What internet speed do you need for streaming movies?

What internet speed do you need for streaming movies?

By: Shell Energy

30 Jul 2020

The UK was already on its way to becoming a nation of streamers before COVID-19. Almost half of homes had access to Netflix, Amazon Prime and other forms of streaming services. However, with the lockdown in full effect, internet speeds were tested like never before as an increasing number of people turned to streaming for their entertainment kicks.

Even with lockdown restrictions easing, it’s unlikely that streaming services will get much let up – especially as they’re accessible from multiple devices, such as Smart TVs, phones and tablets. But if you’re planning on watching a movie or TV series, what internet speeds do you need to enjoy them hassle-free on your streaming service?

In this guide, we’re taking a deep dive into the world of internet speeds and streaming. Discover the ideal bandwidth needed for watching movies on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime and more.

What broadband speeds do you need to watch content on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime?

Fortunately, you don’t need blistering-fast internet to watch content on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Internet speeds are broken down into two categories: download and upload. Download is typically the advertised speed.

Upload speeds don’t need to be as fast as downloads, so they’re not mentioned at the same frequency. When it comes to download speeds for Netflix, it needs a minimum of 3Mbps (megabytes per second) for standard streaming and 5Mbps for high definition (HD).

For upload speeds, Netflix needs around 1.5Mbps for standard streaming and 2.5mbps for HD. Amazon Prime requires slightly slower download speeds, needing 0.9Mbps for standard streaming and 3.5Mbps for HD. It needs an upload speed of 0.4Mpbs and 1.7Mbps for standard and HD, respectively.

The average UK internet connection speed is 64Mbps (that’s the download speed), and most services offer fibre broadband. That means if your speeds fall within the average, you should have very few issues watching content on the most popular streaming services.


How does bandwidth allowance affect the ability to stream movies?

You may hear a lot about internet bandwidth without ever really knowing what it means. In layman’s terms, it’s the maximum amount of data transmitted over an internet connection in a given amount of time.

Streaming involves downloading content from a server, and bandwidth impacts the quality of the video that you see. Streaming an hour of HD content takes up around 2 gigabytes (GB) of bandwidth, while watching a two-hour movie uses 4GB.

Recently, the EU decided to throttle Netflix quality so it could keep up with demand during the lockdown. Subsequently, Netflix reduced bandwidth for customers by 25% for 30 days during the Covid-19 crisis. Initially, the decision annoyed many of Netflix’s customers. However, they quickly saw the necessity behind the move as it allowed a greater number of people to enjoy streaming content during the lockdown.


Which streaming services offer the best quality? 

From Netflix to Disney+, there’s a wealth of options for watching your favourite TV shows and movies. Consumers have never had it so good. So much choice, however, can be slightly overwhelming - which is why it’s worth knowing the quality of each streaming service.


Average upload and download speed for streaming services in HD

  • Netflix: 5Mbps download and 2.5Mbps upload
  • Amazon Prime: 3.5Mbps download and 1.7Mbps upload
  • Disney+: 5Mbps download and 2.5Mbps upload
  • BBC iPlayer: 5Mbps download and 2.5Mbps upload
  • NowTV: 2.5Mbps download and 1.2Mbps upload


The speeds you need if you’re a movie buff

The majority of homes around the UK have good internet speeds, so you shouldn’t run into many streaming problems. Netflix minimum speeds, for example, are at the lower end of the spectrum.

If you want to enjoy a movie on your streaming services, download speeds above 5Mbps will see you comfortably streaming in HD with no buffering problems. The ideal Netflix download speed in 4K is around 25Mbps, which is still well below the average of 64Mbps.

A fibre internet connection of 25Mbps or faster will give you the best quality picture and uninterrupted streaming, meaning you can enjoy all the great shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime and BBC iPlayer without any issues.


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