Monday, December 29, 2014

How much bandwidth do I need to stream Internet TV?

This post is an answer to one of the comments about Internet TV options. We've been using the Montana Broadband Speed Test over the past couple of years, including a customized version for assessing Montana public library speeds. One of the things I really like about the test are these two charts posted at the end explaining what the test results mean:

Netflix gives Internet Connection Speed Recommendations

So, to interpret all of this, in order to satisfactorily stream Internet content via one of these devices, you probably need at least a 3.0 Mbps consistent connection speed. That's not the advertised speed, That's the bandwidth you are actually getting when you sit down to watch a movie or streamed Internet program. With a 3.0 Mbps connection, you can probably expect more freezes and buffering but that can also happen on a much faster cable connection as well. Part of that will depend on Internet traffic in your area, as well as traffic on the server. There are a lot of complicating factors.

Quite simply, if you have multiple users, you'll want to multiply the number of users by the desired amount of bandwidth. If you have 4 persons in your household who all want to watch streaming video or play games (note: games also often require attention to upload speeds), you'll want to multiply 3 X 4 and look for at least a 12 Mbps connection.

In my experience, Netflix gives the best overall viewing experience with rare instances of buffering. That's probably because they're caching content all over the country and working with ISPs in a very non-net neutrality fashion. I have a cable Internet connection which generally tests in the 20s. I just tested it today and got 11 Mbps download. I don't know what it was yesterday but I tried to watch football on the NFL Now app and it was hopeless, freezing about once every minute. Fiber is looking better all the time. :)

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