Once you become accustomed to viewing 4K content, it’s almost hard to believe that we ever consumed anything less than 4K, and not too long ago at that.
There’s no doubt that the unmatched premium quality of 4K video is impressive and somewhat addictive. But it comes at a cost – high Internet usage.
What Internet speeds do you need to watch 4K videos? That’s what we seek to demystify below, so you can know how fast your Internet should be to stream 4K.
How Fast does your Internet Need to Be to Stream 4K Videos/Movies?
Tests show that it takes more than 16,000 kbit/s to stream 4K video.
As such, you need at least 25 Mbps (megabits per second) to stream 4K content. That’s the minimum download speed your Internet connection should have to play 4K videos or TV shows over the Internet.
The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) classifies streaming under high-demand applications and considers it a high-use activity. In its guidelines on household broadband service, the body recommends that one user logged onto one device use the Medium Service broadband tier, which is 12-25 Mbps.
Then for 2-4 users or devices, it advises you to choose the Advanced Service package, which is more than 25 Mbps.
The baseline Internet speeds that streaming platforms recommend mirror these FCC guidelines, as we’ll see below.
Note, however, that each streaming service gives a minimum Internet speed requirement, and this speed varies across the different platforms.
For example, to play 4K videos:
- Netflix requires you to have 25 Mbps.
- YouTube requires a sustained speed of 20 Mbps.
- Hulu requires 16 Mbps.
But there’s a lot more that can affect Internet speed. And so, even when you’re using the minimum required bandwidth as advised by your streaming service provider, you might not have the best streaming experience.
What could interfere with your Internet speed?
Things like the number of connected devices in your house can eat into your Internet bandwidth real quick. With three or more smart devices connected to the network, 25 Mbps, for instance, becomes a bit too little to support 4K streaming.
That’s because, beyond your TV and other smart video devices, all other smart technology in your house relies on your Internet connection to operate.
So it’s safe to say that the 25 Mbps recommended minimum speed might only be enough for a single user.
In fact, Hulu’s advisory to users explains that doing additional tasks on the Internet while simultaneously streaming videos or watching multiple shows/movies at the same time may require extra bandwidth.
The second thing that may affect your Internet speed is the increased demand for bandwidth.
This slowdown depends on the type of broadband and access technology you use—e.g., cable, fiber, satellite, and WiFi. And it occurs mainly during peak hours when there’s a spike in the number of Internet users connected to the network.
It can happen during after-work hours and weekends. If slow Internet during certain hours becomes a pain, consider upgrading your subscription to a higher-tier Internet package.
In addition to maintaining high Internet speeds, if using WiFi, you need a fast router.
A fast router provides, at ultra-high speeds, the bandwidth needed to download the high volumes of data you’re watching.
Not only that. It can handle two or more streaming devices, thereby reducing the likelihood of buffering or loading failure.
One more step you can take to ensure the router operates at optimal performance is checking for firmware updates regularly and updating the firmware to the latest release.
How to Test my Internet Speed?
There are many apps and websites that check connection speed, most of them for free.
Some streaming services like Netflix have connection speed checking technology built into their app. On most streaming apps, the speed checker is under Settings > Network.
For streaming platforms that don’t have an integrated connection speed checker, you can use any reputable free speed checker, like this Netflix-powered option.
It’s free, and you don’t need a Netflix subscription to use it. You don’t need to register or create an account to use it either.
The user-friendliest Internet speed checkers test your speed automatically when you open the webpage. But some may have a lengthier checking process.
You can try out different speed checkers to see which one you like best.
You may need to take the speed test often, especially if you’re experiencing challenges sustaining a constant minimum speed.
It may be that the Internet speed is better in different spots around your house. The best way to figure out if that’s the case is to test the speed at various points.
Just move your device to a random point in the room and test the speed from that location. Then move to a different spot and do the same.
Repeat in different rooms and on all floors if you live in a multi-storied house. You should also test your signal strength at varying times to identify whether you have peak hours.
After your test, you’ll be able to tell whether your connection is stronger in some areas than others.
And then, you can decide whether to reposition your devices to a spot where the signal is strong, upgrade your Internet subscription, or change Internet service providers (ISPs).
Is 50Mbps, 100Mbps, or 200Mbps fast enough for 4K streaming?
Some people claim they can only stream 4K videos at 200 Mbps. Others say they use 100 Mbps, while others say they comfortably stream using 50 Mbps.
Who is right?
Well, let’s find out by looking at how easy, if at all, it is to stream 4K videos on 50 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 200 Mbps.
1. Is 50 Mbps enough to stream 4K?
In most cases, you can stream 4K if you have a minimum speed of 50 Mbps.
Since many streaming services support 4K on 25 Mbps or less, you may also be able to stream 2-3, 4K videos. But that depends on your streaming service’s baseline speed requirements.
With YouTube, for instance, you get 4K at 20 Mbps. That means, with 50 Mbps, you can stream two videos and have some leftover bandwidth to use in other applications.
Such results, however, are only possible when your Internet speed is constant throughout the streaming period.
In addition, any additional tasks you’re doing on the Internet should not be bandwidth-intensive. Because if they are, they will use up some of the bandwidth, and you may only be able to stream one video or none at all.
Surprised? Don’t be. We tell you how this can happen below.
Sometimes, your attempt to stream 4K content on 50 Mbps will fail even when the speed requirements are low, and you’ve surpassed them.
For example, you or someone connected to your network may be downloading a large file, 4K, or otherwise.
As the file downloads, you’re attempting to stream on a platform with a 25 Mbps requirement. The combined bandwidth for both activities can add up to over 50 Mbps, which the available 50 Mbps cannot support.
Even without additional devices or users connected, it would be impossible to stream 4K in this scenario.
2. Can 100 Mbps allow you to stream 4K video?
100 Mbps is more than enough to stream 4K content.
Single users can play multiple videos simultaneously and connect several devices. Even for a group of 3-4 users or a small family, this bandwidth can be sufficient.
If the baseline streaming speed requirement is less than 20 Mbps, you can watch up to five or six videos at once. Of course, this number is subject to change depending on whether you’re using the connection for more than streaming.
3. Is 200 Mbps fast enough for 4K streaming?
200 Mbps is fast enough for uninterrupted 4K streaming. It’s unlikely you will max out 200 Mbps even with additional high-demand applications running.
It should be your speed tier of choice if yours is a setting where more than 3-4 people and devices connect to the network at any given time.
To stream 4K videos and TV shows, you need a minimum of 25 Mbps.
Most streaming service providers have 25 Mbps as their baseline requirement. And a few others set the baseline slightly lower, usually between 16 and 20 Mbps.
50 Mbps, 100 Mbps, and 200 Mbps connection speeds are all sufficient for 4K streaming. But even with these higher Internet speeds, other factors could hinder you from streaming 4K content.
These factors include: having two or more users and devices connected while you stream, running other high-demand applications, a slow router, and sharing the network with other people—depending on the service you use.
This last one happens when your ISP has oversubscribed the service. The more people log into the network, the more bandwidth they use and the slower the Internet gets.
You’re more likely to experience slow Internet in the evenings and weekends when more people are at home and connected to the Internet.