Good internet speeds are determined (and sometimes restricted) by individual needs and location of where your services are needed. For example, if your household is located in a rural area, chances are you might have a cap on the maximum speeds available for your household because of the networking infrastructure built in your area.
* You can't download films or TV programmes to Apple TV, smart TVs or streaming devices. You can only download HDR content to certain iPhone, iPad and iPod touch models. You can't download 4K video content to any device.
You may want to upgrade your download speed plan to make sure your signal is strong enough to get good Wi-Fi for streaming if you work from home or have friends over to watch movies often so there is enough for every device and person.
The average internet speed across the nation is around 100 Mbps, but some fiber internet providers have built networks that can reach up to 1 gigabit per second (1,000 Mbps) or more. They even offer symmetrical internet speeds where your upload speed matches your download speed.
You can check your current internet speeds using a speed test to see if you have good Internet and Wi-Fi for streaming. If your speed test results don't look as fast as what you need, see if you can get a deal on upgrading your download speed. Or check out our recommendations for the best internet service providers.
Streaming puts the power to choose entertainment on your terms instead of relying on a cable TV service or renting a movie or game. However, to stream content effectively to the devices you have in your home, one key factor must be assessed: your internet speed. This guide provides a closer look at how bandwidth and speed matter when streaming content, what rates you may need for streaming through different platforms, and more valuable insight into streaming.
In terms of the internet, bandwidth refers to the rate at which data is transferred. The abbreviation Mbps (megabits per second) is used in reference to the actual rate at which the data is transferred. Internet speeds are often displayed by internet service providers (ISPs) in terms of upload and download speeds. Download speeds are significant when streaming, but upload speeds can be critical when data is being sent, such as with gaming.
Spotify offers music and video streaming, both of which have different speed requirements. For standard music streaming, you need at least 384Kbps (kilobits per second, which equates to just over 0.33Mbps), while lossless quality requires at least 2Mbps. For video streaming, you will need between 0.5 and 1Mbps for SD and between 3 and 5Mbps for high-definition streaming (HD).
Netflix recommends different download speeds depending on content quality. For SD quality, 1Mbps will work, but Netflix notes that a faster connection will mean improved video quality. HD streaming requires between 3 and 5Mbps, and 4K/Ultra HD (UHD) requires 15Mbps.
Twitch offers a combination of interactive live streaming options, including gaming, music, and standard video. Twitch recommends between 3 and 6Mbps, depending on the preferred video quality. For example, if you want video quality in 1080p at 60 frames per second (fps) for gaming, you would likely need 6Mbps of internet speed.
Amazon Prime Video recommends a download speed of at least 1Mbps for streaming, which will work for SD content. For HD content, you may need up to 5Mbps or 4K Ultra HD, you need up to 15Mbps. Prime Video is also said to automatically adjust video quality based on the bandwidth you have available at any given time.
For basic video streaming on YouTube, you only need an internet connection with .5Mbps. However, to stream movies and TV shows, you will need different sustained speeds depending on the preferred video resolution. For SD, you will need between 0.7 and 1.1Mbps, whereas you will need between 2.5 and 5Mbps for HD, and for 4K streaming, YouTube recommends at least 20Mbps. To watch live streams, higher speeds are recommended, but the quality will automatically adjust according to the available bandwidth.
AT&T Fiber is one option for high levels of streaming, such as if you stream on multiple devices at once or primarily rely on streaming content instead of cable TV. Their lower-tier plan with 300Mbps at $55/month is an option for basic streaming needs. However, AT&T also offers w and 5Gbps speeds in some areas with no data caps. The 2Gbps plan is $110/month, and the 5Gbps plan is $180/month.
Xfinity is a cable internet provider with multiple plans available. For example, the Gigabit Extra plan gives customers in the Central US up to 1200Mbps download speed for $75/month for 12 months. This ISP does require a one-year commitment for customers in certain service areas, and after 12 months, plan prices will increase.
If you have to rely on a mobile internet provider and have good 5G infrastructure in your area, a few wireless phone providers may be an option. For example, Verizon LTE Home internet offers 25 to 50Mbps download speeds with no data caps and generally consistent speeds. If you are already a mobile customer through Verizon, you can sign up for LTE Home Internet for $25/month.
CenturyLink offers DSL and fiber internet depending on the area, and both types of internet can accommodate streaming. The basic Simply Unlimited Plan is $50/month with speeds up to 100Mbps. For CenturyLink Fiber internet, you get 940Mbps of download and upload speed for $65/month. The Simply Unlimited Internet plan from CenturyLink has a 1TB data cap and the Fiber Gigabit plan has unlimited data.
For 4K streaming, you may need as much as 25 Mbps of internet speed or more, depending on the streaming platform and devices being used. The reason you need such a high level of internet speed is because 4K streaming involves using five times the data as high-def streaming. In other words, it takes more data being transferred at faster speeds in order for you to see the higher resolution of 4K.
Testing your internet speed gives you an idea if you have enough bandwidth to support different types of streaming, and you have several options. For example, speedof.me and Google offer speed tests for free, and both give you a look at download and upload speeds for your connection.
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