In this day and age, what actually constitutes a good internet speed?
The answer to this question really depends on what you’ll be using your broadband connection for.
Before diving into the subject, let’s find out what internet speed actually means.
Internet speed explained
Your broadband speed is how quickly your home internet connection can download data from, or upload it to, the internet.
This speed is usually measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Obviously, a higher reading is better.
To get an understanding of how fast your internet currently is, head on over to speedtest.net (or download the app) and hit “Go”.
In this example, we see that:
- Our download speed is 79.83Mbps.
- Our upload speed is 30.46Mbps.
- Our ping (the time it takes for the other server to respond after we’ve sent out a request) is 19 milliseconds.
When downloading data (watching YouTube, downloading files, web browsing etc), our download speed is important. Conversely, when uploading data (sharing photos/videos on Snapchat or Facebook, streaming on Twitch etc) your upload speed is going to be your primary concern.
We’ll look at how high your internet speed needs to be for a seamless experience – for example, no buffering when watching YouTube or delays of more than 3-4 seconds when loading web pages. Let’s begin!
Good internet speed for web browsing
You wouldn’t think that looking at Facebook, checking emails and doing some Google searches would use much bandwidth at all.
However, many modern web pages are actually pretty large, data-wise. Lots of websites use high-resolution images, high-definition videos, and complex scripts that may take ages to load on slow connections.
Even the BBC’s homepage is pretty big, at 2.5 megabytes (MB), which equals 20 megabits (Mb). Therefore, you’d have to have a download speed of 20Mbps in order for this page to load in a single second (assuming you have a lightning-fast browser and computer).
Loading pages in 2-3 seconds is normally fine though – you don’t need sites to display instantly.
Therefore, a good internet speed for basic web browsing is around 4-6Mbps (download speed).
Any slower and you might have difficulty with especially large pages, like news articles with embedded video and images. But most pages are under 3MB in size, so you don’t need super-fast internet for browsing.
Good internet speed for gaming
When gaming, you’ve got more than just your download speed to consider.
The most important thing is actually your ping. If your ping is higher than 50ms, you’ll most likely begin to experience lag.
However, having a high ping will only affect you on FPS/action games, like CoD, FIFA, and Rocket League. If you play MMO games, or turn-based titles like Hearthstone, ping isn’t such a big deal.
Another thing to consider is where the game server is located. Say you run a speed test, and you get a ping as low as 5ms – this reading is unlikely to be exactly what you get in-game. This is because the test probably pinged a server somewhere within a 20-mile radius of where you live, and game servers are likely to be much further away.
If you’re in the UK and you ping a server in Australia, the response time is likely to be higher than 200ms. Therefore, if you play a game on a server located in another region, you’re likely to lag anyway.
But what about your actual speed?
For gaming, you only need a download speed of around 1-2Mbps. The important thing is that your ping is low, and your connection is stable – meaning it doesn’t drop out frequently. Try to get your ping under 40ms if you want to be lag-free in FPS games like Fortnite.
Good internet speed for watching videos
Video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video and YouTube are particularly sensitive to your download speed.
If your broadband connection is super slow, these apps will bump you down to standard definition video. Worse still, your stream may begin buffering.
Let’s look at what Netflix says about the internet speed you’ll need to use their service.
- For standard definition, they recommend 3Mbps or higher.
- For high definition (720p), they recommend 5Mbps or higher.
These guidelines are also applicable to other video streaming services. YouTube’s recommended minimum speed is a little lower, at 0.7Mbps and 2.5Mbps for standard and high definition, respectively. For a completely buffer-free experience, having Netflix’s recommended minimum (5Mbps for HD) would be much better.
But what about 4K video?
25Mbps is the minimum recommended by most streaming services for ultra HD streams.
A note about frame rates
Most video available on TV/movie streaming platforms is encoded at either 29.97 or 30 frames per second.
However, some services like YouTube and Twitch allow users to upload at 60fps or even more.
If you select 60fps, this means that your connection will need to download more data in order to deliver the video to your device. But if you’re streaming at 60fps rather than 30fps, this doesn’t mean you need a connection that’s twice as fast.
A good rule of thumb is to multiply the required 30fps speed by 1.5 times.
So here’s the internet speed you’ll need for buffer-free video streaming, based on the video resolution and frame rate.
- 720p 30fps: 5Mbps
- 720p 60fps: 7.5Mbps
- 1080p 30fps: 8Mbps
- 1080p 60fps: 12Mbps
- 4K 30fps: 25Mbps
- 4K 60fps: 37.5Mbps
Good internet speed for Twitch streaming
If you’re streaming gameplay on Twitch, you’ll need a fast upload speed.
Broadcasting a stream is similar to watching someone else’s stream. The main difference is your hardware must be able to encode the video and audio in real time.
So, the upload speed required for Twitch streaming is the same as the download speed required for viewing a video stream.
For 720p 30fps (considered the bare minimum for gaming), you’ll need a 5Mbps upload speed or higher. If you plan on streaming at 1080p 30fps, you’ll need 8Mbps or more. Scroll up to see the full list of speeds required for video streaming.
What’s a fast internet speed?
Defining what a fast internet speed is can be pretty subjective: everyone will have a different opinion.
The consensus seems to be that in the UK, a fast download speed is 50Mbps or more. A fast upload speed is 10Mbps or more for most households.
It really depends what you’re using your internet for.
For families with kids who play games and like to watch Youtube pretty regularly, 50/15 will be plenty fast enough.
But if you’re a bit of a home networking geek, or you’ve got a server room installed in your basement, anything less than 1Gbps may seem a little sluggish.
If you need a little more speed to keep up with your family’s thirst for data, it might be worth looking at the available broadband deals on the market at the moment.
I pay for a super-fast connection, why am I still buffering/lagging?
There’s nothing worse than shelling out for a 40Mbps+ internet connection and still buffering every time you load up a stream.
However, there are things you can do to fix this issue without having to change provider. Check out our guide to improving your internet speed.
About the author
Tom is the founder of Broadband Savvy. When he’s not writing about broadband, you’ll find him walking his dog (Rex) or playing agar.io.