According to Tech Jury, “the online live streaming industry has grown 99% between April 2019 and April 2020.” Cisco anticipates that “82% of internet use will be for streaming video by 2022.” It’s time to leverage live video for your business. But first, what is a good internet speed for live streaming? And why does it matter?
Glossary of Internet Streaming Terms
What is the minimum upload speed for streaming? That’s probably your main question. But before we discuss the nitty-gritty of internet speed, let’s learn some of the internet lingo first.
Bandwidth is the maximum data transfer rate of an internet connection in a given amount of time. For example, a 5GHz-router has a maximum bandwidth of 1300 Mbps (megabits per second). Note that 1 megabit per second is equivalent to .125 megabytes. So, in this case, this router has a maximum bandwidth of 162.5 megabytes per second.
Bandwidth is often confused with internet speed. But they are two different things.
The bandwidth answers the question, how much is the maximum data that can be transferred? While the speed answers the question, how fast can data be downloaded or uploaded?
Basically, if you have low bandwidth, you can’t play a 4K video in your stream, as it takes so much bandwidth. Additionally, if you have a low internet speed, you won’t be able to stream in FULL HD, but you might be able to stream in a lower resolution.
Let’s compare it to food consumption to make it easy. Bandwidth is the maximum number of donuts that you can eat in a given amount of time. Internet speed, on the other hand, is how many donuts you can eat per second.
The internet speed is composed of two components: download and upload speed. Download speed refers to how many megabits of data per second it takes to transfer data from a server to your device. The higher the download speed, the faster it is for you to finish downloading a song, document, or video.
The upload speed, on the other hand, is the number of megabits of data per second (Mbps) to transfer data from your device to a server. The faster the upload speed, the faster it is to upload a document, song, or video to a certain site, such as Google Drive.
Bitrate is the rate at which bits are transferred from one location to another. It is commonly measured in any of this:
- Bps – bits per second
- Kbps – kilobits per second
- Mbps – megabit per second
Bitrate is also crucial in video streaming because it signals the quality of an audio or video file. The higher the bitrate, the better the audio or video quality.
It’s the same principle with resolution. A 4K resolution provides a clearer image compared to a 360p resolution. And going back to our donut comparison, bitrate is how fast you can eat a donut per second.
Why Internet Speed Matters For Live Streaming?
Internet speed matters to create the best and highest quality live stream possible. You need it for crystal-clear audio and video. Essentially, the higher the speed, the better the quality.
Having a high internet speed gives you an overall better experience, especially when you are using lots of assets on your live stream. Are you sharing a screen? What about playing a YouTube video in your stream?
If you have a very low internet speed, the live stream will become laggy. Sometimes, your screen might even freeze.
Worse, your audio will be choppy. Viewers can sit through a low-quality video, but they won’t stay if the audio is terrible.
This YouTube video provides a visual explanation of how live streaming and internet speed work.
Factors That May Affect Your Streaming Speed
Having a fast internet speed is not that simple. There are many factors that affect your internet speed for live streaming.
Type of Internet Connection
There are two main types of technology for your internet connection: Fiber-optic and traditional DSL connections. Fiber-optic connections enable high-speed connections while DSL connections over telephone networks have a slower speed. Fiber is ten times faster than xDSL connections, and in theory, can have up to 10000 Mbps (1Gpbs). Most ISPs promise a speed of between 100 to 400 Mbps.
Since Fiber is a newer technology, it’s not readily available anywhere. The total Fiber coverage in the US is only 32%. Atlanta and Denver are cities with the most Fiber coverage.
With fast speed, comes a great price. The monthly cost for a Fiber connection can vary depending on the plan you get. On average, Americans pay $57 per month for a Fiber connection in 2019. Previously, the average cost was $79. This cost will continue to decrease, as the Fiber connection becomes more accessible.
Distance Between Your Router and Devices
Once you have a Fiber connection installed, you need to make sure that your router is in an optimal place to get the optimal speed. Thick walls and other electronic devices can affect internet speed.
Best Places to Put Your Router:
- At the center of your home with open space or thin walls
- On a shelf without other electronic devices
- Far from the kitchen, as appliances like the microwave can interfere with the signal
Number of Devices
Most routers and internet plans have a maximum of devices that can connect via Wi-Fi. If there are many devices that are connected to the router at the same time, the speed will likely suffer. It’s the same experience when you’re in Starbucks packed with people who are using the public Wi-Fi. It gets super-slow when everyone’s in the same network.
Not all internet activities are created equal. Browsing Google for quick research doesn’t require the same bandwidth as streaming a film on Netflix.
What’s Considered a Good Upload Speed For Live Streaming
In general, a good upload speed should be 10 Mbps. Resolution and frame rate can affect the quality of the upload speed. For example, if you’re streaming in 4K resolution, you will need a higher upload speed.
Here’s a quick guideline for the minimum upload speed needed:
Facebook Live: 4-10 Mbps (recommended minimum)
Facebook allows up to 1080p resolution when live streaming. The recommended minimum speed is 4-10 Mbps for a good broadcast. However, if you want to stream in FULL HD, it’s best if you have 10 Mbps or higher. If you have guests, make sure that they also have an upload speed in this range.
Pro Tip: Use a third-party live studio-like BeLive. BeLive is an official Facebook Live Video Solutions Partner. Therefore, it is the only official third-party tool that can stream true 1080p on Facebook. Plus, you’ll be able to download an HD version of your broadcast right from your BeLive account.
LinkedIn Live: 3-10 Mbps (recommended minimum)
Aiming for a 10 Mbps upload speed is ideal, but the recommended minimum speed is 3 Mbps. Unlike Facebook, however, LinkedIn live doesn’t have a native live video function. And not everyone has the ability to go live.
First, you must be approved to get access to LinkedIn Live. Second, you need to use an approved third-party tool, such as BeLive.
Pro Tip: Use BeLive to stream simultaneously to Facebook and LinkedIn.
YouTube Live: 1-51 Mbps (recommended minimum)
YouTube’s speed varies greatly because it has many resolution options. You can stream in as low as 360p or as high as 4K resolution. The minimum recommended speed is 10 Mbps for a higher-resolution stream.
Twitch: 4-6 Mbps (recommended minimum)
According to Twitch, you should have a 4-6 Mbps upload speed as a minimum. However, this will vary on what you are streaming. Is the game you’re streaming graphically demanding (e.g. Grand Theft Auto 5)? Then, you’ll most likely need a higher upload speed.
How to Measure Your Upload Speed Before Going Live?
Measuring your upload speed is fast and easy. There are tons of tools available online, but the most popular one is SpeedTest.net.
How to Do a Speed Test:
- Go to Speedtest.net
- Click “Go.”
- Pay attention to the upload speed.
- Check the server location.
Speedtest.net will automatically choose your ISPs server that is nearest your location. The closer you are to the server, the better your download and upload speed.
Note that Facebook, Twitch, and other platforms host their servers in other locations. Facebook’s servers are mostly located in the US. Your distance from the servers may affect your internet speed.
So, if you’re living in the Philippines, your upload speed will be lower if you use New York as the server location in SpeedTest.net. For example, the upload speed when the server is close to you is 30 Mbps. But if you use a different server, it might drop to 15 Mbps.
Check out other best speed test sites:
- Xfinity xFi Speed Test
How To Increase Upload Speed For Better Live Streaming
Having a great upload speed can make or break your live streaming experience. Don’t worry. There are plenty of things that you can optimize that are within your control.
Things to Set Up
- Choose a Fiber connection if available in your area.
- Use a wired connection if possible.
- Position your studio near the router. Or put the router in your studio.
Things to Do Before Going Live
- Remind family members not to stream a film or play an online game while you are live.
- Close all apps on your computer and phone that are constantly downloading and uploading content, such as Google Photos.
- Disconnect all other devices that are connected to the same router.
Pro Tip: To improve your bandwidth, use a router that supports a 5GHz Wi-Fi signal. Plus, for two-story homes, use Wi-Fi repeaters to make the signal stronger in all areas of your home and avoid “dead zones.”
There are so many factors and numbers that can affect internet speed. In general, 4-10 Mbps is the minimum speed recommended, but try to aim higher for FULL HD streaming. The wonderful thing about live streaming is that you can always experiment and keep testing.
Irene Chan is a writer and live video producer at BeLive. She has been working in the digital marketing industry for a decade and loves the creativity of video production. She has a degree in Broadcast Communication and is always imagining new live videos to produce. She is based in the Philippines and lives with her husband, two kids, and their 11-year-old Chihuahua.