What Internet Speed Do You Need for Streaming Video?

internet speed for streaming

The rise of services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others have given consumers the ability to stream high definition movies and TV shows directly to the device of their choice. A question that pops up all the time here at CutCableToday is how fast does your Internet need to be to stream video? In this guide, we are going to debunk the myths and get you the facts about Internet speed, bandwidth, and how it effects your video streaming capabilities. Learn all about internet speed for streaming and more in the guide below!

When it comes to internet speed, the reality is that the faster, the better. However, there are some basic speed requirements that your ISP will need to meet in order for you to enjoy streaming video. The very minimum internet speed for streaming is 0.5 Mbps. In the guide below, we’ll dive into more detail to explain what this means and how you can ensure you have an enjoyable streaming experience.


What is Bandwidth?

Bandwidth is the rate at which data can be transferred to your device from a website or service, within a specific time. So the amount of bandwidth you have will determine how fast a web page loads, or how long it takes to download files. Generally speaking, bandwidth is a fancy word for Internet speed, and the more bandwidth you have, the faster your Internet activity will be.

Bandwidth is measured in bits per second, and all streaming services require similar Internet speed for streaming. For the purposes of this article, we will be looking at the required Internet speed for Netflix as a baseline since Netflix is one of the more widely used streaming services. If you use other streaming services, don’t fret – most of them require similar speeds. Below are the Internet download speeds per stream necessary for playing TV shows and movies with Netflix.


What Is the Required Internet Speed for Streaming?

  • 0.5 Mbps – minimum Internet speed for streaming

  • 1.5 Mbps – recommended Internet speed for streaming

  • 3.0 Mbps – recommended Internet speed for Standard Definition (480) streaming

  • 5.0 Mbps – recommended Internet speed for High Definition (1080) streaming

  • 25 Mbps – recommended Internet speed for Ultra High Definition (4K) streaming

Naturally, higher quality video uses more bandwidth than lower quality video. Different services will have slightly different requirements, but the above provides a good guideline.


Check Your Speed

You can check the speed of your Internet by using Ookla’s online speed test. This will give you your download and upload speeds. Most people are probably more concerned with their download speed (and this tends to be the speed ISP’s advertise), as download speed impacts things like streaming Netflix and downloading files. Upload speed is important to consider if you post lots of photos or upload videos to YouTube.


Some Things to Remember

Streaming services quote their bandwidth requirements as per stream, and most state that the Internet speed required to watch a program in high definition is 5.0 Mbps per stream. This means that if you are watching something in HD in one room, and someone else is watching something else in HD in another room, the required bandwidth to simultaneously stream those two programs is 10 Mbps.

Streaming video can chew up a lot of data very quickly. If your Internet Service Provider imposes a data cap, you can manually change the video quality to low or medium in the options setting of various services in order to consume less data.

Keep in mind that live streaming services like SlingTV, Playstation Vue, MLB.TV, etc may require a slightly faster connection than on-demand streaming like Netflix. Always check the recommended bandwidth requirements for each service that you subscribe to.



Now that you have a better idea as to what Internet speed you’ll need for streaming, compare your local Internet Service Providers with our handy search tool. Simply pop in your Zip Code and see a breakdown of the providers in your area. We’ll break down the differing features and compare their advertised speeds.

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Eric Brantner

Eric Brantner is a contributing editor for CutCableToday. Email him at eric@cutcabletoday.com or follow him on Twitter @Eric_Scribblrs.
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1 Comment on "What Internet Speed Do You Need for Streaming Video?"

  1. wayne broadstone | June 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm |

    One of the critical issues that is always neglected by the internet sellers is they never discuss the amount of the data cap. Speed is important, to be sure. However, the data limit is also critical due to the enormous amount of data use in streaming videos. Why do internet providers avoid this critical factor?

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