Is Your Internet Fast Enough for Streaming?

If you’ve made the decision to cut the cord, one of the most important parts of your dive into streaming is your internet speed. How fast your connection is determined not just your image quality, but how many devices you can use at once.

What internet speed do you need to stream? That depends on a few things like whether you’re looking for an on-demand service or a live service similar to cable and how many devices you’ll have streaming at once, but the general rule is that you need at least 3 Mbps internet to start. Anything below that and your stream will probably buffer consistently to the point it’s unwatchable.

If you don’t know how fast your internet is, use Fast.com or Speedtest.net to check. Here’s a breakdown of the basic internet requirements to stream:

For on-demand streaming like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+

Standard definition video (360p)

You’ll need internet speeds of at least 3 Mbps to stream standard definition content. If you’ll be using more than one device at the same time, you’ll want at least 5 Mbps. 

High definition video (1080p)

If you want high definition content, Netflix recommends at least a 5 Mbps connection. But of course, that’s only for a single device at a time. With multiple devices, you’ll need at least 8 Mbps. 

4K or Ultra HD

For 4K or Ultra HD videos, your internet connection needs to be 25 Mbps or higher. If you’re using multiple devices to watch in 4K at the same time, about 40 Mbps is what you’ll need.

For live television streaming services like YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Hulu+ Live

If you’re trying to use a live television streaming service, most of them recommend a little higher speed than on-demand services. 

Standard definition video (360p)

The baseline for streaming live TV is usually 4 Mbps, and that’s for standard definition quality. With multiple devices, it’s at least 6 Mbps. 

High definition video (1080p)

YouTube TV recommends at least 7 Mbps for one HD video stream and Hulu+ Live recommends 8 Mbps. If you’ll have more than one concurrent stream for a live TV streaming service, you need at least 10 Mbps.  

It’s important to remember that there is such a thing as more speed than you need. Your ISP may be advertising a faster connection, but if streaming is your concern, you won’t see any benefit past a certain point. A connection of 100 Mbps should be sufficient for almost any streaming, including multiple devices at once. 

What can you do if your connection isn’t fast enough?

If you have the fastest available internet in your area and it’s still too slow for good quality streaming, there are some things you can try. 

  • Make sure the settings in your streaming service are on the lowest quality. Many times, the default setting is a mid-range tier that you’ll struggle to stream with a slow connection 
  • If you’re streaming over Wi-Fi, try using a hard-wired ethernet connection or keep your device near your router if wireless is a must 
  • Stream during off-peak hours (avoid 7 to 11 p.m.) 
  • Only use one device at a time 
  • If your router is more than a few years old, make sure it’s updated or consider purchasing a new one. Your router may not be capable of handling the speeds you need

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