Live streaming requires two things: powerful hardware and a good internet upload speed.
You can find hardware that handles encoding for live video (and playing video games simultaneously) in a smartphone or a decent computer. Getting a good upload speed for streaming is trickier.
Before you start calling your ISP to inquire about more bandwidth, you need to know what a good upload speed for streaming is. Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question.
A good upload speed allows you to stream the content you want to the platform of your choice without any major issues. It should also be capable of delivering your content at a quality that will not disadvantage you or make your stream less appealing than others.
Basically, anything between 672 kbps and 61.5 Mbps is ideal.
Not a great answer, right? There are some generally accepted values for good upload speeds, which are worth knowing. But we’ll also dig a bit deeper to find a good upload speed for your particular live stream needs.
🤓 Understanding download/upload speeds
What do you think people do the most online? We know that the most popular website in the world is Google. It’s followed by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia. So that’s one search engine, an encyclopedia, two social networks, and a video platform/social network.
People consume content online. They seek it out, identify it, and then read, listen, or watch it. To be able to do that, their devices need to ingest data, which comes to them in the form of bits. Your internet connection’s download rate shows you how many bits of data your computer or device can take in from the internet using that connection. Usually, the rate (also referred to as bitrate) is expressed in millions of bits — or megabits — per second (Mbps).
It’s your connection’s upload rate that matters the most.
When you create content and want to share it online, it’s your connection’s upload rate that matters the most. It’s the same as the download rate; it just works the other way around, showing how many bits of data you can share per second. It’s also expressed in Mbps. Data shows that, globally, upload rates are slower than download rates.
👀 What is a good upload speed for streaming?
Streaming live video can take up a lot of bandwidth. Just how much will depend on several factors. Encoding matters, but so does the type of content you want to stream. Platforms play a part, as do the resolution (expressed in pixels, or p) and the frame rate (frames per second, or fps) of your stream.
Say you want to live stream a video of yourself interviewing someone. You’re choosing between Facebook Live, YouTube Live, and Twitch. Since all these platforms support live streaming video resolution of 720p, we’ll use the bitrate recommendations from each platform:
- Facebook Live recommends a max bitrate of 4,000 kbps, plus a max audio bitrate of 128 kbps.
- YouTube Live recommends a range between 1,500 and 4,000 kbps for video, plus 128 kbps for audio.
- Twitch recommends a range between 2,500 and 4,000 kbps for video, plus up to 160 kbps for audio.
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If you’re streaming live video at a resolution of 720p, at 30 frames per second, you will upload up to 4,160 kilobits, or 4.16 Mbps, of data per second. So having an upload bandwidth of around 4 Mbps should cover you, right?
Not quite. You will need to upload up to 4,160 kilobits of data per second constantly. Because these speeds fluctuate, it’s a good idea to have a 35% to 40% buffer. That puts us at an upload rate of around 5,700 kilobits per second, or 5.7 Mbps. However, if you are sure your internet connection is stable, such a buffer might not be needed. Remember, a stable connection is as important as upload speed!
For various reasons, your ISP’s declared upload bandwidth and the actual upload speed you can achieve with your connection can be very different. That’s why you should always test your upload speed using online speed tests. The number you get from these tests should be up to 5.7 Mbps if you want to stream 720p video at 30 frames per second.
Read Next: The only multistreaming guide you’ll ever need 📍
💁♂️ The many variables affecting upload speed requirements
The 5.7 Mbps upload speed for 720p video at 30 frames per second is the upper limit. You can still live stream 720p video with a lower upload speed. If the whole video is a single shot of you talking, 4,000 kbps might be too high of a bitrate. You would probably be fine if you reduced it by half.
If, on the other hand, you want to stream video games or events with tons of visual information, 4,000 kbps is necessary. The faster the pace of the visuals, the higher your bitrate should be. The type of content you stream affects what a good upload speed is for you.
Let’s stay with video games. If you’re streaming games with fast-paced action, you should ensure that your viewers see what’s going on as clearly as possible. You might want to stream at more than 30 frames per second.
However, more frames per second requires a higher bitrate. For Twitch, it pushes the range for 720p video to between 3,500 and 5,000 kbps. YouTube Live recommends 2,250 to 6,000 Kbps. When you factor in these requirements, that’s a 6.2 Mbps upload speed for Twitch and 7.4 Mbps for YouTube Live if you want to stream 720p video at 60 frames per second. Also, keep in mind that these are just the highest optimal values.
A good upload speed for your live streaming will vary from one platform to another.
On Facebook, beginning streamers can only stream up to 720p video, so there’s no need to have more than 5 Mbps. In order to live stream Full HD videos, you need to apply for their Level Up affiliate program.
Twitch allows up to 1080p video at 60 frames per second. You’ll need an upload speed of up to 7.4 Mbps to support that.
YouTube Live supports 4k live streaming at 60 frames per second. It recommends a bitrate in the range of 20,000 to 51,000 kbps. You’d need an upload speed of 68.8 Mbps to pull that off. That’s just above the average upload speed in the District of Columbia, the area with the highest median upload speed in the United States.
Finally, your competitors might affect your upload speed requirements. Twitch and YouTube are crowded with streamers trying to use the platforms to generate income. If you’re streaming too, you cannot afford to fall behind on video quality. Better quality requires higher upload speeds, so the competition will eventually push you to increase your upload rate.
🤩 What upload speeds should I be aiming for?
With all these variables in mind, you shouldn’t ask what a “good” upload speed is. Instead, it’s better to ask which speed you should aim for in your circumstances.
Which bitrates and corresponding upload rates do the three major streaming platforms advise streamers to use? We’ll segment by platform, resolution, and frames per second, where applicable.
- Recommended max bitrate of 4,000 kbps for video.
- Recommended audio bitrate is up to 128 kbps.
- Maximum resolution is 1080p, with 60 frames reproduced per second. Aim for an upload speed of 6 to 7 Mbps (although Facebook limits most accounts to 720p resolution).
- For 720p video at 30 or 60 frames per second, aim for an upload speed of roughly 3 to 4 Mbps.
- For 720p video at 30 frames per second, bitrate should be between 2,500 and 4,000 kbps. That requires upload speeds between 3.2 Mbps and 5 Mbps.
- For 720p video at 60 frames per second, the bitrate should be between 3,500 and 5,000 kbps. Required upload speeds are between 4.4 Mbps and 6.2 Mbps.
- For 1080p video at 30 frames per second, the bitrate should be 3,500 to 5,000 kbps – same as for 720p video at 60 fps. The required upload speeds are the same too, between 4.4 Mbps and 6.2 Mbps.
- For 1080p video at 60 frames per second, the recommended bitrate is between 4500 and 6000 kbps. The required upload speeds are between 5.6 Mbps and 7.4 Mbps.
- For 720p video at 30 frames per second, the range is 1,500 to 4,000 kbps. That’s an upload speed between roughly 2 Mbps and 5 Mbps.
- For 720p video at 60 frames per second, the range is 2,250 to 6,000 kbps. Required upload speeds are between 2.9 Mbps and 7.4 Mbps.
- For 1080p video at 30 frames per second, the bitrate range is 3,000 to 6,000 kbps. Required upload speeds are between 3.8 Mbps and 7.4 Mbps.
- For 1080p video at 60 frames per second, the bitrate range is 4,500 to 9,000 kbps. In upload speeds, that means between 5.6 Mbps and 11 Mbps.
- For 1440p video at 30 frames per second, the bitrate range is 6,000 to 13,000 kbps. That’s between 7.4 Mbps and 15.8 Mbps in recommended upload speeds.
- For 1440p video at 60 frames per second, the range is 9,000 to 18,000 kbps. In upload speeds, that’s between 11 Mbps and 21.8 Mbps.
- If you really want to live stream 4k video, doing it at 30 frames per second will require a bitrate between 13,000 and 34,000 kbps. In terms of upload speed, that’s 15.8 Mbps and 41 Mbps.
- To stream 4k video at 60 frames per second, the recommended bitrate range is 20,000 to 51,000 kbps. You’ll need an upload speed between 24.2 Mbps and 61.5 Mbps.
As you can see, YouTube offers the highest-quality live streaming. Facebook is the most accessible, while Twitch is still the gamer’s haven.
👉 How to get a good upload speed for streaming
Calculating your desired upload speed is one thing, but getting access to that speed is something completely different.
The upload speed you can achieve depends on the service packages your ISP offers. For residential users, the download speed will always be higher than the upload speed. The best way to get symmetry between the two is to sign up for a business-level service if possible. It will guarantee you the ISP’s declared upload speed at any time. This, in turn, provides stability and reliability to ensure smooth live streams.
In terms of sheer speed, the good news is that internet connections are becoming faster across the board. Technologies such as fiber-optic internet are bringing higher speeds to your workplace or home — if fiber is offered in your area, that is.
So, the first step in obtaining a good upload speed for streaming is to switch to an ISP that offers the speed you need. Be prepared to pay more for more speed, though. Also, make sure you ask around about the quality of their service.
If you’re stuck with a provider that offers suboptimal speeds, you can still do a couple of things to improve your situation:
- Get a wired connection. Your WiFi might be great when it comes to watching YouTube videos on your smartphone or checking social media. But when live streaming, a wired connection with an ethernet cable is better. It gives you less interference and more stability, which leads to better stream quality.
- Remove excess devices from your network. You don’t want your internet connection to be crowded when you start streaming. Don’t let any other device hog your upload speed, and disconnect them from your network or turn off their WiFi capabilities during your stream.
- Close excess programs and apps on your computer. The only thing that should be uploading when you stream is your encoder. Peer-to-peer networking has probably ruined its fair share of live streams, so wait until you’re off the air.
- Use cloud-based multistreaming. Multistreaming, or streaming live to several platforms at the same time, is incredibly useful for content creators. It helps reach new audiences, saves time, and offers great tools from various platforms. Unfortunately, it can also be demanding on your CPU and bandwidth. To deal with it, use a cloud-based multistreaming service to bear some of that load.
- Remove malware; use ad blockers and privacy tools. Malware, ads, and online tracking can use up some of your upload bandwidth. Remove, stop, or block any of these speed-leeching undesired programs.
- Use up-to-date software and hardware. Old drivers can slow your computer down, and old modems can bottleneck your upload speed. Make sure your hardware and software are up to the task of streaming live video.
🔥 How to stream with a low upload speed
With Restream Events, you can bypass the upload speed inconveniences. How? Our feature allows you to upload your pre-recorded videos, schedule them, and set them to go live later as if they were regular streams. With this method, your upload speed doesn’t matter. After you upload your video, Restream will broadcast it at the scheduled time automatically, so you don’t even have to be online.
Learn more 👉 Restream Events: Everything you need to know
Bonus tip: Thanks to our multistreaming technology, you can schedule and live stream your pre-recorded content to top platforms, like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and more, all at the same time.
As a live video streamer, the quality of your content will depend on the quality of your broadcast. That’s a fact. You can have the best skills in the most popular games, or the best banter, or the greatest sense of humor. But if people can’t see and hear you well, they’re not going to stick around to watch your stream.
Upload speeds can significantly affect the quality of your broadcasts. Use a connection with enough upload speed for the type of content you broadcast.
Remember, you shouldn’t go for the highest possible upload speed by default. You only need it if you’re planning to stream at a very high bitrate. A good upload speed is the one that’s appropriate for your goals.