8K streaming and in other homes 4K streaming is the in thing when it comes to watching movies, games, and other videos. It is an excellent way to enjoy your free time. However, it is quite challenging when you have fast internet but slow streaming.
Buffering in the midst of a video is one of the most traumatizing things ever. You feel like pulling off your hair when waiting for a goal, a touchdown, or an action area in a movie, and your best smart TV for streaming starts going round and round without playing the scene.
Due to this trauma, some people have even broken their TVs or routers in the heat of the moment. However, there are several reasons why you can get slow streaming even though you have subscribed to fast internet from your ISP.
Most people have invested in excellent hardware such as the best router for streaming, the best ISP service, and even a good 4K or 8K TV. Therefore, what can be the cause of slow streaming when all the devices and services that provide the internet are of the highest quality?
Fast Internet but Slow Streaming
Experiencing fast internet but slow streaming can be frustrating and is often caused by various factors. Here are some possible reasons and solutions:
- Streaming Server Congestion: The website or streaming service you are using may be experiencing heavy traffic or server congestion, leading to slow streaming. In such cases, try streaming at a different time or on a less busy server.
- Device Performance: Your device’s processing power and memory may affect its ability to handle streaming efficiently. Close background apps and ensure your device is updated and optimized for streaming.
- Using a WiFi connection instead of a wired connection: Using a WiFi connection can lead to slower internet access for your devices. This can affect the quality of the internet for streaming. We recommend connecting your WiFi router to the streaming devices through a wired connection.
- Video Quality Settings: If you’re streaming high-quality videos (e.g., 4K) on a slow connection, buffering and delays can occur. Lower the video quality settings to allow for smoother streaming on slower connections.
- Network Congestion: Even with fast internet, streaming quality can be impacted by local network congestion. Check if other devices on your network are using significant bandwidth, and consider limiting their usage during streaming.
- ISP Throttling: Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) may throttle streaming services, especially during peak hours. Contact your ISP to ensure they are not limiting streaming speeds.
- VPN Usage: If you are using a VPN, it might affect streaming performance. Try disabling the VPN temporarily to check if it improves streaming speed.
- WiFi Interference: Interference from other wireless devices or neighboring WiFi networks can affect your WiFi connection and streaming quality. Ensure you have a strong and stable WiFi signal.
- Hardware Issues: Outdated or faulty network equipment (router, modem) can impact streaming speed. Consider upgrading your hardware if necessary. This can include having a router with outdated firmware. Moreover, other devices in your house may have software challenges.
- Browser or App Troubles: Sometimes, streaming issues can be specific to a particular browser or app. Try using a different browser or app to see if it makes a difference.
These are several reasons why you may have a poor streaming experience even with a high-performance internet subscription. Some of these reasons are because of the hardware challenges while others are because of software challenges.
1. Network congestion
Network congestion refers to the condition when a network experiences excessive traffic or data load, leading to a slowdown in data transmission and communication between devices thus a reduction in the quality of service (QOS). During network congestion, data packets may be delayed, dropped, or take longer to reach their destinations, resulting in reduced performance and slower response times for users.
Network congestion can significantly impact streaming performance in several ways:
- Buffering and Delays: When the network experiences congestion, the data packets carrying the streaming content may get delayed or lost along the way. This results in buffering, where the video pauses to load more content, causing interruptions in the streaming experience.
- Reduced Video Quality: To cope with network congestion, streaming services may automatically lower the video quality (resolution) to prevent buffering. This downgrade in video quality can result in a less enjoyable viewing experience with lower clarity and detail.
- Frequent Interruptions: Congestion can cause fluctuations in network speed, leading to frequent interruptions and dropouts during streaming. Viewers may experience frozen frames or sudden disruptions in the audio.
- Increased Load Times: Due to network congestion, the time taken to start streaming a video may be longer than usual. This delay occurs while the streaming service buffers enough content to ensure smooth playback.
- Stalled Streams: In severe cases of network congestion, streams may stall altogether, making it impossible to watch content smoothly.
Network congestion typically occurs during peak usage hours when many users are simultaneously accessing the internet and consuming large amounts of data, such as in the evenings or during major events. Congestion can also happen due to ISP throttling or issues with network infrastructure.
When network congestion is caused by excessive traffic on a link or network node, it is referred to as traffic overloading. Congestion avoidance and congestion control methods are used to prevent network collapse and reduce congestion. In addition to the peak hours congestion, you may get network congestion due to traffic overloading due to the following:
- Overused load balancers, switches, routers, and firewalls
- Receiving unnecessary traffic, such as streaming videos on a work network, VoIP phone calls, or unwanted advertisements.
- Faulty Devices and hardware including ethernet cables and wire connections for the devices/ hardware
- Security attacks on your network including worms, viruses, and Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
To improve streaming performance during periods of congestion, you can try the following:
- Reduce video quality settings to put less strain on the network.
- Stream during off-peak hours when network traffic is lower.
- Close other bandwidth-intensive applications running on your device.
- Use a wired connection instead of WiFi, as it can offer more stable and consistent speeds.
- Contact your ISP to inquire about any network issues or potential solutions for congestion problems.
Remember that network congestion is not always within your control, and it may be necessary to adjust your streaming habits or seek alternative solutions during peak usage times.
2. Device performance
Device performance plays a crucial role in the smooth streaming of videos and media content. A device with sufficient processing power and memory can efficiently decode and render high-quality video streams, resulting in minimal buffering and faster load times.
On the other hand, a device with limited resources may struggle to handle streaming demands, leading to buffering, stuttering, and reduced video quality. Closing background apps is essential because they consume valuable system resources, potentially competing with the streaming app for processing power and network bandwidth. By closing unnecessary apps, you free up resources for the streaming application, ensuring smoother playback.
Keeping your device updated and optimized is also crucial for streaming performance. Regular updates ensure that your device’s software and streaming apps are equipped with the latest improvements, bug fixes, and optimizations. App developers often release updates to enhance streaming efficiency, so staying up-to-date can lead to a better streaming experience.
Therefore, a device with good processing power and memory, coupled with proper optimization and updated software, can handle streaming demands more efficiently, providing users with seamless and enjoyable streaming experiences.
3. Using WiFi instead of a Wired connection for streaming
WiFi offers the convenience of wireless connectivity, using a wired connection through an Ethernet cable can provide a more reliable and robust connection, especially for demanding tasks like streaming high-quality videos or gaming. Using WiFi for streaming instead of a wired connection can affect the streaming experience in several ways:
- Stability and Consistency: A wired connection provides a more stable and consistent data transfer compared to WiFi. WiFi signals can be susceptible to interference from other electronic devices, walls, and other obstacles, which can lead to fluctuations in network speed and cause buffering or interruptions during streaming.
- Speed and Bandwidth: Wired connections generally offer faster speeds and higher bandwidth capabilities than most WiFi connections. Faster speeds mean smoother streaming with minimal buffering, especially for high-definition or 4K content.
- Signal Strength: The quality of the WiFi signal can vary depending on the distance from the router and the number of devices connected to the same network. Weak WiFi signals may result in lower video quality or slower load times for streaming content.
- Latency/Ping: WiFi connections can have higher latency (ping times) compared to wired connections. Higher latency can lead to a delay in data transmission, affecting real-time streaming experiences like online gaming or video conferencing.
- Congestion: In areas with many WiFi networks or devices competing for the same frequency, network congestion can occur, leading to reduced speeds and performance during peak usage times.
- Interference: Other electronic devices, neighboring WiFi networks, and physical obstacles can interfere with WiFi signals, negatively impacting streaming performance.
If you’re experiencing streaming issues over WiFi, consider connecting your device via a wired connection for an improved and more consistent streaming experience.
4. Video quality settings
Many streaming platforms also offer adaptive streaming, which automatically adjusts the video quality based on the available bandwidth, ensuring smooth playback even on fluctuating connections. Video quality settings can still significantly impact streaming performance even on a fast internet connection:
- Bandwidth Consumption: Higher video quality settings (e.g., 4K) require more bandwidth to stream smoothly. If your internet connection has limited bandwidth or if multiple devices are using the network simultaneously, streaming at a high-quality setting can cause buffering or delays.
- Buffering and Load Times: Higher-quality videos have larger file sizes, which may require more time to buffer before playback starts. On a fast internet connection, this buffering time may be reduced, but it can still lead to a short delay before the video begins.
- Network Stability: Even with fast internet, fluctuations in network stability or temporary slowdowns can occur. Lower video quality settings may be more resilient to such variations and result in a smoother streaming experience.
- Data Caps: Streaming at higher quality settings can consume more data. If you have a data cap on your internet plan, streaming in high quality may cause you to reach your data limit faster.
- Device Compatibility: Some devices may struggle to handle very high-quality video streams, leading to choppy playback or overheating. Lower-quality settings can help ensure compatibility with a broader range of devices.
To optimize streaming on a fast internet connection, consider adjusting the video quality settings based on your specific situation. If you encounter buffering or interruptions during playback, try lowering the quality to see if it improves the streaming experience.
5. Having outdated firmware for your router
A corrupt firmware file may be flashed to a device, making it inoperable, or an incompatible device may accept a flash, resulting in an inoperable device. Regularly updating your router firmware helps to improve its stability, security, and performance, which, in turn, enhances your overall streaming experience on a fast internet connection.
Using an outdated router firmware on a fast internet connection can have several negative effects on streaming performance:
- Performance and Stability Issues: Outdated firmware may not be optimized to handle the latest network protocols and technologies. This can lead to reduced router performance, slower data processing, and increased chances of network instability during streaming.
- Security Vulnerabilities: Older firmware versions may have known security vulnerabilities that can be exploited by malicious actors. These vulnerabilities could potentially lead to unauthorized access to your network or disrupt your streaming experience.
- Lack of New Features and Improvements: Manufacturers often release firmware updates to add new features, improve overall performance, and enhance compatibility with the latest devices. Without these updates, your router might not take advantage of the latest advancements that can optimize streaming.
- Incompatibility: If your router’s firmware is too outdated, it may not be fully compatible with newer devices and streaming protocols, leading to connectivity issues and reduced streaming quality.
To ensure optimal streaming performance, it’s crucial to keep your router’s firmware up to date. Most modern routers have a built-in firmware update feature accessible through their web-based administration interface. Check the router manufacturer’s website or user manual for instructions on how to update the firmware.
6. VPN Usage
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) works by creating a secure and encrypted connection between your device and a remote server operated by the VPN provider. This connection routes your internet traffic through the server, masking your IP address and encrypting your data, providing privacy, security, and the ability to access content from different regions.
Using a VPN (Virtual Private Network), though it provides privacy, security, and ability to access content only available in different regions, can affect streaming on a fast internet connection in the following ways:
- Reduced Speed: VPNs can introduce some overhead as the data needs to be encrypted and routed through the VPN server. This additional process can lead to a reduction in internet speed, which may impact streaming quality, especially for high-definition content.
- Buffering and Delays: The added distance between your device and the VPN server can result in increased latency (ping times). Higher latency can cause buffering, delays, and interruptions during streaming, particularly for real-time content like live streams or online gaming.
- VPN Server Location: The location of the VPN server you connect to can also affect streaming. If the VPN server is geographically distant from your actual location, it may introduce more latency and impact streaming performance.
- VPN Server Load: If the VPN server is handling a high number of users or experiencing heavy traffic, it may lead to slower speeds and reduced streaming quality for VPN users.
- Geo-Restrictions: While a VPN can bypass geo-restrictions and access content from different regions, some streaming platforms actively block VPN connections. As a result, you might encounter streaming errors or be unable to access certain content.
- Device Compatibility: Some devices, particularly older or less powerful ones, might struggle to handle the additional encryption and processing required for VPN usage during streaming.
If you experience slow streaming or buffering while using a VPN, consider the following:
- Choose a VPN server with a closer geographic location to reduce latency.
- Opt for VPN servers with lower user loads to improve performance.
- Check if the VPN service offers specialized servers optimized for streaming.
- Disable the VPN for streaming services that do not have geo-restrictions to avoid unnecessary overhead.
- Upgrade your internet plan to a higher speed tier if the reduced speed is due to bandwidth limitations.
While a VPN provides privacy and security benefits, it’s essential to weigh its advantages against potential impacts on streaming performance. If streaming is your primary concern, consider using the VPN selectively or choosing a reputable VPN service known for fast and reliable connections.
How to fix the streaming problems
1. Restart everything
If you are having challenges and you think that the above reasons may not be the cause, then it is good to restart everything. Restarting every device is always the solution given as the first solution to any technology-related problem.
You can restart the gaming modem, the router, and the streaming device. This will give the devices time to cool off and reset. The process of restarting may solve your streaming problem easily.
2. Network congestion on your Wi-Fi
One of the main reasons why you may have a poor streaming experience even when you have subscribed to fast internet is network congestion. This may be due to the simultaneous connection of several devices that consume a lot of the internet.
The devices may be from your household or from network vultures around you. For example, if your children are gaming on their latest Xbox One S, your spouse is having a teleconference and you want to stream using your Roku 4K streaming device, you may get buffering on your connection.
Network thieves may also be the real cause of slow streaming in your home. This is especially the main cause when they are logging into the main Wi-Fi connection instead of Guest Wi-Fi.
How to reduce congestion on your internet connection
To mitigate against these main problems, you can do the following:
- If the main problem is the multiple simultaneous connections, You can get the best router for multiple devices. These routers have a faster processor, excellent QoS for prioritizing connections, faster speeds, and other technological advancements.
- Get a Wi-Fi 6 router: Wi-Fi 6 is the latest Wi-Fi standard that makes it easier to connect multiple devices simultaneously. The standards also have better features in speeds, safety, and others.
- Ensure that visitors connect to your Wi-Fi using the Guest Wi-Fi option. If you give your visitors the main Wi-Fi username and password, you may get persons using your network all the time. This may result in slow streaming even though you have subscribed to fast Wi-Fi. Guest Wi-Fi can be easily reset to ensure parasites do not continue using your network thus boosting the Wi-Fi signal at home.
- Connect your streaming device to the internet via an Ethernet cable: In most times, using wired connections ensures that you get the best internet speeds. This is because there are limited ports and devices thus no major usage of the wired connections.
- You can also ensure that the devices that do not always require Wi-Fi are disconnected. This is because we may be having devices and applications that are using the internet while not in use by anyone. Tablets, smartphones, and smart printers among other devices may be consuming the internet when not in use.
3. Having outdated firmware or hardware
Sometimes, one of the main causes of fast internet subscription but slow streaming is having outdated software, hardware, or even graphic card drivers. This may be on the router, streaming device, or laptop/ computer which you are using to stream.
This may occur either when you ignore the updating requests for software that are given by the different devices. Also, it can be due to a complicated or hidden software updating process.
As for the hardware, outdated hardware means replacing the hardware. This may be a bit costly.
You can check if there are updates for your streaming device, computer, and firmware by going to the settings section of the different devices. This is because the router also has a graphical user interface or application where you can update the firmware.
It also means getting updated graphic card drivers for your device. Or just getting an up to date hardware such as a new streaming device when necessary.
Turning off hardware acceleration in older devices
If the hardware you are using is outdated, streaming may be affected. To ensure that you get a better experience, you can turn off the hardware acceleration feature for your device.
For you to do this, you will need to access the Adobe Flash Player settings. Once you have accessed the settings, you will be required to untick the “Enable hardware acceleration”. Once this is done, you are sure to enjoy a better streaming experience.
4. Lowering the video quality
Sometimes, your internet connection can not handle the video quality sometimes. This is because 8K or 4K streaming consumes a lot of bandwidth. Having a good internet subscription does not mean that you will always get the best upload and download speed.
Therefore, if it is not often the case, you can lower the video quality to get a better streaming experience. To get a better streaming experience, you can lower the video to 720p or 480p for the time being to enjoy your video.
5. Check out the internet connection speed for your streaming device, modem and router
Sometimes, the internet speed may be lost in any of the devices that we are using at home. The internet connection devices at home include a modem, router, and Ethernet cables. You can conduct an internet speed test on any of the three devices. For the modem and router, you can Google “internet speed test” and then test the connection speed.
This may emanate from the modem which is the first device connected to the ISP infrastructure. You may have a modem router combo or gateway which means you will not have a separate router. You can check the connection speed for a modem by unplugging the Ethernet cable that runs from the modem to the router and plugging it into a computer or your streaming device if it has an Ethernet port. If the speeds are Ok then the modem is not the problem. If not, restart the modem or contact your ISP.
The other challenge may be a connection problem on the router. You can also conduct a speed test near the router and also near the streaming device. This is done when you are connected to the same network. This way you can verify if the internet speeds are good for streaming. You can check if the streaming device is far from the router. If the distance is the problem, then invest in a good Wi-Fi extender or a long-range router, or an excellent router for streaming.
If the speeds from the router are more than 10Mbps which are good speeds for streaming, then you can check the streaming device. You can run speed tests on your Roku, Amazon Fire TV streaming device, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Android TV among others. You can check the speeds on the Roku device settings, Amazon’s Firefox for Fire TV, Speedtest by Ookla for Apple TV, and Speedcast for Chromecast among others.
You can also try a different streaming service if your streaming is slow even when you have fast internet. Getting a great streaming experience is every person’s dream.
You can use the steps above to get a better streaming experience.