An internet connection is to Netflix what gasoline is to a car. Without it, you can’t watch a show in real time or download one to watch later. Just like a car will accelerate faster with premium gas in the tank, the on-demand streaming service will perform better with a quicker connection. So, if you’re trying to stream something and it isn’t quite the 4K Ultra HD resolution you were expecting, chances are it’s your internet connection that’s to blame.

Don’t just take our word for it, though. There’s a simple experiment you can carry out to test your Netflix speed to see whether your connection is at fault. If it is, chances are it’s because you’re trying to watch something during peak hours when everyone in your neighborhood is firing up their preferred on-demand streaming service. Here’s how to see if your internet is up to snuff to help you avoid Netflix streaming woes.

The lowdown on Netflix streaming speed

Before we run through the steps required to execute a Netflix speed test, we first need to touch on the sort of results you can expect to see. In a nutshell, the average fixed broadband download speed in the U.S. as of July 2020 is 152.60Mbps, according to Ookla — nearly twice as fast as the global average. That’s more than enough pull to stream two 4K Ultra HD shows at once over the same Wi-Fi network, with each requiring around 25Mbps to run smoothly.

The average U.S. household’s internet bandwidth is 30 Mbps. However, many homes rely on a fraction of this average to supply internet speed that many devices must divide amongst family members. However, most households out in the sticks tend to receive around a third of the nationwide average (30Mbps) to distribute across the various devices using the network at any given time. This amount should be enough bandwidth to stream one show in 4K Ultra HD on one television. If you’re receiving anything under 10Mbps and there’s more than one product using the internet, you’ll be hard-pressed to stream something in Full HD, let alone 4K Ultra HD. 

Here are the download speeds Netflix recommends (again, for one stream):

  • SD — 3Mbps
  • Full HD — 5Mbps
  • 4K Ultra HD — 25Mbps

How to test your Netflix speed

Now that we’ve clarified how much bandwidth you need, we turn our attention to how to test your Netflix speed. Netflix’s speed test website called Fast.com will automatically calculate your speed upon opening the page. In a matter of seconds, your device’s Netflix speed will appear as a number on the screen. If it’s a few Mbps (no more than 10) less than what you’re paying for, there’s no immediate cause for concern — the speed fluctuates more than the value of Bitcoin.

If the speed is a lot less than you were expecting (let’s say more than a 10Mbps drop), you may need to take action. Fortunately, we have an in-depth look at everything you can do to get Netflix back to serving up piping-hot bowls of 4K Ultra HD content in no time. Just be warned that if the issue stems from a local drop-in speed during peak hours, there isn’t much you can do outside of flagging the problem with your internet service provider.

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