Inside Connection – The Need For Speed – All You Need to Know About Broadband Speeds
If you’re looking for a new internet service or just want to upgrade your sluggish broadband speed, we want you to be sure you know what you’re looking for. After all, you don’t want to sign up for a new service and find that Netflix is buffering. Zzoomm gives you more speed, more choice and more freedom with your broadband.
In the 21st Century, fast and reliable access to the internet is a basic human right. When the answer to every question we might ever need is at the tap of our fingertips and streaming is the main way we now consume our entertainment, the flashing light that signifies a shaky connection is a recipe for disaster (or infuriation). So, here’s the need-to-know on broadband so you can make the right choice about your internet provider.
In this article, we will answer some of the questions that we get asked most, including:
- What’s the average broadband speed in the UK?
- What’s the best broadband for 4K streaming?
- What’s a good download speed in the UK?
And many more.
First up, a basic, what is broadband and broadband speed?
Broadband is the ‘high-speed’ internet connection most used for the past 15 – 20 years in the UK. It’s the natural progression from dial-up, which saw us dial into the “worldwide web” every time we needed to use it to update our MySpace page, download the latest Britney Spears track on Netscape, check for new MSN connections or build a new garage for our Sim families.
Unlike old school dial-up, broadband is a permanent connection that runs continually in the background of our homes and lives whether we’re using it or not (although let’s be honest – we usually are). Broadband speed is measured by megabits and kilobits per second (Mbps / Kbps) data download/upload and the bigger the number of Mbps the faster you’ll go and the more you can achieve online.
Broadband speed varies across the country, with some small cities and towns having faster and more reliable connections than big cities or rural areas, and vice versa. The speed of local broadband always depends on whether outdated copper cables in the area have been replaced with highly reliable fibre optic cables or not. Simply put, if your location has fibre optic cable installed, your broadband speed should be fabulously fast, if you still use copper cables then you’ll struggle to get good broadband speed. In many situations, your service is carried on a combination of copper installation leading from a cabinet (those green/black boxes you see on the end of a street). The cabinet is then connected by fibre optic cables to the main national broadband infrastructure. This setup means many providers claim you are getting fibre but it’s actually called FTTC or Fibre To The Cabinet. Don’t be fooled, this is not Full Fibre as you are still transmitting data over copper wire and fighting with your neighbours for that precious bandwidth. For a more detailed explanation on the big and not-so-big differences between copper cables and Fibre optic cables check out What is broadband.
Having multiple users on the internet in the same place at the same time can also affect speed. That’s why the internet might be slow if you’re at a public conference in the future, at home when kids get back from school (also in the future) and put on CBeebies, Netflix or Zoom family for example, or why work computer systems can slow down when someone is doing something vague like “running a big quote”. (No, we never quite understood what they meant by that one either).
Because of this, you’ll need to consider the number of people who are online in your home. A three-floor house of four teenagers flicking between YouTube videos and online homework, at the same time, is going to need a much faster internet connection than an apartment that’s lived in by a single adult or a working couple who are out all day.
When you’re shopping for broadband, the key thing you need to consider is the speed that is being offered to you. As a rule, the higher the Mbps the better-quality service you can expect from your broadband. The bigger the number the faster you’ll go, stream, work and play!
Uploads and downloads
The most critical speed for most is download speed and this is the speed advertised, most of the time, from other broadband providers. Download speed is the speed a webpage, video, movie, app upgrade can load/download to your device. The more Mbps you have the faster your speed will be to receive this info, and the more devices you can have connected to the network, that will receive a good connection.
But in many occasions, your upload speed is just as important as your download speed. If you regularly work from home or even own your own business, then we bet you send a lot of files or have long Zoom calls with colleagues. The excuse that your “internet is playing up” isn’t going to go down well with line managers or clients, especially if it causes you to miss deadlines because you haven’t been able to get the work done (eek). In any of these cases, you’ll need a good, reliable upload speed to complement your downloads.
If you post videos online and have many devices connected in a household, or many people online at once, then upload speed will be critical to you too.
If any of these questions give you pause, it’s vital to think about how you use your broadband and your data needs and consider both the download & upload speed when looking for or changing provider.
What is a good download speed?
A good download speed is one where your Netflix doesn’t take ages loading, YouTube plays without stopping and everyone on your broadband is happy it’s working wonderfully for them. Working wonderfully means no waiting, loading, no freezing, skipping and no frustration. It means Business As Usual. It means success at the end of the day.
Notice we didn’t say a number like 40Mbps or 300Mbps, well it’s not that simple. That’s because a good download speed really depends on how your broadband will be used and by who, but one thing we can say for certain is that the need-for-speed is only going to go up! The UK government wants every home in the UK to have access to gigabit capable broadband (that’s 1000Mbps) by 2025.
And gigabit capable broadband will soon be necessary. More and more devices are entering our home that need to connect to our Wi-Fi. Think about your Alexa, Google Home, Smart TV or game stations. The more devices you have connected the more they use your broadband data. Your Oral B Smart toothbrush, your Ringo cam, your new smart fridge, they all need data capacity.
Outdated technology like copper cabling cannot deliver as fast broadband speeds as Fibre optic cables. Imagine we were still driving on dirt roads we wouldn’t get anywhere fast. Full Fibre broadband futureproofs your home with more than gigabit capable broadband delivering data through light speed transfers.
What is a good upload speed?
If you post videos online, and have many devices connected in a household, or many people online at once, then upload speed matters. Cable.co.uk reports that most standard internet packages come with a 10Mbps upload speed. If you’re uploading a 1GB video, you should expect it to take more than 14 minutes on that 10Mbps upload speed. Increase that to the 2000Mbps upload speed you can get with Zzoomm and that same file will upload in 4 seconds.
It’s up to you. If you upload lots of files and don’t want to hang around watching them do so, then you need a fast upload speed.
So, what broadband speed do I need for my daily streaming?
The numbers are likely to go up if you’re sharing a connection with many people, many devices all streaming on different devices at the same time. As standard, though, you should look for the following:
- A minimum 3Mbps per device has been recommended previously. This would be horrendous to experience but it has been stated that you could use this speed. Maybe for a movie made from Gifs?
As an absolute minimum, this will allow you to stream video content in SD (spending most of your time transferring the data and then watching a skipping show). For HD and to avoid disruptions, you’ll need to go faster…much, much faster.
The minimum speed required for 4K streaming in the UK is 25Mbps which would still be incredibly slow.
As always, the faster the better.
What broadband speed do you need to remove long loading times, endless buffering and lag?… ah yes, the important stuff!
Remember these are recommendations for a single device at a time with no other conflicting devices using the same broadband connection.
The best broadband speeds for streaming Netflix
Helpfully, Netflix has a whole page dedicated to explaining the broadband speeds needed for optimum viewing quality.
Here’s what they recommend:
- 0.5Mbps – required broadband connection speed
- 1.5Mbps – recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0Mbps – recommended for SD quality
- 5.0Mbps – recommended for HD quality
- 25Mbps – recommended for Ultra HD quality
And for another of our favourite streaming services, Amazon Prime Video:
- 3Mbps – for SD quality
- 5Mbps – for HD quality
- 25Mbps – for Ultra-HD quality
What about the best broadband speeds for streaming on iPlayer?
- 5Mbps – for SD quality
- 8Mbps – for HD quality
Remember, the higher Mbps your service offers, the better-quality viewing experience you’ll have. The bigger the number, the faster you’ll go.
The best broadband speeds for streaming music
Imagine finally reaching the end of those much-maligned Spotify adverts and finding that you can’t even listen to the song you’ve been waiting 30 seconds for.
No thank you.
To avoid this musical pain on whichever music streaming platform you are using, make sure you have the following broadband speed as a standard:
- Spotify (Mobile) – 0.96Mbps
- Spotify (Desktop) – 0.160Mbps
- Google Play Music – 0.320Mbps
- Apple Music (iTunes) – 0.256Mbps
- Amazon Music Unlimited – 0.5Mbps
As the Mbps required for streaming audio isn’t that high (especially when compared to video & film streaming), you should hopefully be fine to stream music even if you don’t have the fastest internet going. However, rethink your downloading plan as again, to get those megabytes down in this lifetime, you need much faster speeds.
The best broadband speeds for gaming
“What broadband speed do I need to get into the game?” is a question that we get asked a lot at Zzoomm. ‘How can I be a player, not a noob?’ ‘How Can I WIN.’
There are lots of things you’ll need to consider here: do you need broadband that can support multiplayer gaming? Do you need fast download and upload speeds? Do you play online games? Do you actually want to play a part in the game and not spend your time respawning and finding a camping site?
Just a couple of things you will need to think about.
The estimated minimum speeds required to game are here:
- Xbox One – 3Mbps
- Xbox Series X – 25Mbps minimum
- PlayStation 5 – officially 3Mbps but we have seen recommendations of 50-100Mbps
- PlayStation 4 – 3Mbps
- Nintendo Switch – 3Mbps
- Nintendo Wii U – 1.5Mbps
- PC/Mac – 3-6Mbps
Of course, at these speeds, your games are going to run slow, very slow, so slowly we wouldn’t bother… you’ll endure endless loading for updates, frequent rebuffering, loading lags and basically, everyone online will know you’re a noob. You ain’t going to level up on this data flow on any online game and your Fortnite videos are not going to impress. The data downloads you need to even begin most games will stop you getting out of the gate at those speeds. You need big boy data transfer capability.
What about your updates and game downloads? It’s good to remember that 1 Megabyte (MB) = 8 Megabits (MBps) and 1000MB = 1GB (Gigabyte). Size is measured in Megabytes, but speed is measured in Megabits. And in gaming, big is better.
March’s release of ‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ had some players downloading 101GB of data. On a 30Mbps broadband speed (10 times the estimated need for Xbox One) they would have waited more than 8 hours before they got to start playing. On Zzoomm’s POW! 400mbps service, 101GB would take less than 37 minutes to download and on WOW 2000Mbps the game would be ready to play in under 8 minutes.
These broadband speeds do not only apply to gaming devices like standard PCs, Xboxes and Playstations. As gaming develops and technology makes strides forward, we’re going to have to think about the increased broadband speed that is needed to support our new devices and their increased functionality – think Google Stadia and how it’s changing the gaming platform completely. The entirely cloud-based Google Stadia needs a significantly faster broadband connection for optimum usage. This from Business Insider:
“Stadia will require a strong and stable internet connection to reach the best possible quality. Google says Stadia will be able to stream 4K video with high dynamic range colours, 60 frames of animation per second, and 5.1 surround sound. Streaming Stadia in 4K require (sic) an internet speed of at least 35Mbps; Google’s recommended minimum for using Stadia is 10Mbps, which will deliver 720p video with stereo sound.”
If you’re an avid gamer, you need the best to survive so it’s likely that you’ll want to ensure that you have Full Fibre rather than ADSL broadband. With many games now evolving to base their progress on updates and cloud-based new releases rather than disc purchases, you need data to even step onto the gaming floor.
The best broadband speeds for working from home and Zooming
Zoom, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams or whatever video platform you’re using to communicate with those who aren’t in the room needs data to manage all those backgrounds and sound mutings.
Remember that in video calls you’re uploading data and downloading at the same time, so both are just as important. The higher your Mbps (upload and download), the better audio (and of course video) quality will be. We have all endured freeze-framed moments, camera dropouts and frozen personalities. Speeds support the main information required to fuel this video conferencing generation and as we move further into remote and online working environments, it has never been so important to Zoom faster.
Skype, Zoom & Facetime:
- Recommended minimum – 1.5Mbps for video calls
The broadband requirements for Google Hangouts are slightly different from other video call services. There are variations depending on how many people are on the call, and whether you’re the one making or receiving it:
Two-person video calls:
- Outbound from the participant: 3.2Mbps
- Inbound to the participant: 2.6Mbps
Group video calls:
- Outbound from the participant in all situations: 3.2Mbps
- Inbound to the participant with 5 participants: 3.2Mbps
- Inbound to the participant with 10 participants: 4.0Mbps
Additional inbound bandwidth isn’t needed for groups of more than 10, so you shouldn’t need more than 4Mbps to use Google Hangouts even if you’re speaking to a full classroom/lecture theatre/hundreds of people in a webinar. As we have said before, these are minimums. Hosting and screen sharing would be done at your peril and add data loads and bandwidth challenges. Not the best position to prepare you to close that deal.
Phew, that’s a lot of information. Let’s break it down.
If you’re not sure exactly what broadband requirements will be needed by every member of your household, remember these key minimum numbers per individual device at any one time.
- A minimum of 3Mbps for SD streaming, w i t h a l o t o f l a g g i n g
- A minimum of 5-8Mbps for HD streaming on your own
- A minimum of 25Mbps for 4K streaming as long as no one wants to share
You should dial this up the more people/devices that you have in the house, especially if they’re all likely to be on and using the internet at the same time. If we were you, we’d use the above as a restrictive guide per person and times the number of Mbps by however many people you have in the house and then add on a load of data you forget you use, and then look to the future. Like we said, fabulous Full Fibre broadband is a human right – and no one wants to be constantly living with the buffer icon endlessly circling.
The Zzoomm Difference
We like to give you more.
Every Zzoomm service comes with setup of Double Wi-Fi, located where it will suit you best.
Double Wi-Fi is setup with two Zzoomm Hubs to double the Wi-Fi coverage in your home. So if you struggle getting signal in the loft conversion you can have a Hub up there, or have one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom, you can choose where you want your Hubs to maximise the coverage across your home.
Remember the future is big and fast data, and Zzoomm provides the biggest and fastest data transfer you can get.
Get more, get Zzoomm Full Fibre.