Before signing up for a stream service, start by matching your speed to your intended usage. The chart below can help you to match your broadband plan to the activities you wish to engage. Don't make the mistake of finding out after the fact that your broadband connection won't support the amount of bandwidth the activity takes.
While most stream services advertise a minimum broadband requirement of 500 kbps, it is not recommended for most users. Compressed file downloads are about the only activity that will successfully execute at this speed, but you will have to wait for the majority of the file to download before you can view the content. You will likely be quite disappointed with streaming content due to all of the hangups, hiccups and low quality you will experience.
However, there is something more important to consider when making your selections. Broadband providers are beginning to impose fines on customers who use a lot of bandwidth but don't pay for it. If you purchase the slowest internet plan to save a few bucks up front, and end up using it for more than basic activities, you may end up paying over-use penalties. A few internet providers have already adopted this, and most mobile internet providers either impose caps, charge for over-usage, or they dramatically slow your download speed when you use too much bandwidth. It makes sense to select the right plan up front to avoid surprise charges after the fact.
If you plan to stream, you will want a minimum of 3 Mbps. For occasional rental or purchase of compressed files, a lower speed is fine.
568 kbps - 1 Mbps
Up to 1.5 Mbps
Up to 3.0 Mbps
Over 6 Mbps
Light surfing - news, weather, sports
Slow for download of medium to large files & some email attach- ments
Daily web surfing, email, and efficient download of small to medium-sized files
Online banking, shopping, and bill paying
Download & access compressed files
Stream lower quality video
Heavy web surfing
Downloading & accessing compressed files
Sending or receiving pictures
Stream Music or video
Stream higher quality video
heavy web surfing
Sending & receiving high quality pictures
Upload or download of large files
Unlimited video stream & download
Online game playing
Home computer networks of 2 or more users
Since a movie runs anywhere from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours, we've compiled data on what 2 hours of streaming will consume. Netflix & Hulu Plus are generally delivered in 480 (standard) or occasionally 720p (high) definition. Some movies rented through iTunes, Vudu and Amazon are available in both standard and HD up to 1080p. Here's the bottom line in terms of how much data is used for various streams. If you are a moderate streamer (5-6 hours a day in standard definition), a 150 GB plan will be more than adequate. However, you should take into account all of your online activities with a broadband usage guide to make sure you have a data plan that meets your needs. When you surf, you encounter video all the time, which will all count against your usage.
| 0.2 GB|| 0.3 GB|| 0.5 GB|| 0.9 GB|| 1.5 GB|
Begin with a checklist that includes checking your equipment requirements as well as broadband requirements. You can utilize a broadband speed test to see if your internet connection is capable of handling this technology, and speak to your internet provider about any data caps your plan may have. A data cap doesn't necessarily mean that streaming is out of the question, but keep in mind that a high definition movie (1080p) eats up about 1.4 GB of bandwidth. If you go over your bandwidth, some providers will sell additional bandwidth or impose a fee. They may also work with you to find a higher data plan that suits your needs.
Typical broadband plans have data caps of 150 to 250 GB per month. Surfing and downloading email does not use much data at all, but streaming is fairly bandwidth intensive. If you have a 150 GB cap per month, you can still stream three hours a day with no problems.
There are other resources and articles available on our site to help you with the decision-making process, including understanding the differences between stream vs download. Check the links above and to the right for more information.
Then conduct of comparison of online content providers available to see which one is the best fit for you.