What is a good upload speed for streaming?

A live video streaming setup has to meet two major requirements. The first is the hardware that’s powerful enough to handle the encoding of video in real time, and sometimes even run video games in high settings simultaneously. The second requirement is a good upload speed.

You can get all the hardware you need for streaming 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 first need to know what a good upload speed for streaming is. Unfortunately, this is one of those questions that don’t have a precise answer.

What is a good upload speed for streaming? A speed that 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, at the very least, will not disadvantage you or make you a less competitive streamer. So, basically, anything between 672 kbps and 61.5 Mbps can be good.

What is a good upload speed for streaming?

Streaming live video can take up a lot of bandwidth. Just how much bandwidth it will take will depend on a lot of factors. Encoding matters, but so does the type of content you want to stream. Platforms play a part, just like the resolution and the framerate of your stream.

But let’s start talking about the numbers. Say you want to live stream a video of yourself interviewing someone. You’re choosing between Facebook Live or YouTube Live. Since all the platforms support live streaming of 720p video, we’ll use the bitrate recommendations from each platform:

  • Facebook Live recommends a max bit rate of 4,000 kbps, plus a max audio bit rate of 128 kbps
  • YouTube Live recommends a range between 1,500 and 4,000 kbps for video, plus 128 kbps for audio

So, if you’re streaming live video at a resolution of 720p, at 30 frames per second, you will upload up to 4,160 kilobits of data per second. So having an upload bandwidth of around 4 Mbps should cover you, right?

Wrong. You will need to upload up to 4,160 kilobits of data per second constantly. Because these speeds fluctuate, it’s generally a good idea to have a 35-40% buffer. That puts us at an upload rate of around 5,700 kilobits per second, or 5.7 Mbps.

But that shouldn’t be the declared bandwidth your ISP is delivering to you. For various reasons, the declared upload bandwidth of your connection and the actual upload speed you can get can be very different. That’s why you should always test your upload speed to get a more realistic view. The number you get from these tests should be up to 5.7 Mbps if you want to stream 720p video.

For Facebook Live:

  • The platform only provides the recommended max bitrate of 4,000 kbps for video. For audio, it recommends up to 128 kbps. The maximum resolution is 720p, with 30 frames reproduced per second. In total, aim at upload speed of 5.7 Mbps.

For YouTube:

  • For 480p video, the range of 500 to 2,000 kbps is recommended. With YouTube’s recommended 128 kbps of audio, that would translate into a speed between around 760 kbps and 2.6 Mbps.
  • For 720p video at 30 frames per second, the range is 1,500 to 4,000 kbps. That’s a 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. Speed-wise, that’s 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. That translates into speeds 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 you to upload between 13,000 and 34,000 kbps. In terms of 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 around 61.5 Mbps.

As you can see, YouTube is the place to go for the highest quality live streaming. Facebook seems to be the most accessible.

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