Not even the most optimistic tech upstart could have imagined video streaming services would have taken off the way they have.
According to the latest figures, over 6.6 million households subscribe to one or more on-demand service and that number continues to grow.
Aside from deciding which subscription to go for, you also have to ensure you can watch the content you want when you want without buffering, stuttering or freezing.
That’s what this guide is all about; actionable methods to help improve your streaming quality.
Bandwidth requirements of video streaming
Before we get into improving streaming quality, let’s take a quick look at how much bandwidth video streams need.
According to Netflix, you need the following minimum broadband speeds:
- 3.0 Megabits per second for SD quality streams
- 5.0 Megabits per second for HD quality streams
- 25 Megabits per second for Ultra HD quality streams
Other streaming services suggest similar speeds for seamless playback.
Broadband Genie estimates video streams typically consume this much data per hour:
- 650MB of data per SD quality TV show
- 3GB of data per HD quality TV show
- 7GB of data per Ultra HD quality TV show
If you have unlimited broadband then the amount of data used is irrelevant, but if you’re on any kind of data-capped service (particularly mobile broadband) it is important to monitor usage to avoid any surprises in the next bill.
How to improve video streaming quality
Streaming can put broadband connections under pressure which can cause slowdowns, buffering, dropouts, or freezing during playback.
These manifest as stuttering during playback, momentary freezing on screen, an unwelcome pause during the movie or TV show, or the stream dropping altogether.
Not what you need when you’re set up to binge-watch your favourite show!
Here are a few practical steps you can take to improve video streaming quality.
Check your broadband speed
First thing’s first: check your broadband speed.
You may be paying for a specific connection speed but that doesn’t mean you’re getting it.
Use the free Broadband Genie speed test to get an accurate measure of your broadband speed.
If you’re getting close to the speed you’re paying for, skip the next step.
If your speed is nowhere near, consider upgrading your broadband or switching carrier.
Alternatively, ask your current provider why the speed you’re getting is not even close to the speed you’re paying for.
There may be something they can do to help.
Upgrade your broadband
Use a postcode checker to see what deals are available in your area.
You may be able to get more speed for the same price you’re paying now.
Or the same speed for less than you’re paying. Either way, it’s always good to know your options.
Consider a practical minimum of 10Mbps per person using the connection at once.
Multiply by the number of people in your home to come up with a suitable connection speed.
Time it right
If you live in a busy household, try to time large downloads or heavy gaming sessions to happen when you’re not streaming.
A little creative scheduling can ensure everyone gets what they want without having to compromise too much.
Optimise your Wi-Fi network
Most of us use Wi-Fi to stream to smart TVs, tablets, phones or laptops so this is what we’ll tackle next.
Find a Wi-Fi analyser app and install it onto your phone.
Check each part of the house you usually stream video to check signal strength and channel interference.
Most apps will show a graphical signal strength so you can quickly see weaker signal areas.
Channel interference comes from neighbour’s Wi-Fi using a similar channel to yours.
Change the Wi-Fi channel on your router so there is a gap between you and your neighbours. F
or example, if they use channel 6, switch yours to 2 or 3 or 8 or 9.
If you experience poor signal strength, consider boosting the signal from the router or using a plug-in signal repeater.
These can significantly boost signal strength in your home.
You should also make sure that your router is not too close to appliances which can cause interference (fridges, microwaves, and cordless phones are a problem), and that it is situated in a central point in your home.
Use a wired network connection
If possible, connect to the internet with a network cable instead of Wi-Fi.
This will often prove to be faster and more reliable than Wi-Fi.
Of course, the downside is that you do need to physically run a cable to each device, and that might be tricky.
One solution is a powerline network adapter kit, which lets you transmit data over the electrical circuits in your home, so you can easily create a wired network without having lengths of cable running everywhere.
Manual streaming quality
Most streaming services allow you to set the stream quality manually as well as automatically.
If all else fails, it is better to watch a TV show in SD quality without freezing than UHD with constant stuttering.
Check your streaming app when selecting a movie or TV show and see if you can set the streaming quality to something manageable.
Download instead of stream
Many streaming services also let you download content for viewing rather than streaming it (although these are often time-limited so keep an eye on expiration dates).
By downloading a TV series, show or movie ahead of time you can watch it without buffering.
Just remember to download overnight or when others in your household aren’t streaming so you don’t add to the problem!
Upgrade your home router
If you’re using an ISP router or your router is an older model, it might be time to consider a replacement.
ISP routers are basic and designed to provide an acceptable experience to the widest possible audience.
Upgrading to a quality home router can improve Wi-Fi performance significantly.
Some routers will also handle newer protocols, deliver better firewalls and more security and provide a wider and stronger signal range.
They do cost money but they can be a worthwhile investment if you use the internet a lot.
Hopefully, by now your streaming experience has improved dramatically.
Many of these can be done quickly and at no cost while others require a little investment in time or money.
Either way, you should now be able to enjoy as much streaming as you can handle without interruption!
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