What is a Good Internet Upload Speed for Live Streaming?

By Fanny Elise Lagarde

14 Min Read

banner image featured
author avatar

Fanny Elise Lagarde

Fanny Elise was a part of the Dacast engineering team, and with her technical knowledge, helped the marketing team to engage readers with streaming content.

Table of Contents

    There are many components that determine the quality of online video streams. One of these components is internet speed. Different streaming setups require the support of different internet connections. Some broadcasts require faster internet than others due to several variables.

    In this post, we’re going to discuss everything broadcasters need to know about internet speed for live streaming. We will cover the basics of internet speed for live streaming before we get into how to determine the best internet speed for your stream.

    From there, we will discuss ideal internet speeds for many different use cases. To wrap things up, we will discuss the importance of viewers’ internet speed. Both your internet speed and your viewers internet speed impacts the end product. 

    Table of Contents

    • The Basics of Internet Speed for Live Streaming
    • What is a Good Internet Upload Speed for Live Streaming?
    • Download Speeds for Viewing Live Streams
    • Encoder Configurations Related to Internet Speed
    • Internet Speed Requirements for Different Streaming Use Cases
    • Internet Speeds for Streaming on Different Platforms
    • Final Thoughts

    The Basics of Internet Speed for Live Streaming

    A lot goes on behind the scenes to make online streaming possible. Different types of technology, including streaming protocols, work behind the scenes to carry chunks of data throughout the live streaming setup to user-facing video players. Online video streaming requires an internet connection that is steady and secure. That is a good upload speed for streaming. 

    There are two measures of internet speed: download speed and upload speed. As a broadcaster, you need to pay attention to the second part of your internet connection speed: upload. In general, our recommendation for live streaming is that your upload speed should be at least double the total bandwidth you’ll use.

    The best type of internet connection for live streaming is Ethernet. This sort of connection is both stable and reliable. If Ethernet is not an option, WiFi is a close second. A wireless connection can get the job done, but it is less reliable. The type of internet connection you have impacts the internet speed for live streaming that you can access.

    If neither Ethernet nor WiFi is available, cellular data is the last resort option. If cellular data is your online option, we recommend checking out our guide to remote streaming.

    What is a Good Internet Upload Speed for Live Streaming?

    upload speed for streaming
    A good upload speed for live streaming has a wide range but depends on the platform you are using.

    Many broadcasters are left wondering what the best internet speed for live streaming is. However, that depends on several factors. Your internet speed should be at least double the bandwidth that your stream will use.

    Different streaming scenarios have different technical requirements.

    In general, an upload speed from 672 kbps to 61.5 Mbps will get the job done.

    Clearly, this is a very wide range, so it is important to evaluate your unique streaming needs to get a more accurate answer of what internet speed for live streaming you need. 

    In order to give you a better understanding of how this works on a technical level, let’s quickly break down bandwidth and two related streaming metrics.

    Video Bandwidth 

    Video bandwidth is the amount of data transferred during a stream. Bandwidth is important in broadcasting for a few reasons. First, it affects what sort of internet speed you need. How much bandwidth you use also affects your live streaming costs.

    Your bandwidth usage is determined by several factors, but the main two are video bitrate and video resolution. That’s why higher-traffic, higher-quality streams require more bandwidth. 

    Video Bitrate

    Video bitrate is the amount of data that is transferred over a specific period of time. It is often measured in bits per second or bps. Smaller files use kilobits per second or kbps.

    Bitrate can be manipulated at the encoder level. This manipulation is used to change the video resolution.

    Video Resolution

    Video resolution is the number of pixels forming the video frame, creating the video’s image on the screen. In most scenarios, the more pixels a video contains, the higher the quality of the video. More pixels can yield a clearer image.

    Resolution measures a video’s width by height in pixels. For example, online content with a 1920 × 1080 video aspect ratio would measure 1920 pixels along the bottom and 1080 pixels in height.

    Higher-resolution streams consume more bandwidth, therefore higher resolution videos require faster internet. If you try to stream a high-resolution video with a slow internet connection, your stream may lag or become choppy. That is why the recommended upload speed for streaming varies based on the quality of video you want to stream.

    Download Speeds for Viewing Live Streams

    Streaming quality seems to have increased over the years, with video start failures down 33% year-over-year, buffering down 41%, and picture quality up 25%. One of the reasons for this is the gradually increasing speed of internet connections. Both mobile networks and home internet services are increasing in speed.

    Remember how we discussed that there are two aspects of internet speed? As we mentioned, upload speed is important for broadcasting content, but download speed is important when it comes to watching streaming video.

    Today, the average download speed in the United States is around 99.3 Mbps.

    Here are some general guidelines for internet speed and streaming video:

    • 25 Mbps: sufficient for streaming 1080p HD video
    • 10 Mbps: sufficient for 720p video
    • 5 Mbps: sufficient for 480p video

    As a broadcaster, you can’t control the internet speed of your viewers. However, you can watch your analytics data to figure out the speed of your viewer’s connection. This can allow you to modify your multi-bitrate streaming approach, in order to choose streaming resolutions that fit your viewers needs. 

    Encoder Configurations Related to Internet Speed

    Understanding how bandwidth, bitrate, and video resolution connect on a more tangible level helps broadcasters to better understand their internet speed requirements.

    Let’s take a look at how different bitrate settings correlate with different live streaming resolutions.

    ULDLDSDHDFHD
    NameUltra-Low DefinitionLow DefinitionStandard DefinitionHigh DefinitionFull High Definition
    Video Bitrate (kbps)350350 – 800800 – 12001200 – 19001900 – 4500
    Resolution Width (px)42664085412801920
    Resolution Height (px)2403604807201080
    H.264 ProfileMainMainHighHighHigh

    As you can see in the live encoder settings chart above, lower bitrate settings yield low-resolution/low-quality streams, and higher bitrate settings yield high-resolution/high-quality streams. As we mentioned, bitrate and resolution also directly correlate with bandwidth consumption, determining the necessary internet speeds.

    It is safe to conclude that the higher resolution you aim for, the faster internet you will need.

    Internet Speed Requirements for Different Streaming Use Cases

    internet speed required for streaming
    Different streaming setups will require different internet speeds.

    To circle back, your internet speed should be double your intended bandwidth usage. How much bandwidth you require can be calculated in one of two ways. If you’re doing multi-bitrate streaming, it will be the sum of the bitrates of each rendition you’re streaming in. If you’re only streaming at a single bit rate, there’s your final number.

    As we discussed, the required internet speed for streaming depends on each unique streaming setup.

    From a technical standpoint, internet speed requirements directly depend on bandwidth needs. Bandwidth usage depends on bitrate settings and video resolution. The number of viewers you’re streaming to and for how long you’re streaming are also important factors in determining what upload speed you need for streaming. 

    You can plug this information into a bandwidth calculator and double that number to find your minimum internet speed for streaming. Let’s go through some specific internet speed requirements and set up suggestions for different streaming use cases.

    For reference, we’re basing these suggestions based on the following estimated internet requirements for different resolutions:

    • 1080p resolution stream @ 5.5 Mbps
    • 720p resolution stream @ 2.2 Mbps
    • 480p resolution stream @ 800 kbps
    • 240p resolution stream @ 500 kbps

    That said, let’s take a closer look at some real-life streaming scenarios.

    Sports 

    Sports streaming is popular because it allows fans to watch their favorite teams and athletes no matter where they are competing.

    Professional sports broadcasting often is meant to reach a large audience. High-resolution video is a must since this type of streaming calls for a lifelike viewing experience. You’ll need a stable internet connection with a speed of at least 5.5 Mbps. A tethered Ethernet connection would be ideal since there is a lot of pressure on these TV-grade streams.

    Streaming a high school game, on the other hand, requires much less bandwidth, therefore, a slower internet connection would suffice. Take high school volleyball, for example. The maximum roster is 12 students on each team, so your potential fanbase is much smaller than a professional sporting event

    Education

    Online video is very popular in education, especially when it comes to streaming classes and lectures. Standard definition streaming is sufficient for this type of stream since the video quality is not the priority, so an internet connection with a speed of ~800 kbps will work will work if you are aiming for a resolution of 480p. 

    There are other types of educational streams that are unrelated to academia. Think about other sorts of classes that people can participate in, like fitness classes. Since visuals are important in this type of stream, fitness broadcasters might opt for higher bitrate streaming, so faster internet would be a must. For a fitness class, you are going to want to aim between 2.2 Mbps and 5.5 Mbps. 

    Government

    One of the most popular streaming uses for government agencies is for meeting transparency mandates. Basically, different municipalities live stream meetings that they are required to make available to constituents.

    For this type of meeting, you need to have enough bandwidth to share the meetings, but high quality isn’t overall important, with 800 kbps more than enough bandwidth. 

    Music and Entertainment

    Concerts and music festivals are large events that are often streamed in high resolution. It is common for event organizers to monetize these streams by charging a virtual admission fee.

    When viewers pay for streams, there is a certain expectation. Viewers want a more lifelike experience, so high-quality streaming with low latency is a must. This means that internet speeds capable of high-resolution streaming, at least 5.5 Mbps, are a must.

    Radio

    Radio streaming is a bit different than the other use cases we’ve discussed so far. Since radio is typically audio-only streaming, it consumes a smaller bandwidth, which means it doesn’t need very fast internet. You can get away with lower bandwidth for audio streaming, such as 500 kbps. 

    Church 

    Churches use live streaming for a plethora of use cases. The most common use of online video for churches is streaming services. Most church community members are fine with average quality streams as long as the sermons and music are clear.

    A standard definition stream with an internet speed of around 800 kbps should work fine.

    Chorus and choir performances and other church shows may require slightly faster internet for church broadcasters that want these streams to be higher resolution. For this type of performance, you are going to want to aim for 2.2 Mbps to 5.1 Mbps. 

    Internet Speed Needed for Streaming on Different Platforms

    internet speed needed for streaming
    Viewers’ internet speed affects each user’s experience.

    Many broadcasters stream on social media streaming platforms in addition to the streams that they host with their white-label video players. The value of this is that it helps to reach an existing audience on a platform that they are familiar and comfortable with.

    The recommended internet speeds for streaming on some of the most popular live streaming platforms are as follows:

    Final Thoughts

    Understanding how internet speed affects live streaming helps broadcasters produce higher-quality streams. It’s important to remember that different types of streams require different internet speeds. 

    Looking for a reliable online video platform for high-quality streaming? Look no further. Dacast’s streaming platform may be the solution for you.

    Test out our platform risk-free with our 14-day free trial. Access all of our professional streaming features to see if Dacast is the right fit for you. Create a Dacast account to start your free trial. No credit card is required.

    Get Started For Free

    For regular tips on live streaming, feel free to join our LinkedIn Video Streaming group.

    Thanks for reading, and good luck with your live broadcasts!

    author avatar

    Fanny Elise Lagarde

    Fanny Elise was a part of the Dacast engineering team, and with her technical knowledge, helped the marketing team to engage readers with streaming content.

    Sign up for a 14-Day trial.

    Read Next

    article featured

    5 Ways to Measure Your Live Video Streaming Impact

    author avatar

    Max Wilbert

    10 Min Read

    article featured

    The Comprehensive Guide to Cloud Video Platforms In 2022

    author avatar

    Kevin Graham

    34 Min Read

    article featured

    Live Streaming Encoding Software and Top Hardware Encoder Alternatives

    author avatar

    Max Wilbert

    16 Min Read