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15th September 2017 0 Broadband

Exactly How Fast Should My Broadband Be for 4K and HD?

It’s Friday night. You fancy turning on your 4K TV to watch the latest Netflix series in Ultra High Definition. But what happens when your partner wants to catch up on iPlayer at the same time, and you also want to download another episode of Game of Thrones to watch on a train journey in the morning? Suddenly your broadband speed is struggling, and your dreams of streaming House of Cards without the heart-sinking ‘buffering’ circle popping up every few minutes are long gone. But exactly how fast should your broadband speed be to cope with your requirements? How many Megabits per Second (Mbps) do you need when signing up to a new package? When it comes to navigating the broadband jargon out there, it’s easy to get confused with the number of options available. How fast is very fast, and which is better – Superfast or Ultrafast? Here we break down all you need to know about making the right broadband choices for you.

First things first – Standard Broadband. The slowest of all broadband speeds and introduced at the start of the millennium, Standard Broadband is the metaphorical snail of the broadband world. When Standard Broadband first launched, it only supported speeds of 0.5 Mbps – so slow that it would take you approximately 80 seconds just to download one music track, and wouldn’t work at all for any TV programme streaming. Although later 8 Mbps speeds were launched and the standard for many years, it could still take up to 15 minutes to download one film. Nowadays there isn’t anything ‘standard’ about this connection type. Not one Internet Service Provider sells this type of broadband, and whilst this doesn’t mean that speeds can’t drop to these levels, it truly is a thing of the past!

One up from the Standard Broadband is High Speed Broadband. Slightly misleading in its name as there are now so many faster options available, nonetheless High Speed is still a significant upgrade from Standard Broadband, reaching speeds of up to 24 Mbps. Using a copper cable, this term is used to describe the faster connections of old broadband technology and is option the cheapest tier of connection offered by ISPs in their non-fibre packages.

Fibre optic broadband cables

What next? The average UK home now has a broadband speed of 36.2 Mbps (up from 28.9 Mbps in 2016), which falls under the Superfast Broadband label – the third and most common option on the list. Whilst a Standard Broadband package of 5 Mbps could have you waiting 23 minutes and 9 seconds just to download one film, this only takes just over 3 minutes for the average Superfast package.

For those who only need broadband for browsing the web, checking emails and using social media, Superfast isn’t always necessary. With iPlayer for example, you need 2 Mbps of sustained bandwidth to watch standard-definition content or 3 Mbps for HD, while the minimum recommended broadband speed for Netflix is 1.5 Mbps. However, Superfast really is the best option for those with more than one person in the household. If you regularly use your broadband at the same time as other people in your home, download films or large online files on a regular basis, and use online TV catch-up services from more than one device, then Superfast speed is needed. Superfast is also best if you like to upload videos and other large files to the web, as well as play video games online and use video-calling services such as Skype.

But what about your 4K or Ultra High Definition TV? Below is a table that breaks down exactly how fast your broadband needs to be to cope with streaming from different services:

Table of broadband speeds needed for 4K TVs

Because these figures are a bare minimum, we’d recommend doubling these estimates if you live in a busy household. The table clearly shows that a Superfast connection would be required for the average 4K screen, as High Speed would not be quite up to the job.

Still looking to upgrade from Superfast Broadband? For speeds of 80 Mb and upwards, Ultrafast Broadband is – for those who can get it – the speediest and most practical broadband option available in the UK today. This full fibre option is usually offered in select new build estates and premises, with new company Hyperoptic laying fibre to apartment buildings in many urban locations. Whilst a speed between 80 Mb and 500 Mb is great, it’s not always worth paying for an Ultrafast package if you don’t require it. We would recommend speaking with your ISP to ensure that you get the speed that suits you.

The final category of broadband speeds is Hyperfast Broadband. If you didn’t get a hint from the name, Hyperfast really is the king of all broadband speeds, reaching 500 Mbps or higher. Some of these services – particularly those in the educational or governmental sectors – are even capable of achieving connections of 1 Gb (1000 Mbps), which makes the 0.5 Mb speed of Standard Broadband pale into laughable insignificance. But don’t go making any immediate plans for bringing Hyperfast broadband into your home just yet, as there aren’t currently any national providers offering services of these speeds. You might be able to find some smaller local providers who can provide Hyperfast, as it is sometimes offered in rural areas where the bigger companies never provided Superfast and so smaller companies have stepped in with a full fibre solution. Otherwise Hyperfast is mostly found in narrow urban areas with large numbers of office buildings and apartment blocks, but will increasingly be seen in hotspots up and down the country as we move into 2018.

So there you have it – each type of broadband speed and exactly what they mean. Now that you know the difference between a Superfast and an Ultrafast connection, you can pick your next broadband provider with confidence. If you’d like any more detailed information about high speed internet connectivity, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Just Telecomms team and see which package is right for you.