Internet speed for streaming tv and movies: how much do you need?

by | Aug 8, 2023

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In simple terms, the higher the numbers, the better the image resolution and the more internet speed required for streaming. The lowest quality images you’ll typically encounter are 480p resolution, but resolutions of 1080p and higher are now more common. To better determine your needs, consider the following minimum download speeds for streaming TV and movies:

  • 480p (SD): 4 Mbps. Modern videos have higher-quality pictures than this, but you may sometimes encounter a standard definition resolution. For instance, if your streaming internet speeds aren’t fast enough to support modern resolutions, some services may downgrade the quality of your videos to SD to allow them to play.
  • 1080p (FHD): 8 Mbps. Short for “full high definition,” FHD is the baseline resolution for many modern devices. If you want to stream TV shows and movies as they’re intended to be seen, you need enough speed to stream FHD videos without any issues.
  • 4K (UHD): 25 Mbps. Many newer devices feature “ultra high definition” displays that offer even more detail—and require much faster download speeds for streaming—than 1080p screens. As technology advances, look for 4K streaming and content to become the norm.
  • Other resolutions. You may come across different streaming resolutions, such as 720p (HD) and 2K (QHD). As the names suggest, 720p falls between SD and FHD for quality and required speed, while 2K sits between FHD and UHD.

Internet speed required for streaming live & on-demand TV

Women streaming tv on tablet while on couch eating popcorn.

Another critical factor in determining the internet speed you need to stream TV is how you view the content. Are you watching an on-demand video like a Netflix series, or streaming a live broadcast? In general, live broadcasts require more bandwidth than video on demand (VOD).

Suppose you’re streaming a live TV broadcast to follow a news story in real-time. If your internet speed for streaming TV can’t keep up with the live action, buffering can occur, putting you out of sync. Imagine you’re streaming an awards show, waiting to see if your favorite actor is the winner. Your internet lags, and a text from a friend spoils the outcome. Or maybe you’re streaming the big game live and miss the winning play because your connection slows to a crawl.

VOD allows you to adjust the video quality if your streaming internet speeds aren’t sufficient. Broadcast signals for live events can’t always offer the same variable quality, so make sure your connection provides enough Mbps for streaming TV if you want to go this route.

When determining what internet speed you need to stream TV, aim for a connection that provides twice as much speed as the recommendations for VOD of the same quality.

What speed internet do I need to stream TV and movies?

While “less is more” may be true in many scenarios, streaming TV isn’t one of them. Keep in mind that the minimum recommended speeds are just that. They don’t represent the best internet speeds for streaming movies or TV shows. And these speeds generally correspond to a single device on a connection that isn’t doing anything else.

To enjoy your viewing experience at its fastest and clearest, look for streaming internet speeds that exceed the minimum requirements. That’s especially true if you simultaneously use your connection for other activities. Suppose you want to binge your favorite show on your computer while other household members are playing games online or working from a home office. In that case, you’ll need more bandwidth.

Take our assessment quiz to learn how much bandwidth you need and how fiber can power your online life.

Content Disclaimer - All content is for informational purposes only, may require user’s additional research, and is provided “as is” without any warranty, condition of any kind (express or implied), or guarantee of outcome or results. Use of this content is at user’s own risk. All third-party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with Quantum Fiber. If Quantum Fiber products and offerings are referenced in the content, they are accurate as of the date of issue. Quantum Fiber services are not available everywhere. Quantum Fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location but, in limited circumstances, Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds. ©2024 Q Fiber, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quantum, Quantum Fiber and Quantum Fiber Internet are trademarks of Quantum Wireless LLC and used under license to Q Fiber, LLC.

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