Best Internet Speed for Streaming

Lara Vukelich
August 11, 2020

Streaming media has become a daily part of life for many Americans. In 2019, 62% of adults in the U.S. said they subscribed to some type of streaming service for movies, TV or music.  

In this guide, we’ll give you tips on how to determine what speeds you need for different types of streaming and which internet service providers offer those speeds. 

The best internet speed for streaming depends on the type of streaming you will be doing. We have broken this down into three types of streaming users: basic-, moderate- and high-bandwidth users and recommended internet speeds from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The basic user streams things like Hulu, Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video and other subscription libraries. This type of streaming user will need download speeds between 3 and 18 Mbps depending on the video quality they desire with standard definition (SD) having the lowest Mbps requirement and 4K high definition having the highest Mbps requirement. 

The moderate user may stream from subscription libraries like the basic user, but will also have a need for live streaming through providers like Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Twitch, etc. This user may also need to upload content to live streams for things like vlogging. The moderate user will need download speeds between 3 and 50 Mbps and upload speeds between 3 and 41 Mbps depending on their specific needs. 

The heavy user will sometimes use subscription libraries, but may spend most of their time live streaming through providers like Hulu Live, YouTube TV, Sling TV, Twitch, etc. Those who are online gamers fit into this user category. These users need fast download speeds, around 50 Mbps and upload speeds of around 13 Mbps. 

So, what is a good internet speed for streaming your favorite apps? Here are speeds needed for specific content types from the FCC.

Netflix

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Video5 Mbps13 Mbps

Amazon Prime

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Video18 Mbps16 Mbps

Vudu

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Video16 Mbps

YouTube

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Video5 Mbps13 Mbps

Hulu

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Video3 Mbps600 Kbps

Pandora

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Music96 to 320 kbps3 to 13 Mbps

Spotify

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Music96 to 320 kbps3 to 13 Mbps

Twitch

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Live Stream2 to 50 Mbps3 to 13 Mbps

YouTube Live

Type of StreamingRequired Download SpeedRequired Upload Speed
Live Stream2 to 50 Mbps3 to 13 Mbps

How Do I Get the Best Internet Speed? 

Once you’ve determined what internet speed you need, you’ll need to know how you can achieve those speeds. Should you consider satellite, DSL, cable or fiber internet? It is important to understand that all internet types are not created equal and may be limited based on your location.

Satellite internet

This type of internet may be suitable for a basic user and is sometimes the only option for those living in more rural areas. Satellite internet speeds depend on the satellite signal received at your specific location. The provider may offer speeds up to 100 Mbps but will not guarantee speeds above 1 Mbps, which may not be suitable for moderate- or high-bandwidth needs. 

DSL Internet

DSL stands for Digital Subscriber Line and operates through a telephone line. Though DSL often costs less than other types of internet, the speeds offered by DSL are often slower with providers like Verizon offering 0.5 to 15 Mbps. These speeds may be sufficient for a basic user but will not likely meet the needs of a moderate- or high-bandwidth user. 

Cable internet

Cable internet uses cable television lines and a cable modem to provide internet. Speeds for cable internet range from 20 Mbps and 100 Mbps. These speeds may be sufficient for all types of streaming depending on into which end of the range your speeds fall. 

Fiber internet

Fiber internet is offered through underground fiber-optic cables. Fiber is currently one of the fastest internet options available, with residential speeds up to 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps). Online gamers and other high-bandwidth streaming users may find that fiber internet is their most suitable option, if available. However, basic users should consider all cost options before selecting a fiber-optic internet provider that may have far more speed than is needed.  

Who is the Best Internet Provider for Streaming?

AT&T

With speeds up to 1,000 Mbps and no contract obligation, AT&T Fiber may be a good choice for internet users seeking high speeds with no strings attached. Their starting package price for fiber internet is $70/mo or $39.99/mo. if you chose to do a 12-month agreement. Although AT&T’s fiber availability is not currently offered in every state, AT&T continues to work to expand their coverage. They also offer DSL options with speeds ranging from 10 to 100 Mbps depending on the package and location. 

Comcast Xfinity

Comcast Xfinity offers cable internet packages and may be great for users seeking high speeds at low prices. Both packages are based on a 12-month agreement. Their lowest cost package is $24.99/mo. for up to 25 Mbps download speeds and their highest cost package is $295.95/mo. for up to 2,000 Mbps. With coverage in 11,344 U.S. cities, Comcast Xfinity has broad availability.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink’s highest speed internet option is their Fiber Gigabit plan with 940 Mbps offered for $65/mo. They also offer a DSL internet package for $49/mo. for speeds up to 100 Mbps. Neither package requires a contract and can be paid month-to-month. CenturyLink currently offers internet coverage in 16,160 cities in the U.S. 

Spectrum

Depending on location, Spectrum offers three main internet packages and availability in 13,600 U.S. cities. All Spectrum packages include a 12-month agreement with the lowest cost package at $49.99/mo. for speeds of 200 Mbps or more. Their highest cost package is called Internet Gig and is $109.99/mo. with speeds of 940 Mbps or more. 

We supplied the data; now, the decision is yours.

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