What broadband speed do I need for working, streaming and gaming?

Minimum broadband speeds determine what type – and speed – of home internet connection you need.

Tuesday, 1 November, 2022

If you’re not technically minded, the domestic broadband industry can be a jargon-filled nightmare.

Even though the team at BroadbandDeals.co.uk always tries to simplify the task of finding your next broadband contract, we still have to use a certain amount of industry terminology.

Line speeds are a case in point.

What exactly is a 300Mbps line? Without any context, it’s just a big number.

Fortunately, we can easily add that context by explaining what sort of line speeds are necessary to conduct regular online activities.

Read on for our beginner’s guide to recommended minimum broadband speeds…

Minimum broadband speeds for key activities

These are the minimum download speeds you’ll need to perform the following activities dependably.

A slower connection might still work, but there’s a higher chance of interruptions being caused by buffering and/or latency.

If you’re already struggling with unavoidable industry jargon, this guide to latency might help.

We’ve also explained how individual binary bits of digital data scale up into the megabits (millions of bits) that are used to calculate the maximum amount of data an internet connection can carry per second.

Remember that in each instance, we’re referring to a solitary activity, and how much bandwidth it uses.

You’ll need additional bandwidth for always-connected smart home technology, TV set top boxes, and any other internet-enabled hardware such as laptops and tablets.

Listening to a podcast, or streaming music

This is at the lower end of data transfer intensity. You could easily enjoy a Spotify stream on a desktop computer with a line speed of just 0.2Mbps.

Fans of clarity who want to stream high-quality lossless audio will typically need a broadband connection of 20 Mbps or above.

Streaming video

Again, this depends on the quality you demand from your chosen streaming provider.

Watching BBC iPlayer content in standard definition would only take 1.5 Mbps, whereas a Netflix SD stream needs 3 Mbps to run stably.

Moving up to HD content roughly doubles data transfers, though YouTube’s minimum bandwidth requirement of 15Mbps is actually lower than many rivals.

Working from home

With hybrid working the norm rather than the exception nowadays, a stable internet connection is essential for the millions of people who routinely WFH.

Emails and intranets can be sustained on any modern connection, but you’ll need roughly 2.5 Mbps of bandwidth to conduct a high-definition Zoom call.

WFH involves a lot of uploading, and it’s worth noting that only full fibre broadband connections tend to offer the same upload speeds as downloads.

Because we tend to consume more than we create, slower internet connections are biased in favour of downloads by a ratio as high as 9:1.

If you spend your days engaged in data-intensive tasks like RAW photography or video editing, the modest uploads offered by Fibre to the Cabinet broadband simply won’t cut it.

You’ll need a full fibre connection, where uploads are normally as fast as downloads. This is known in industry parlance as a symmetrical connection.

Online gaming

Minimum broadband speeds for gaming are impossible to define precisely, because the nature of online gaming varies so much.

An 8-bit emulator will use less than 0.1 Mbps, which is a fraction of the 3 Mbps of bandwidth an Xbox or PlayStation connection typically requires.

Then we get into the immersive world of MMORPGs. These vast sprawling adventures require considerable bandwidth – 15 Mbps to play Call of Duty: Vanguard, as an example.

Neil Cumins author picture


Neil is our resident tech expert. He's written guides on loads of broadband head-scratchers and is determined to solve all your technology problems!