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What internet speed is needed to watch Sling TV and Netflix ?

Streaming online video generally needs constant 3 Megabits/second or more of available bandwidth. Watching videos in standard quality uses about 1 Gigabyte per hour, while HD quality uses about 3 Gigabytes per hour.

Many broadband users are cutting ties with traditional TV and replacing it with online streaming services like Sling TV, Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, etc. Because of this ever-increasing streaming trend, broadband users are reaching their home internet and mobile data caps faster than ever before. High-definition video streaming and ultra-high definition in particular can be a huge bandwidth hog. Until "unlimited" data really becomes such, we should be aware of the actual numbers to make informed decisions. So how much bandwidth/data does streaming actually use ?

It really depends on quality and content, here are some general sustained bandwidth guidelines:
1 Mbps - minimum recommended bandwidth for streaming video.
3 Mbps - recommended for streaming standard definition (480p) video
5 Mbps - minimum recommended for streaming high definition (720p/1080p) video
25 Mbps - recommended for streaming ultra-high definition (4K) video

Sling TV
It uses between 3 and 5 Mbps if streaming in HD depending on content, with sports channels like ESPN with a lot of movement requiring higher bandwidth, but it can be reduced to less than a gigabyte per hour. The user-defined quality settings are as follows:
"Best Quality" - uses ~3-5 GB of data per hour (no bandwidth limit)
"High Quality" - ~2 GB of data per hour (1.5 Mbps limit)
"Medium Quality" - ~ 1 GB of data per hour (800 Kbps limit)
"Low Quality" - ~500-700 MB per hour (500 Kbps limit)

Netflix uses between 400MB and 4.7GB per hour, averaging about 1-2GB/hour in our experience. The bandwidth requirement depends on the watched content quality and the data usage settings. The service allows for four data usage settings, as follows:
"Low" data usage mode - 0.3 GB per hour
"Medium" - 0.7 GB to 1 GB per hour, standard definition video
"High" - up to 3 GB per hour for HD, 7 GB per hour for Ultra HD or 3D.
"Auto" - adjusts bandwidth usage automatically based on what your connection can handle

Uses about 1 Mbps for SD video streaming, ~2Mbps for 720p HD video streaming.

Amazon Prime
Uses ~0.9GB per hour for SD video streaming, 2GB/hr for HD streaming.

YouTube bandwidth can vary depending on the source. It is mostly dependent on the video resolution, but also on the bitrate of the source video. YouTube streams at up to 4.5Mbps for 1080p videos. Below is average bandwidth consumed per hour of streaming at different resolutions:
480p - ~400MB per hour
720p - 800MB to 1GB per hour.
1080p - 1.3GB to 1.5GB per hour

As a general rule, live streaming services like Sling TV have a bit higher bandwidth requirement than on-demand streaming video like Netflix.
If your target video streaming requires a sustained bandwidth of 3 Mbps, a 5+ Mbps internet connection is more realistic to be able to reach that goal consistently.

See Also: What internet speed is needed for video conferencing with Zoom, Skype, or Teams?

  User Reviews/Comments:
by anonymous - 2018-10-07 20:15
The fact that some of these are in Mbps, and some are in GB/hr makes comparison unnecessarily difficult.
by Philip - 2018-10-08 07:55
Connection speeds are typically measured in Megabits per second (Mbps, Mbit/s), while amount of data is typically measured in Megabytes or Gigabytes. We try to offer both measurements.

1 Megabit per second (1 Million bits per second) would transfer ~ 450 Megabytes in an hour (0.45 Gigabytes).

We have a "Bits/Bytes Conversion Calculator" that could help with those conversions:
by Mike - 2019-12-14 06:34
Other websites say Sling on medium quality uses 500 MB per hour.
by Philip - 2019-12-14 09:51
Sling "Low" quality uses about 500 MB per hour, "Medium" uses more like 1 GB of data on average.. but it also depends on the channel and your device. Mobile devices tend to use less data per hour than PCs. Sports channels with a lot of movement tend to use more data than channels with prevailing stationary backgrounds.
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