Even if you only have a basic idea of how 4K works, you are bound to know the video resolution’s data requirements are generally on the high side.
An hour of 4K streaming on Netflix gulps about 7 Gbps of data. To transport 7 gigabytes of digital information in an hour, you can imagine the per-second data transmission rate.
If you barely managed to stream Full HD or 720p content without buffering on your existing Wi-Fi connection, seamlessly streaming 4K video on it would be a distant dream.
So, what are the data requirements for 4K streaming over Wi-Fi? Let’s talk about that in this article. Also, if you’re wondering, can you stream 4K over Wi-Fi? We’ll discuss that too.
Keep reading to learn the facts and stats.
- Is Wi-Fi Good Enough For 4K Content Streaming?
- How Much Bandwidth Would 4K Streaming Use?
- How To Tell If My Wi-Fi Can Stream 4K Content?
- Two Common Problems With Streaming 4K Over Wi-Fi
- How To Improve My Wi-Fi To Stream 4K Content?
Is Wi-Fi Good Enough For 4K Content Streaming?
Generally, a Wi-Fi connection is snappy enough for 4K streaming. But there are contingencies—namely connection type, speed, Wi-Fi standard, etc. (More on the Wi-Fi type and speed later).
Not all Wi-Fi standards do 4K streaming. Based on the protocol, the speed, frequency, and range differ.
Here is a table showcasing the Wi-Fi standards that are fast enough for 4K streaming:
|Wi-Fi 1/IEEE 802.11a||5/3.7||54 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi 3/IEEE 802.11g||2.4||54 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi 4/IEEE 802.11n||2.4/5||600 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi 5/IEEE 802.11ac||2.4/5||450 to 1,300 Mbps|
|IEEE 802.11ad (WiGig)*||60||6.7 Gbps|
|IEEE 802.11ah (HaLow)||0.9||347 Mbps|
|Wi-Fi 6/IEEE 802.11ax||2.4/5||450 to 10.53 Gbps|
*Also called 60 GHz Wi-Fi, WiGig denotes a group of 60 GHz wireless network standards. It comprises IEEE 802.11ad and the imminent IEEE 802.11ay protocol.
Ookla Speedtest numbers (December 2021) indicate America’s mean broadband download speed is 211.4 Mbps, and the median score is 136.5 Mbps. Those speeds are fast enough to manage multiple 4K streaming activities simultaneously.
How Much Bandwidth Would 4K Streaming Use?
Let’s answer the most crucial question.
If you have a 5Mbps Wi-Fi connection, forget about 4K streaming over Wi-Fi. In fact, even a 10 Mbps Internet connection cannot guarantee Full HD streaming without pausing/buffering.
According to Netflix, 4K streaming requires a minimum Internet speed of 25 Mbps. But a 25 Mbps broadband connection still doesn’t guarantee stutter-free 4K streaming.
If only one device (your 4K television) uses the particular Wi-Fi, 25Mbps speed will work fine.
But if you have two or more devices connected to the same Wi-Fi and are streaming 4K content on one of them, you’d need a bandwidth of more than 25 Mbps.
A speed of 50 to 100 Mbps shall suit most households that do 4K streaming, online gaming, streaming music, etc., all at the same time.
With 100 Mbps, you can pretty much rest assured that there won’t be any streaming issues. Anything more than 100 Mbps is usually overkill—unless you’ve got a fully connected house (smart thermostat, smart lock, smart speaker, etc.).
Opt for Higher Speeds
Even with just one device connected to Wi-Fi, sign up for an Internet plan that offers more than 25 Mbps. You never know when that additional bandwidth will come in handy.
Moreover, the internet packages most ISPs offer don’t guarantee advertised speeds. They only claim to offer “up to” a certain speed. For instance, if you’ve bought a 50 Mbps plan, 50 Mbps on the connection is not a constant but represents the highest end of the spectrum.
The speed could drop below 50 Mbps at any time. At times you may even get more than 50 Mbps, but those are rare occurrences.
How To Tell If My Wi-Fi Can Stream 4K Content?
Perhaps, the first thing you must do to check whether your Wi-Fi can stream 4K is learn more about its speed and bandwidth capabilities.
Internet speed is the rate at which the data moves, and bandwidth is how much information moves at a particular speed simultaneously.
Watch this video for a more bare-bones explanation:
Let’s learn or perform certain tasks to confirm your Wi-Fi can handle 4K streaming.
Know About Your Internet Connection Type
There are primarily three types of wired Internet connections: DSL, cable, and fiber optics.
Fiber internet offers speeds of up to 1Gbps or more. Even 10Gbps is a possibility with fiber internet.
Cable internet is capable of up to 1,000Mbps of bandwidth. DSL usually tops out at 100Mbps as it uses old telephone lines.
Cable internet employs coaxial cables, which are newer and capable of greater bandwidth.
Make sure your connection is fiber or at least of the cable internet type. If it’s DSL, it likely cannot stream 4K since the average speeds with DSL are usually significantly lower than 100 Mbps.
Use an Internet Speed-Testing App
Once you have the hardware in place and the right Wi-Fi plan, check the connection’s speed on your phone or computer to confirm it crosses the 25Mbps threshold.
If on a web or mobile browser, head to the Speedtest website. The testing steps are pretty self-explanatory there. Fast, on the other hand, offers you almost instantaneous results.
Specific ISPs provide their own speed-testing tools: AT&T, Verizon, Spectrum, Cox, and Xfinity.
If your speed is barely 25Mbps, your connection is probably not fast enough for 4K streaming. This is because, as mentioned above, you usually do not have the entire 25Mbps of speed going to only one device or online activity.
You can also stream 4K content on Netflix to check your real-world Internet speeds.
Check Your Router
If you’ve signed up for a 100Mbps plan (which is quite sufficient for 4K streaming even with multiple devices connected) but still see compressed or buffered online 4K content, maybe your router is at fault.
But before changing your router, contact your ISP (internet service provider) to confirm router replacement since there could be other factors causing the improper data transfer.
Generally, your service provider leases you a router compatible with your Internet connection type and speed.
However, those devices are usually sub-par. Several users have reported an instant uptick in their internet speeds after replacing their ISP-provided routers.
If you are looking to replace the router given to you by your internet service provider with one of your own, ensure it’s approved or supported by your ISP for your specific Internet plan.
Kindly note, routers that worked well a couple of years ago may not cut it today. Wi-Fi tech keeps advancing, with every generation offering improved capabilities.
Old routers, as a result, may not comply with the newer protocols. In such scenarios, you will have to upgrade the setup.
The following are some of the latest and more advanced routers that support current Wi-Fi standards:
- Linksys MR8300 Mesh Wi-Fi 5 Router
- TP-Link AX1800 (Archer AX21) Wi-Fi 6 Router
- NETGEAR Nighthawk R7350 AC2400 Router
- Linksys EA7500 Dual-Band Wi-Fi Router
If you have a separate modem and router (and not the combined implementations), and an Ethernet cable connects the two, check your modem as well.
Two Common Problems With Streaming 4K Over Wi-Fi
The two major issues with streaming 4K over Wi-Fi are stability and reliability. And those are usually due to the following aspects:
Router and Device Distance
Distance between the Wi-Fi router and connected device determines the quality of the signal and, therefore, the streaming.
If the signal strength is weak due to the physical gap between the two devices, the 4K streaming experience won’t be optimal.
In that case, a Wi-Fi range extender like the TP-Link AC750 Wi-Fi Extender may be beneficial.
Peak Streaming Hours
4K streaming quality is not always within your direct control.
If watching 4K content online during peak hours or when the particular streaming service provider’s servers are inundated with requests, your stream is highly likely to be impacted.
Using an Ethernet cable could help address such bottlenecks since its latency is relatively less. There’s slightly more delay with signals traveling back and forth between your wireless router and Wi-Fi device.
The lower latency with wired Ethernet connections becomes more apparent during peak online traffic periods.
How To Improve My Wi-Fi To Stream 4K Content?
If you’ve got speedy broadband, capable hardware, and connected devices with the latest Wi-Fi standards built-in and still experience issues with 4K streaming, a few minor fixes may help.
Check Router Location
Ensure the router is in your house’s most central and optimal location.
A router positioned in the bedroom would have difficulty communicating with your 4K TV in the living room. The signal strength may not be good enough.
Wi-Fi signals can pass through walls, but the lesser the distance and obstructions (walls, ceilings, etc.) between the router and the TV, the more stable and reliable the connection.
Also, do not place the router inside a cabinet or closet.
Reboot Your Router
Reboot your wireless router once a day if you’re experiencing connection issues. At times, a simple device restart is all that you need to fix performance issues.
You may also restart your connected device just to ensure you’ve covered all the bases.
Also, make sure your router’s firmware is up to date. An updated firmware helps with both performance and security.
1. Which Wi-Fi Band Is Better To Stream 4K Content?
4K streaming works best on the 5 GHz band.
There are two radio frequency bands for Wi-Fi: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. 5 GHz has much snappier data transmission than 2.4 GHz, with 23 non-overlapping channels. 2.4 GHz has only three.
The 5 GHz band also supports fast data transmission standards (MU-MIMO), beamforming (a signal-processing/boosting technique), and other modern Wi-Fi tech standards.
Refer to the table above for Wi-Fi standards that support 5 GHz frequency. 2.4 GHz, on the other hand, is relevant because it’s got a better range.
2. Should You Plug In or Go Wireless for 4K Streaming?
An Ethernet connection is superior to Wi-Fi any day, especially for data-intensive tasks such as 4K streaming. You could liken it to how wired audio is better than Bluetooth listening.
Ethernet is invariably more reliable, stable, and secure since it has much fewer interference issues than Wi-Fi.
A wired connection also means lower latency and better speed. On some networks, Wi-Fi could be slow. An Ethernet setup usually addresses that.
Using an Ethernet cable makes more sense if you have a desktop or stationary setup. Wi-Fi is more suited to laptops, smartphones, and other mobile devices.
That said, Wi-Fi is getting better, and the real-world performance differences between wired and wireless internet aren’t as significant as they were a few years ago, thanks to new protocols such as 802.11n and 802.11ac.
With broadband connections and speeds continually improving, seamless 4K video streaming is not as big a problem as it was some time ago. Thanks to fiber-optic Internet, most urban households get more than 25 Mbps on average.
If you’re someone who lives in the outskirts or remote places, you may have trouble streaming 4K content. Thankfully, Internet speeds have gotten better even in regions where 5 or 10 Mbps wasn’t readily available a few years ago.
Contact your ISP if your data speeds are not up to snuff for online 4K video playback. You can always switch providers if your current provider doesn’t offer speeds over 25 Mbps or if their higher-speed plans are comparatively expensive.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.