What broadband speed do I need for streaming?

Roku TV on wall in living room setting
(Image credit: Roku)

Streaming services such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime provide people with the freedom to watch whatever content they want whenever they want to watch it. As a result, streaming has become the standard way for people from younger generations in particular to watch TV and films.  

If you're looking for a new cheap broadband deal but are unsure what speeds you'll need to stream your favourite TV shows and movies online, this guide can help. 

We've also outlined the speeds you'll need to stream music, go on video calls and play your favourite games. Read on for all the details! 

What is streaming? 

In essence, streaming involves watching video content directly on the internet without the need to download any files. Streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime can be accessed on a smartphone or tablet, on a smart TV, or by connecting a media streaming device to a regular TV.

In this respect, streaming is different from live TV. This is because streaming allows you to choose what you want to watch at a time that suits you best. Plus, streaming also allows you to pause, rewind, and fast forward whenever you like. 

Similarly, as streaming doesn't require any downloading, it doesn't require much storage on your device and you can start watching your programme from the moment you press play.

However, although streaming provides a lot of advantages, there are drawbacks you need to be aware of as well. For example, you'll need to pay to access streaming services such as Netflix or Disney Plus. Similarly, you'll also need a reliable internet connection to avoid experiencing lag, buffering, or other connection errors. Put simply, if your internet connection isn't fast and stable, you may struggle to watch the shows you love. 

What broadband speed do I need for streaming? 

You'll be pleased to hear that your internet speed doesn't have to be extremely fast if all you're looking to do is stream your favourite shows and movies. 

The recommended minimum speed for streaming programmes online ranges from 1.5Mbps up to 25Mbps, depending on the streaming platform you use and the level of definition you want to stream in.

While you can stream in standard definition on even the most basic internet packages, high definition and ultra-high definition streaming both place significant demands on your broadband. For example, while you may only need 3Mbps to stream in SD, you'll likely need at least 5Mbps for HD streaming and 25Mbps for ultra HD streaming. 

However, you should keep in mind that these are the minimum recommended speeds. This means that they don’t take into account the fact that other devices will likely be using your connection at the same time. For example, if you're streaming on Netflix, your partner may also be scrolling on their social media profiles or your roommate may be on a video call. All these activities are also using your internet's bandwidth. 

As a result, if you live in a household with multiple people or have a number of connected devices, then you’ll need much more bandwidth than just the minimum recommended amount. As a general rule, you should look for an internet package that provides an average download speed that's twice the amount you need to stream. So, if your research reveals you need 5Mbps to stream in HD, we recommend that you choose a package that provides you with average download speeds of at least 10Mbps. 

Luckily, most of the fibre internet packages on the market today allow people to stream in HD on multiple devices simultaneously, so this shouldn't be an issue. However, cheaper ADSL packages may struggle in this instance. 

What broadband speed do I need to stream movies and TV shows? 

Above we've given you a general idea of the speeds required to stream content from streaming providers like Netflix. However, these are just a general guide and different providers recommend different minimum speeds for streaming TV shows and movies on their apps.

With this in mind, here are the minimum speeds each provider states you'll need to receive if you wish to stream in standard definition, high definition and full HD. As long as your internet provides you with the average speeds listed below, you'll receive what these providers call 'consistent performance', which means you'll avoid buffering.

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ServiceSD SpeedHD SpeedFull HD
BBC iPlayer1.5Mbps2.8MbpsNot available
Amazon Prime Video0.9Mbps5Mbps25Mbps
YouTube2.5Mbps (720p)5Mbps20Mbps
NOW TV2.5Mbps12MbpsNot available
Disney+Not available5Mbps25Mbps
Apple TV+8MbpsNot available25Mbps


(Image credit: RichLegg)

What broadband speed do I need to stream music? 

If you're only looking to stream music online, then you won't need download speeds that are quite as quick. However, you need to remember that if one person in your household is streaming TV shows while the other is listening to music on Spotify, you'll need to combine the minimum download speeds required as you'll both be using bandwidth simultaneously. 

Different music service providers also recommend different minimum speed requirements. These are: 

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ServiceMinimum Speed
Spotify (Mobile)0.96Mbps
Spotify (Desktop)0.160Mbps
Google Play Music0.320Mbps
Apple Music (iTunes)0.256
Amazon Music Unlimited0.5Mbps

What broadband speed do I need for video calling? 

During the pandemic, video calling services such as Skype and Zoom experienced a boom. Now, these services are part of our everyday lives - particularly those of us who regularly work from home. 

Generally speaking, if you need to use these apps, you'll usually need upload and download speeds of around 3Mbps. In this scenario, you need strong upload and download speeds because your connection sends and receives data simultaneously. 

Here are the minimum download and upload speeds you’ll need for each service: 

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TypeRecommended Download SpeedRecommended Upload Speed
Skype (HD 1-1 video call)1.2Mbps1.2Mbps
Zoom HD group video call2.5Mbps3.0Mbps

What broadband speed do I need for gaming? 

Like video calling, online gaming also puts a strain on your broadband because it requires strong upload and download speeds.

If you want to play multi-player games online with your friends, then you'll need a connection that's both fast and stable. If your connection isn't stable, it will lead to latency and packet loss. This means you'll receive slow response times during gameplay (essentially, the car you're driving may not turn when you want it to or a gun may not fire until half a second after you press the trigger). 

The majority of games consoles require a minimum download speed of at least 3Mbps and a minimum upload speed of at least 2Mbps. Here's the minimum download speed you'll require to play on your chosen console without interruption: 

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ServiceMinimum Download Speed
Xbox One3Mbps
Xbox Series S3Mbps
Xbox Series X3Mbps
PlayStation 4N/A (estimated 3Mbps)
PlayStation 5N/A (estimated 3Mbps)
Nintendo Switch3Mbps
Nintendo Wii U1.5Mbps

Similarly, over the past few years, the concept of live-streaming has also become increasingly popular. If you're unaware, live-streaming games across the internet effectively involves a person broadcasting their own video using a provider like Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook Live or Twitch. 

In this scenario, upload speeds are just as important as download speeds. As a general rule, live-streaming services usually require an upload speed of at least 1.6Mbps to live-stream in SD. 

When it comes to 'low HD', upload speeds usually need to reach at least 3-3.5Mbps. Meanwhile, 'True HD' generally requires an upload speed of 3.5Mbps or above, although YouTube recommends 6Mbps. 

Finally, Twitch recommends an upload speed of 6Mbps for high-quality, slow-motion 1080p, and recommends an upload speed between 9-13Mbps for faster live-stream content.

How do I check my broadband speed? 

Concerned your current broadband connection doesn't provide you with the speeds required to stream your favourite shows on Netflix or play games online? Well, the first thing you should do is conduct a broadband speed test. This will show you the exact speeds you're currently receiving. 

The good news is that if you currently have a fibre broadband deal, then the speed you're receiving should be relatively close to the speed that was advertised when you signed your contract. This is because the fibre cables used for this type of connection don't allow the signal to weaken no matter how far you are away from the cabinet.  

However, if you're relying on an ADSL connection that's delivered down the copper wires used by your existing phone line, then the speed you're receiving will likely be determined by how far you live from your local telephone exchange.

Do I need to worry about how much data I'm using?

The answer is likely to be no. Today, the vast majority of broadband contracts come with unlimited data. This means you can stream, download and game to your heart's content. 

However, you should check the details of your contract (particularly if you have a 4G broadband or 5G broadband deal) because some packages do still come with data limits. 

It's worth knowing that Netflix uses around 1GB of data for every hour of streaming, but this rises to 3GB if you’re streaming in HD and 7GB if you're streaming in UHD. As a result, if you have a data limit, then streaming could very quickly use all of your allocated data and leave you without a connection. 

How do I find a new broadband deal with faster speeds?

Looking for a new broadband package that will allow you to stream on multiple devices simultaneously or help power your live streams? Luckily, the process of finding the best deal for you (at the lowest possible price) is simple. 

All you need to do is pop your postcode into the widget below. Using this information, we can show you the best broadband deals in the area from the country's leading providers. No matter whether you're looking for an entry level fibre package that will support basic streaming or a 'Full Fibre' FTTP package that will make UHD streaming and downloading simple, we can show the best options available in only a couple of clicks. 

Alternatively, if you're looking for some buying advice and would like some help finding the best broadband package for your needs, visit our best broadband deals page. 

Tom Brook

Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over a decade of experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.