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Is 50Mb broadband fast enough?

By Richard Murphy
Monday, April 24th 2017

The faster your broadband, the more you can do online – but only to a point. Beyond a certain speed, it is a case of diminishing returns.

Most providers offer two fibre speeds – up to 38Mb and up to 76Mb. BT's entry-level speed is now 52Mb. So is it fast enough to cope with a household full of Netflix, Facebook and Call of Duty fans all at once? Hold on to your megabits, it’s time to find out.

What you can do with 50Mb fibre broadband

Browse the internet

A 50Mb connection will banish those days of painfully slow browsing to the history books. Most pages will open near-instantly (depending on how good the site itself is) and YouTube videos will begin playing on the spot, even in the highest possible quality setting.

Use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook

If your main method of communication is through social media, or you just like being really nosey, 50Mb is more than enough to keep you connected. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest – you name it, you can obsess over it.

Send and receive emails

Sending emails, including emails with large attachments, won’t cause you any grief. Most email clients have limits to how large a file you can send, and you’ll be well covered by a 50Mb download speed.

Internet banking

More of us are doing our banking online, and a 50Mb speed is more than enough to cope. Whether you want to check your balance or set up a new account, screens load instantly and transactions will process there and then.

Featured deals

Here are some of the most popular deals for new customers.

  • BT Unlimited Infinity 1 + Calls

    • Up to 52Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Free weekend calls
    Offer ends 22nd March
    £28 .99
    £9.99 set-up cost includes line rental See Deal
  • TalkTalk Faster Fibre 76Mb

    • Up to 76Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Pay as you go calls
    Cable.co.uk exclusive, No fibre setup fee & Fixed price for the contract length
    Zero set-up cost includes line rental See Deal
  • Virgin Media VIVID 100 Fibre Broadband

    Virgin Media
    • Up to 100Mb download speed
    • Unlimited monthly usage
    • No landline, no line rental
    £20 set-up cost See Deal
  • EE Unlimited Fibre Plus Broadband

    • Up to 76Mb download speed
    • Truly unlimited monthly usage
    • Pay as you go calls
    £75 EE Reward Card & Includes EE Mobile 5GB Data Boost
    Zero set-up cost includes line rental See Deal

Stream HD TV, HD movies and music

A 50Mb download limit is enough to let you stream films and TV programmes in the highest quality with ease. No buffering, no stuttering pictures or huge dips in image quality, even at the highest setting.

Audio streaming uses less data than streaming video, and will run uninterrupted as well.


Watching films and TV shows over Netflix can be done at different quality levels, from standard definition all the way up to UHD (ultra high definition), also known as 4K.

A 50Mb connection is more than fast enough to watch at all quality settings. Netflix suggests a connection of no slower than 25Mb to watch at UHD, so a 50Mb connection is more than enough (although you will need a 4K TV to watch it).

BBC iPlayer

The BBC’s on demand player doesn’t need quite as much grunt to stream its shows. The BBC suggests a minimum download speed of 2.8Mb to stream at the highest quality, so you’re more than set with 50Mbps.

Now TV

Now TV has garnered a reputation for showing films and TV in a less than stellar format. The highest possible quality is 720p, which is nothing to scream and shout about, but does put less of a strain on broadband connections.

The recommended download speed for streaming is only 2.5Mb, which is small potatoes for a 50Mb connection.

Amazon Prime Instant Video

Amazon Prime Instant Video suggests a connection speed of 900Kbps to stream in standard definition and a 3.5Mbps connection to stream in high definition. You can watch all of it with a 50Mb connection.

Amazon Prime has started showing films and TV shows in UHD, but has not released a minimum internet speed for the connection. We imagine it’ll be similar to that of Netflix, around 25Mb.


Audiophiles rejoice. Streaming music is a less data-intensive activity than streaming video. Spotify suggests a mere 320Kb connection to stream music at the highest quality setting, not something that’s likely to trouble a 50Mb connection in the slightest.


Playing fast-paced multiplayer games

Dashing around in online multiplayer games like Call of Duty and Battlefield won’t put a great amount of strain on your download speed, regardless of how many respawns you clock up.

These games require a strong and reliable upload speed to prevent the game skipping or becoming ‘laggy’ (to use gamer parlance).

Downloading new games

You can download a game with any broadband connection speed, but the faster your package, the sooner you can dive into the game.

The average size for a new videogame is around 40GB. With a 50Mb connection, it should download in under two hours, just enough time for thumb warm-up exercises.

Set up a gaming server

It’s your upload speed that will determine how many people you can host on a gaming server.

Connect 10-12 devices without problems

You might have to use your imagination a little bit here, as estimating how many different devices can use this connection really depends on what the devices are doing.

A 50Mb connection can quite comfortably support a handful of phones and tablets browsing social media and a TV streaming a HD movie.

Connecting your phone or tablet to your broadband over a wi-fi connection is a great way to preserve your mobile data, especially for things like downloading new apps.

A 50Mb connection will make short work of these small downloads, freeing up your mobile data for more important activities, like uploading photos of food to Instagram.

Establish a small office

This depends on what your business does, but most smaller offices could run quite happily on a 50Mb fibre broadband connection.

Sending emails, browsing websites, conducting VoIP calls and transferring files over a number of computers falls well within this speed’s remit.

Using cloud computing services

Cloud computing services like Dropbox or iCloud will put more of a strain on your upload speed than your download.

Use VoIP services

Voice over internet protocol (VoIP) requires a fast upload speed as well as a decent download speed. Skype, one of the more popular VoIP services, recommends 1.5Mb download and 1.5Mb upload speed to have a one-on-one video call in HD.

Group videos impact your download speed more, and Skype recommends an 8Mbps download and only 512Kb upload speed for calls with seven or more people, so you’re well catered for with BT's 9.5Mb upload speed.

  • Virgin Media VIVID 100 Fibre Broadband + Calls

    Virgin Media
    • Up to 100Mb download speed
    • Unlimited monthly usage
    • Free weekend calls
    £20 set-up cost includes line rental See Deal
  • Virgin Media The Player TV Bundle

    Virgin Media
    • Freeview channels
    • Up to 50Mb download speed
    • Unlimited monthly usage
    • Free weekend calls
    £20 set-up cost includes line rental See Deal

What you can’t do with 50Mb fibre broadband

Watch multiple UHD streams at the same time

We touched on this earlier, but streaming multiple UHD movies is going to weigh down a 50Mb connection to the point that the buffering becomes unbearable.

Watching movies in UHD is pretty much the most bandwidth intensive thing an average household can do, and we don’t imagine there are too many households out there with more than one UHD TVs.

Run a gaming server

A 9.5Mb upload speed is fine if you want to invite a handful of friends to join your server. Problems will arise if you want any more to join in the fun.

Run a company server

Again, this depends on what your company does and what the majority of your employees are doing. A large company that relies on its internet connection should probably think about a faster broadband package.

When more and more people begin to use an internet connection it starts to slow down. A company with more than 50 employees all connecting to the internet and sending emails are going to get pretty frustrated on a connection with only 9.5Mb upload.

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