What steps can you take if you find your internet cannot handle the demands needed for Netflix streaming? You may find videos constantly buffering on your current connection, so what solutions are available?
Firstly there are a number of things we can do to try and improve our existing internet connection to make it good enough for streaming.
We will go through some of these steps first:
- Turn down the data usage on NetFlix
- Move closer to the router if on Wi-Fi
- Use a LAN cable instead of Wi-Fi
- Use powerline if you can’t run a LAN cable directly.
- Try changing DNS servers on your device.
- Use QoS to prioritize your streaming device.
- Upgrade your internet if nothing else works.
Upgrading your internet can sometimes cost a lot, so we’ll go through some of the other options for extracting more out of the internet package you currently have, before offering some options for upgrading if you need more bandwidth.
How Much Bandwidth Does Netflix Actually Use?
Netflix and other streaming services do tend to use a comparatively large amount of bandwidth compared to other activities on a home network.
Of course it depends on the quality of the definition of the streaming, but as a general rule of thumb streaming movies and shows in standard definition (SD) tends to use between 0.7 to 1 GB per hour, and streaming in HD tends to use around 3 GB per hour. Streaming in Ultra HD or 3D can use anything between 5 -7 GB per hour. See here for more details.
As a rule of thumb Netflix therefore has recommended minimum internet speeds you ideally need to stream at each of these levels. They recommend connection speeds of 3 megabits per second for SD streaming, 5 mbps for HD streaming and 25 mbps for Ultra HD streaming.
Here is the list of Netflix’s own recommended and minimum speeds, pulled from their own site:
- 0.5 Megabits per second – Required broadband connection speed
- 1.5 Megabits per second – Recommended broadband connection speed
- 3.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for SD quality
- 5.0 Megabits per second – Recommended for HD quality
- 25 Megabits per second – Recommended for Ultra HD quality
Restricting Bandwidth Usage on Netflix
If you are concerned about data usage caps then Netflix allows you to manually restrict how much data it’s service uses through their settings menu.
There is an Auto setting that adjusts data usage automatically according to the speed of your internet connection, but you can override this is you want by configuring manual usage levels. To do this you will need to login to your account on Netflix and choose the desired setting under Account —– Profile —– Playback Settings.
As well as the Auto settings they have three manual settings to choose from with different usage levels – Low (0.3 GB per hour per device), Medium (0.7 GB per hour per device) and High (3 GB per hour per device for HD, 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD).
You can manually set a usage level in line with the available bandwidth you have on your home connection, either because you have multiple users at home or your package has limited bandwidth to begin with. See Netflix’s page on this.
This is the first thing to try if you are experiencing problems streaming Netflix on your current internet connection. Whether your current internet package is enough depends on a couple of factors, most especially how many users there are in the house consuming bandwidth on the connection.
If this is the issue then you may need to upgrade to a better package which we will cover in a later section, but first lets look at ways of improving your current internet connection, to extract the most out of it as it is now.
Netflix and other streaming and TV on demand services can use a lot of bandwidth over time on home networks
Use Wired Connections to Extract the Most Out of Your Current Internet Package
If your current internet already has decent download speeds and usage demands are not too high in the home, then it may me more a case of extracting more out of your current broadband connection to get the best speeds for streaming Netflix and other services.
This is often preferable before forking out for an internet package upgrade, and the first think to look at is using wired vs Wi-Fi connections for streaming.
If you are having problems streaming on Wi-Fi then one of the first things to do is get off Wi-Fi and onto a wired connection, where you are plugged into your router directly with an ethernet cable.
Wired connections always deliver a stronger more consistent connection than Wi-Fi both for gaming and streaming, as we have covered in another article. You will have access to more of your available bandwidth more consistently on wired connections, which can help with buffering problems on Netflix.
So the first thing to try is plugging into your router directly if possible. However, what happens if you are too far away from your router to run an ethernet cable directly? What if you are streaming from several rooms away from the router and don’t want to be running long ethernet cables through walls or down stairs?
This is where the next best solution of a Powerline Adapter comes in useful.
Powerline Adapters are excellent home networking solutions designed exactly for this kind of problem. they consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one of which is plugged in and connected to your router, the other is plugged in and connected to your device.
The two plugs then communicate through the electrical wiring of the house to deliver a strong wired internet connection to any room you like in the house.
See the excellent short video below for a quick demonstration of how powerline technology works.
The TP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our Powerline Adapters page for more models, with passthrough plug sockets and more ethernet ports. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality
They are an under-utilized home networking solution that can effectively deliver a wired connection to your router, just as a ethernet cable would, except they are mostly using the house’s existing electrical wiring and therefore avoid the DIY hassle of running long ethernet cables through the house.
They basically give you all the benefits of being on a wired connection versus Wi-Fi, in terms of a more stable connection, more reliable delivery of the available bandwidth, and less signal loss and congestion.
They allow you to extract more out of your available bandwidth, which is exactly what you need for higher data usage activities like Netflix streaming. They can be an excellent option as long as your streaming device has an ethernet port.
Other Options to Get Better Internet Speeds For Netflix
If doing this still doesn’t make a difference or you are not able to get on a wired connection then there are some other steps you can try and take to improve your internet, but getting on a wired connection is the main thing and these other steps are less likely to make a difference.
They are however worth trying. Netflix has their own page on connection troubleshooting page; we will summarize their main points and add some more as well.
- If it is a one-off buffering problem then try resetting your router and streaming devices.
- Try moving your router to a more central location in the house if possible, or at least elevating it to a higher position.
- Keep other wireless devices away from the router if possible as they can interfere with the wireless signal of a router.
- Changing DNS servers on your device or router can sometimes deliver more bandwidth; see here for our article on DNS servers for gaming but the principles can apply to any streaming device as well. Here are the quick steps:
- Find the Connection Settings on your streaming device (won’t be available on all of them)
- Browse to DNS Settings. See if there is an option to change them.
- Try Google DNS (Primary 22.214.171.124 and Secondary 126.96.36.199) to see if that delivers better speeds.
- Dual Band Wi-Fi can help to spread wireless traffic over two separate bands if available on your router. Dual band devices will normally select the best band for bandwidth automatically but it may be worth playing around manually with these settings to place your streaming device on a less congested band or on it’s own in a band. See here for more info on Dual Band Wi-Fi.
- Use Quality of Service settings if available on your router to prioritize streaming devices on busy home networks. This can be useful if you have a lot of people using the internet at the same time for different things. See our article on configuring QoS settings; here are the very quick steps:
- Find the MAC address of your streaming device (often in Connection Settings/Settings or similar)
- Log into your router by typing it’s IP address (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254) into an address bar, plus it’s admin/password. These will be on a sticker on the router.
- Find QoS settings (not available on all routers).
- A list of all connected devices should display. Select your streaming device by the MAC address you found earlier.
- Set the priority to Highest or Maximum.
- Save settings and exit router.
- Your router will now deal with the traffic demands of your streaming device first, before any other devices on that home network.
Upgrading Your Internet Package For Better Speeds
If none of these steps resolve buffering problems with Netflix then it may be that your current internet package isn’t fast enough to support streaming, or there are too many users on your home network to be able to stream Netflix properly. In this case you will probably have to get a faster internet package.
There is plenty of choice these days in upgrading your existing internet package, with fierce competition between fiber broadband providers and usually plenty of different packages on offer from each provider as well for those needing to upgrade to better speeds. We will group into US and UK packages for our different readers.
US Customer Options For Faster Broadband
For US readers there are also a couple of options for upgrading to a faster fiber internet connection for streaming. There are hundreds of providers across the country as a whole but the main 4 providers with the biggest coverage are Comcast Xfinity, Verizon Fios, AT&T and Century Link, with combined coverage of over 150 million of the US population between them.
They all offer fiber broadband packages of different speeds depending on your needs and the area you live in. Not all speeds are available in all areas but it worth checking each provider out as they all have easy to use tools to quickly plug in your ZIP code and find availability in your area. See our comparison table below.
US Fiber Broadband Providers – Quick Summary
|Provider||Package 1 Download Speed (mbps)||Package 2 Download Speed (mbps)||Package 3 Download Speed (mbps)||Population Covered (Millions) 2018|
|Comcast Xfinity||100||150||250||100 million*|
|Verizon Fios||100||300||940||34 million*|
|AT&T Fibre||100||300||1000||15 million*|
|Century Link||40||100||1000||11 million*|
Speeds quoted are maximum potential speeds only and will vary by area – check links to each provider for full speed and availability in your area.
*Verizon Fios Available in – Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia. See here for a full list of availability by town in each state.
*Comcast Xfinity – Available in – Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin. See here for a full list of availability by town in these states.
*AT&T Fiber – Fast packages available in – Alabama, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin. See here for a full coverage map detailing all areas where the service is either already available or being installed. You can search for availability by city or type in your ZIP code to check.
*Century Link – Fast packages available in – Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming. See here for a full list of availability by town in these states.
UK Fibre Optic Internet Packages – Higher Bandwidth
The UK fibre optic internet market has fantastic choice and plenty of competition between the main providers so you can most often move to a faster package with your current provider or a new provider without too much effort.
See our full length article summarizing all the entry and faster fibre optic internet packages, with the faster ones at speeds of more than 50 megabits per second and unlimited data usage – perfect for Netflix streamers.
With so much competition in this sector at the moment the main providers also have regular flash deals where prices are reduced even further and setup costs are sometimes reduced or waived altogether so it is well worth following the links to check out current prices and availability in your area.
The four smaller providers (Sky, TalkTalk, PlusNet and Now Broadband) have particularly good value packages with low setup costs, with the added bonus that they use BT’s existing OpenReach fibre network to deliver their services. This means that switching to them is quite easy if you already have BT lines installed in your property.