responses to What Internet Speed Do You Need for Cord Cutting? We Break it Down…

  1. Avatar
    Scott Knipfing January 9, 2018 at 7:48 am #

    I have 100 mb service from FIOS. There are three of us when my youngest daughter is home from college.
    3 computers. Mostly browsing but daughter does watch TV on it. I also use Zwift on the oldest one.
    3 iPhones. Mostly browing
    2 TVs both connected to Fire TVs. 1 TV is 4K the other is HD.
    I also stream Sonos (3 speakers).

    I never have any issues with bandwidth. Note FIOS suggested I purchase 150 mb service and I seriously considered only getting 50 mb. It would be cool to have gigabit service which is available. I just don’t see the need.

    • Avatar
      Robert Frankenfield January 10, 2018 at 3:39 pm #

      Gigabit connections are basically a business class service. Unless you’re running web sites or some other type of business that gets high internet traffic, gigabit connections speeds are way overkill. I’d say 99.9% of the population wouldn’t come close to needing this amount of bandwidth.

      • Avatar
        CordCutting2017 January 10, 2018 at 5:22 pm #

        I have gig speeds and taking into the account of the speed vs waiting for things to download it’s worthwhile. Not having to worry about buffering or taking an hour to download an OS ISO like Ubuntu just makes life easier. Normal use isn’t over 50M but, having the on demand speed there just makes it easy. Also, since Comcast and other providers moved to these contracts and outrageous pricing when you’re not under contract I took advantage of the 2 year price lock under the promo pricing. I had been under a 55M plan for 39.99/mo which when it expires goes to $65+/mo and the gig plan is $89.99/mo and price locked. The normal price on the gig is $70 more after the 2 years but, when you break it down to a price per Mbps you’re under 10 cents/mb vs over a $1 per mb.

        It’s all subjective though with your individual household and how you’re using things. If you’re interested in cable and gig I recommend going with the Motorola MB8600 for the cable modem due to all 3 gig capable modems have the same guts in them but the MB8600 has 4 gig ports on the back and they’re all priced about the same. For the router I went with a Synology RT2600AC due to the warranty and features since most of the AC routers are pretty much the same I figured going off brand with more options like adding apps to add features sounded better than your standard off the shelf modem or the alien like antenna arrays of other comparable hardware.

        I was playing around with 4K from youtube the other day and most of those were pushing about 25M download speeds just one a single video. Streaming things from Amazon/Netflix didn’t seem to be too bad on bandwidth though.

  2. Avatar
    RKB60 January 9, 2018 at 7:51 am #

    I have AT&T Uverse and can only receive 6 Mbps because of my proximity to the D-Slam box. I can stream Amazon and Netflix at the same time without any issues. Does that mean I am getting full HD on both streams? Not sure. But I can’t tell.

    • Avatar
      Robert Frankenfield January 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

      With a 6MBps connection, you are most likely streaming at 720. Everything I looked at regarding streaming at 1080 require(s) a connection of at least 8Mbps.

  3. Avatar
    JerYnkFan January 9, 2018 at 8:05 am #

    I have 100mb from Xfinity. Had 25, but I found downloads too slow and I work from home a few times a month and felt the higher speed was better for the VOIP. It was only a 10/month difference so felt it was worth it.

  4. Avatar
    Craig W January 9, 2018 at 8:29 am #

    I have 50mb down which I test regularly and yet last night’s championship game on WatchESPN was nearly Unwatchable with the constant buffering. Comon ESPN. Good luck launching a pay service.

  5. Avatar
    Dean G January 9, 2018 at 8:43 am #

    I have 2 pc’s, 2 phones, 2TV’s connected along with 4 devices plus 6 VOIP lines going. All of your devices need to be taken into account when you’re trying to figure this out. But in addition the next biggest thing is what is your equipment. You can have 200 mbps but if your modem and router are absolute crap along with your settings it won’t matter how fast your internet is. Speed plus equipment can not be separated.

  6. Avatar
    TV Barrington January 9, 2018 at 8:53 am #

    With my Comcast account, I have a 1Tb data cap, and with December being my official 1st full month of cutting cable TV, I was worried about how much actual internet data I’d start to use with relying on streaming TV. Before November, I generally used less than 1Gb. In December, I used 290GB. Just a 1/3 usage of my data cap.

    With that 290Gb usage, that includes not only the jump through streaming usage, but it also includes the data from my (and family) through constant web usage from various laptops, tablets, and phones (cell and VoIP). I was actually a bit worried I would be closer to 1Tb cap.

  7. Avatar
    Fred Koot January 9, 2018 at 8:53 am #

    What your isp provides and what you get to your devices are two different things. I would suggest getting a wireless AC router, not much degradation from wired.

  8. Avatar
    Adam Burns January 9, 2018 at 8:54 am #

    Question for those testing the limits of Netflix 4k, what speed do you really have to have to stream 4k hdr content from Netflix? Netflix recommends 25mb. I technically have 18mb but my provider actually hovers around 21-23mb in speed tests (I know that isn’t a perfect test). Anyone using speeds at under 25mb and streaming Netflix 4k? Getting ready to buy a 4k tv in the next month or so and was curious if Netflix really is a 13-16mb stream and they pad it or you really have to have speeds of 22mb+. It’s a good $14 bump to go from 18 to 24 and like $25 to go to the next tier but I am on a no datacap provider that uses the att uverse lines. Up to this point 18mb has been enough for three different video streams, downloading, youtube watching, and 2 console gaming sessions. I know I will be limited to 1 4k stream going on at the house.

    • Avatar
      Fred Koot January 9, 2018 at 9:13 am #

      Netflix 4k maxes out at 15.25

      • Avatar
        Adam Burns January 9, 2018 at 10:31 am #

        Thank you!

      • Avatar
        psychic99 January 9, 2018 at 7:42 pm #

        While it maxes out at 15 or so, you need over 20 because that is the CONSTANT stream speed and Amazon bursts it’s delivery over AWS (it looks like a positive sine wave). So you need at least 40-50% more constant bandwidth if you are going to have a decent experience otherwise you will adapt down to lower bitrates. So I would say that Netflix is correct in their recommendations. If you are getting 23 consistently you should be fine tho, 18 would be pushing it. I will be honest while 4k does look better, until the HDR stuff is flushed out its YMMV. Bosch on HDR (because it of many dark scenes) is just awesome in 4K HDR.

        At one point I had my parents on 3/1 and it would stream SDR Netflix so it is possible (TWC would give a little buffer). They now have 20/1 at it will only do 1080p reliably. I tried 4k but it was spotty.

    • Avatar
      Robert Frankenfield January 10, 2018 at 3:48 pm #

      I would recommend doing a google search and go through a couple of the sites to get a general figure on bandwidth usage for streaming. Some sites will have streaming at 4K needing only 12MBs and other sites will say you need more. I agree with the article though, not the bandwidth usage, regarding doubling the bandwidth you need.

      The last time I measured my bandwidth, I used 8MBs for 1080P streaming per TV, 3MBs for each phone, tablet, and PC. Since all of them would be just for browsing, email, and FB. My total bandwidth, if I had every single device on in my house would only use around 80MB total. I decided to go with 100MB, however, Fios had a 150MB deal for $10 more. So I went with 150MB. Even that is way more then I would ever need. Even if I had a house full of people connected to my wifi. Which you’ll need to consider if you host a lot of parties and your friends want to hop on your wifi.

  9. Avatar
    TaiPeng January 9, 2018 at 9:02 am #

    Gaming I have read requires a constant 50MBps+. So a 25MBps DSL connection can stream 4K without buffering? Would this be on a new computer? Mine is 5 years old.

    • Avatar
      Rocksleeper January 9, 2018 at 1:16 pm #

      Latency is far more important in gaming than speed. If you have a 100 Mbps connection, but it cuts out for 10 seconds every 15 minutes… You are going to have a bad time. If you have a 20 Mbps connection that doesn’t cut out at all… You will have a good time.

      I had super fast speed at one time, but it’s latency was awful. Went to DSL at 20 Mbps, and I can stream 4k on my Roku TV with no issue.. And EASILY game on my Xbox with no problems.. Including games with super high frame rates like Gw4, and BF1

  10. Avatar
    Cooper McChester January 9, 2018 at 10:03 am #

    I get 28MBS from ATT Uverse and it works well. I have never come close to my 1TB data cap. For those of you who have ATT Uverse/DSL, I contacted to see if they were available in my area. Toast was available at a lower price.

  11. Avatar
    Jason F. Perry January 9, 2018 at 10:19 am #

    Where I live the only internet I can get is Uverse at 12MBS for about $47 a month and I’m lucky to have that. There are no other internet companies and I can’t get cable. It works okay for me as I live alone and I don’t really have an issue at that speed with just me. Needless to say, I’m looking forward to 5G.

  12. Avatar
    BigO January 9, 2018 at 11:14 am #

    We had 20mbps for the longest time, and that worked great for regular streaming. The only issue we had was live sports. When we moved to 60mbps, that pretty much took care of it.

  13. Avatar
    Randy Smith January 9, 2018 at 2:28 pm #

    I have 100 mb/s through Spectrum and I can stream 4k video on the tv, watch Sling TV on my tablet or second tv while my daughter listens to Amazon streaming music and we still have 50 mb/s bandwidth free. I think that a 4K household would want to aim for 50 mb/s if they have multiple devices and don’t want lag or 25 mb/s with just one or two devices. Router also makes a huge difference. Spend the money on a good gigabit capable router and you will be golden for years.

  14. Avatar
    Josh Farley January 10, 2018 at 2:44 am #

    It doesn’t matter how fast your internet is with Hulu Live TV because it buffer’s we have high speed internet from Comcast and it would still buffer and we finally switched to YouTube TV and that doesn’t buffer at all so that tells me Hulu has problem’s and they need to fix them or no one will pay $40.00 a month for them! I definitely recommend YouTube TV it has less channel’s right now than Hulu does but at least YouTube TV work’s without buffering!

  15. Avatar
    Cenarl January 10, 2018 at 10:40 am #

    speed doesn’t actually matter in gaming, just ping time. You can game on terribly slow internet as long as your ping is fine. However if you have multiple internet users in the house you probably will need speed in general to keep them from clogging up your bandwidth, which will cause your ping to spike.

  16. Avatar
    Bob Loblaw January 10, 2018 at 3:52 pm #

    I pay for 100mbps, but I don’t know if I really get that. I don’t have any problems though so I aint complaining.

  17. Avatar
    craig2web January 14, 2018 at 7:55 pm #

    3Mbps works fine for me with HD. 🙂