What broadband speed do I need for streaming?

What broadband speed do I need for streaming?
(Image credit: Sean Locke / EyeEm)

Invested in that massive 4K and HDR TV only to find that your streaming of shows and movies results in lower quality video or, even worse, buffering? That could mean you need to check you have invested in the best broadband deals  and asked yourself "What broadband speed do I need for streaming?" before you even start to play with settings.

You might have Netflix, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and more but without the right broadband speed you can't take advantage of the 4K, HDR, HLG, Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision quality streams that these platforms have to offer. 

So, what sort of speed do you need to go for to make sure your streaming service is getting the most out of your device?

Why do I need fast broadband for streaming?

First up, take a broadband speed test to see how fast – or slow – your current connection is. Then you'll know what you might need to add to that to get you up and running properly.

If it's below 3Mb then you're going to struggle to get high-definition video, it's that simple. Without a decent bandwidth your streaming service will downgrade the quality in favour of keeping the video going.

That means you won't have to suffer a stop in the program, or see that buffering symbol of doom. But what it also means is you might be getting lower quality, in some cases without even realising.

It's one of those situations where you might watch it happily enough. But then when someone shows you what you could be watching, at full quality, you realise what you've been missing out on. 

How fast should my broadband be for streaming?

There are a variation of the speeds required for streaming each service but a good yardstick to measure off is Netflix as it's one of the most efficient when it comes to bandwidth use. 

Netflix says for 4K and HDR quality you'll need a connection of 25Mb. So you'll need a good quality fibre broadband connection to get that level.

Anything lower and you'll lose resolution, dynamic range and even things like Dolby support. The minimum requirements for Netflix, which are similar for other services, break down like this:

  • 25Mb   - 4K and HDR
  • 5Mb     - HD
  • 3Mb     - SD
  • 1.5Mb  - Recommended minimum
  • 0.5Mb  - Required minimum

What are my broadband options for streaming?

Not getting the ideal 25Mb connection level? It might be time to think about a change of broadband plan or even a switch of provider. 

There are lots of options out there for you to check out, from hard wired superfast BT broadband or Virgin Media broadband for maximum speeds where available. We're talking 300Mb and more, so that's plenty even for those with lots of people on the same Wi-Fi using the connection.

Not too sure which is best and want to get the cheapest but fastest in your area? We've taken the work out of searching for you in our fibre broadband deals feature.

Read more:

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Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.