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What is bitrate?

Bitrate is the number of bits uploaded or downloaded over a certain period of time. It’s usually measured in seconds and written as bit/s or bps. For online videos, bitrate is written the same as bandwidth: in megabits per second (Mbps). Audio bitrate is usually written in kilobits per second (kbps).

Different types of files and data have more bits than others. Videos contain a lot more bits than high-resolution photos or emails, for example. If the bitrate is too low, your video may get compressed. That means even if your video starts out with high resolution and a high frame rate, your viewers may end up seeing a poorer image quality.

Video bitrate and audio bitrate are very similar but have slight differences. Read about each one for more detailed information:

Bitrate and bandwidth limits

When broadcasting, you may experience bandwidth limits for both upload and download transfers. Bandwidth refers to the maximum throughput of the network for uploading and downloading data. The larger the data request, the higher bandwidth it needs to pass through. When the bandwidth is insufficient, it induces breakpoints and slows down the transferring process. 

The bandwidth, same as speed, can be measured in Mbps. Many internet providers specify how much bandwidth their networks allow. If they provide 100 Mbps for downloads and 5 Mbps for uploads, the network can easily cope with downloading content but may not handle uploads fast enough for quality live streaming. 

How to deal with bandwidth limits

If you’re feeling squeezed by your bandwidth limits, there are a few things you can do to adapt. 

  • High-efficiency video coding (HEVC) or H.265. This is an extended version of H.264 or AVC, which is the industry standard for video compression. HEVC enables video compression without affecting the quality — it allows for a smaller file size that requires less bandwidth. Plus, viewers whose devices are compatible with H.265 also need less bandwidth; hence, they have a better chance of watching the stream in premium quality.

Platforms that support adaptive bitrate streaming (ABS). These work well when it is necessary to eliminate downloading limits. Not only do they provide bufferless playback mode, but they also automatically optimize video resolution, which results in more viewing options to choose from. Viewers with higher bandwidth can watch the broadcast in top quality, whereas people with limited bandwidth can watch it with a lower resolution and frame rate to match their restrictions.