Think back ten years ago before the concept of cutting the cord was mainstream and the idea of streaming services wasn’t much beyond a Netflix delivery-by-mail subscription with a small on-demand library as an afterthought.
Now in 2021, streaming has been in the mainstream for several years and every year millions of people are cancelling their cable subscriptions and switching to both on-demand streaming or live-TV streaming services like Hulu, Sling, Fubo, YouTube TV, and more.
So if you’re here, fitting the above profile with streaming now your predominant source of home entertainment, you might be wondering what internet is best for streaming TV, we’ve got lots of great options below.
How much internet do I need for streaming?
This can be answered in a few ways.
For somewhere between one and two active users at a time:
- For BARE MINIMUM streaming, you will want at least 3 Mbps download speeds from your ISP. This will make it at least serviceable to watch a show in a non-4k or HD format without any buffering.
- For HD streaming, you’re going to want at least 10 Mbps. This will allow you to stream most shows and movies available on your favorite streaming service without noticing any real buffering outside of the rare occasion.
- For 4K streaming, you’ll need north of 25 Mbps to make sure the video not only delivers at its highest quality but also doesn’t get stuck buffering or decreasing in quality when lower speeds are detected.
- For live TV streams, you’re going to want around 10 Mbps or more to ensure that you don’t struggle with lags and buffering issues while trying to watch things like live sports or one of your favorite series.
For multiple users (think a family across multiple devices or a house full of roommates):
- Bare minimum is going to be likely above 50 Mbps to ensure minimal buffering across the multiple devices being used at once.
- We’d recommend you look for an internet connection north of 100 Mbps for average quality across multiple devices where you won’t feel throttled if everyone is home and connected to the internet with some data-heavy service (Zoom, YouTube, Netflix, etc).
- If you want to make sure you never have any problems, look for something north of 500 Mbps to really make sure gaming, streaming, teleconferencing, and more will never see buffering or service disruptions.
Keep in mind if you’re looking at advertised speeds on most ISPs, they are going to be advertising their top speeds. You’ll want to make sure you’re checking on what the average speed is in your area for each internet service provider you’re considering.
Below you can see some top-end internet speeds we have seen across the major ISPs available in your area for streaming:
|Up to 2000 Mbps
|Up to 940 Mbps
|Up to 945 Mbps
|Up to 940 Mbps
|Up to 940 Mbps
|6 Dish Network
|In most areas
|Up to 1.5 Mbps
|In most areas
What type of internet is best for streaming?
It’s a pretty simple ranking of the types of internet that perform best, as they offer the highest speeds in comparison with other types. You can see them ranked below:
- Fiber internet – the speeds offered across fiber networks are absolutely crushing competition, allowing users to stream on multiple devices, game, browse the internet and more with limited disruption.
- Cable internet – cable is competitive with fiber until you’re talking about the absolute limit of what is needed for streaming (multiple devices on 4K, multiple streams all at once, etc).
- DSL internet – once the winner of high speed internet, DSL has lost some of its luster with speed caps that are still serviceable, but lagging behind fiber and cable.
- Satellite internet – depending on where you’re located in the US, satellite is sometimes you’re only option. Most providers will offer decent speeds, but in some areas they can be intermittent and spotty.
Streaming Internet Usage FAQ
Does WiFi disrupt streaming quality?
WiFi in theory shouldn’t have much of an affect on your download speeds, which means streams shouldn’t be affected either. That being said, poor WiFi connections are common and can directly decrease the quality and speeds at which you’re able to stream. Make sure you maintain a strong WiFi signal when you stream, and keep an eye on your connection quality.
Other things to keep in mind:
- Check your router and give it a reset every once in a while to ensure you’re on a fresh connection before a major binge session.
- Replace your router every five years or so as technologies improve and equipment, unfortunately, suffers quality decreases.
How many streams can I have going at once?
Estimating that most streams are currently somewhere between HD and 4K quality, we recommend no more than 2-4 streams going at once in the same household based on your current average internet speeds. If you’re streaming 4x devices at 4K quality, you’re going to easily eat up the 100 Mbps averages most consumers are seeing around the US these days.
Do all the streaming services use the same amount of broadband?
Most services offer HD quality video or better (Netflix has an increasing amount of 4K content), and even higher quality video is likely on the way in the near future.
But because most major streaming services automatically adjust based on current internet download speeds, you shouldn’t have to worry about broadband usage across services, they’ll all float somewhere around 10-25 Mbps, well below current national averages for major ISPs.