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Do you have the minimum internet speed for live streaming?

Hello, and welcome to Streamer’s Haven, your hub for information about live streaming and content creation. Live streaming is one of my favorite inventions in the modern era, but it has some initial requirements that aren’t typical of traditional video media. Before you can take part in it, you’ll need to learn about the capabilities of your internet connection. More specifically, the portion you need to keep an eye on is the Upload bandwidth.

More specifically, the portion you need to keep an eye on is the Upload bandwidth.

ISPs (Internet Service Providers) primarily focus on advertising the download bandwidth and quietly sweep the upload speed capabilities of the plan under the rug. The reason that they do this is the fact that not all internet plans are equal.

Many will offer asynchronous plans, which are basically a package that has a different speed for both the download and upload bandwidth. It is vital to recognize this difference as an aspiring live streamer, as, again, the part that matters for you is the Upload capabilities. A quick example of something you might see would be a plan with a disparity like 300 Mbps download, coupled with as low as 1.5 Mbps upload. For most, this isn’t a problem, as most users rarely utilize the upload bandwidth.

I will mention that there are also synchronous plans, which are ideal in multiple ways. These plans are common in Fiber optics, as it is more costly for them to limit your upload speed over fiber than it is worth to throttle the connection to save bandwidth. In this case, both the download and upload speed are the same, more or less.

How to Test the capabilities of your Internet sped

The first step to see if you are able to become a streamer is to test your internet speed. There are a ton of tools available to do this, but I tend to stick to the tried and true Speedtest designed by Ookla.

Our Internet Speed is 100.83 Mbps Download, 119.52 Mbps upload. 1:1 connections are ideal as a streamer, and far exceed the minimum internet speed for streaming twitch.
Here is my internet speed result

Once you have your test results, you’re going to want to take a good look at what you have for that upload number. This is the number that will determine if you can stream or not with your current internet plan. In some cases, like for my speed test result, you’ll greatly exceed the minimum upload speed that is needed to provide a solid, high-quality live stream.


What is the minimum internet speed for Live streaming?

Upload Speed0.5 Mbps (Technical Minimum with drawbacks)2 Mbps3 Mbps (Recommended minimum)8 Mbps (Recommended)
Ideal Bitrate250-400 bitrate for video
96 bitrate for audio
1100-1650 bitrate for video
120 bitrate for audio
1800-2600 bitrate for video
160 bitrate for audio
2800-5000 bitrate for video
320 bitrate for audio
Resolution and FPS Capable320p 30 FPS480p 60 FPS720p 30 FPS720p 60 FPS
Potential issuesAt the mercy of internet connection stabilityCan experience stutters, and severe Compression artifactsCan experience compression artifactsPotential for hiccups every now and again
Other infoMust be the sole user of the internetRecommended to be the sole user of internet connectionRoom for light use of other users of your internet connection.Plenty of room for typical use of other users of your internet connection

The simple answer is 3 Mbps. At this level, you experience the least amount of issues related to insufficient bandwidth with the best resolution and FPS to stream at is 720p at 30 fps. You certainly can go lower, but anything below 3Mbps will require you to lower the resolution to 480p. This issue is further amplified if you are not the sole user of the internet upload bandwidth.

However, even at this speed, you will need to make compromises in order to produce a usable signal that won’t suffer from various issues, like stuttering, or frame drops. You also don’t have any headroom for other members of your household, and you are at the mercy of the signal integrity. At 3 Mbps, I recommend that you stream at 720p, 30 fps. This will give you the best chance to have a stable stream for your audience, which is arguably more important than a high-resolution stream.


How about the recommended upload speed for Live streaming?

A less restrictive number to aim for is 8 Mbps. At this speed, you will have ample headroom to produce a high-quality 720p, 60 fps stream for your audience, with some leftover for your household and room for slight drops in speed that can occur.

A less restrictive number to aim for is 8 Mbps. At this speed, you will have ample headroom to produce a high-quality 720p, 60 fps stream for your audience, with some leftover for your household and room for slight drops in speed that can occur.

With that being said, the cost of internet access isn’t exactly cheap; and is not equal everywhere. One of my friends in Indiana only has access to 3/3. That is short for 3 Mbps upload speed and 3 Mbps download speed. This is their fastest plan available in their area, and it isn’t cheap! Depending on where you live, you may only have access to comparable or worse speeds.

On Ramp Indiana in some areas only offers super low download and upload speeds.
Source: Highspeedinternet.com (Screenshot, not an ad)

Sadly streaming would be nothing more than a pipe dream in this case, as he shares this connection with his wife and three kids.

If the above case applies to you, I recommend you instead create videos on YouTube, which you can upload at whatever rate your internet can handle. This way, you can still take part in content creation.


What about Mobile Hotspots? Can you live stream using 3G?

Not giving up that easily? Good! You’re thinking outside the box with this one. If you are close enough to a cell tower and have a sufficiently fast Mobile network connection type, it is possible to stream utilizing the mobile hotspot technology. Just be aware that doing this will absolutely devour your data, as streaming is a bandwidth hog.

Here is a list of connection types and their theoretical throughput to get an idea of what each is capable of.

Connection TypeDownload SpeedUpload SpeedRecommended BitrateCan it Live Stream?
3G7.2 Mbps2 Mbps800-1300Not likely
3G-HSPA+42 Mbps22 Mbps2200-8000Possibly, if you get a consistent upload above 3 Mbps in your area
4GLTE150 Mbps50 Mbps2200-8000More than likely Yes
4GLTE Advanced300 Mbps150 Mbps3800-8000Yes
Data Sourced from Lifewire

But this table only tells a part of the story, of course. Real-world usage will almost never meet up with theoretical throughput. The reason is that there are so many external factors that determine the speed of a mobile network in play:

  • Geography
  • How far the nearest cell tower is to you
  • The current use of the mobile network in your area
  • The applications running on your phone
  • The presence of certain minerals in a building. Brass, for example, can block a cell signal completely if it is a mesh.
  • And many many more external factors you have no control over.

It is for these reasons that the answer to whether or not you can stream on a 3G connection will almost always be No. With that being said, there is nothing stopping you from trying. If you do decide to try, bring that resolution down low, 480p is pretty good. Oh, and keep the fps at 30. This will give you the best chance of sending a stable signal to Twitch to stream.

Can you live stream using a Wi-Fi connection?

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Up to this point in the article, I have been referring to the power of wired internet. See, wired internet connections offer the greatest network stability of any offerings out there, at the lowest latency possible. Packet loss is a rare occurrence, the jitters are ultra-low, and speeds are typically more than enough to live stream. In fact, using the fastest Fiber optics that is commercially available is 10 Gigabits. With that speed, you actually need the power of an NVME SSD to make use of it, as your download speed can achieve a blistering 1250 MB/s. No other storage medium in the world would have the capability to keep up with that kind of throughput unless there are several drives in a raid calibration.

…wired internet connections offer the greatest network stability of any offerings out there, at the lowest latency possible. Packet loss is a rare occurrence, the jitters are ultra-low, and speeds are typically more than enough to live stream.

For some though, a wired connection simply isn’t possible. For example, say you wanted to live stream a go-kart race as one of the drivers. Good luck getting a wired connection in the kart for the camera feed. Or perhaps the landlord doesn’t like the idea of drilling a hole through their homes to run an ethernet cable. Whatever the case, the question remains: Can you live stream using a Wi-Fi connection?

Yes, but not without problems.


Some Disadvantages of Wi-Fi technology

That begs the question then, about one of the least physically restrictive means of accessing the world wide web, Wi-Fi technology. Its advantage of untethering a device from physical connections gives it an unparalleled level of freedom of movement. This freedom to move wherever you like within an environment has made it the connection type of choice of many, and for good reason. Wi-Fi is an amazing technology, no doubt about that. However, by its very nature, it has a number of disadvantages that its wired sibling does not have to contend with.

  • Interference from modern appliances, such as microwaves and smart devices running on the same wavelength
  • Can have weak signal strength, resulting in lower-than-expected speeds
  • Packet loss can mean frame drops on stream
  • Frame stutters are likely.

An alternative to Wi-Fi – Powerline Adapters

For those of you who believe yourselves as being stuck using Wi-Fi, perhaps this handy bit of technology is the answer. This is an option for those of you who are living in an apartment without permission to drill a hole, or just don’t want to run a dedicated ethernet cable across several rooms. Powerline adapters, while not quite as good as the direct ethernet connection, are substantially better than Wi-Fi at maintaining a quality connection. These are little modules that you attach to your power outlets that have an Ethernet port on them that you can plug a cable into. They work by utilizing the power cables run throughout your house as an extension cable for the ethernet connection and is the next best thing to a direct connection.


Some drawbacks of this module:

  • Both modules need to be attached to the same electrical circuit in order to work
    • If you aren’t familiar with the wiring layout of your house or apartment, this can be a hit or miss situation.
  • You may need to move the modem around until you find an outlet that works
  • They can be costly
  • You lose the use of two plugs for each module pair you use

What bitrate should you stream at?

One thing you’ll need to realize is that a vast majority of the audience on the internet is using mobile devices, with 4GLTE being the most common mobile network in use. This protocol has a theoretical download speed of around 50 Mbps; However, it is far more common to see users throttled at around 4 to 12 Mbps. So by streaming at the maximum bitrate allowed by Twitch of 6000, you are potentially locking out a rather large portion of your potential viewers from watching your stream. If they try, they will be greeted with a buffering freeze-frame at a regular interval as their network struggles to keep up with your incoming data stream. They may even be greeted with “Error 2000”.

One thing you’ll need to realize is that a vast majority of the audience on the internet is using mobile devices, with 4GLTE being the most common mobile network in use.

In addition to these drawbacks of streaming at a high bitrate, many users use a metered connection. They pay for their data usage, and that data connection is essentially being smashed by a very angry hulk.

You don’t want an angry hulk smashing your audience’s bandwidth. They won’t like that.

Streaming at a more reasonable bitrate is considerate of those who suffer the tyranny of metered connections. Personally, I think that the concept of metered connections is outdated, from time of limited bandwidth capability, and needs to be abolished. Alas, my opinion on the matter doesn’t change the fact that they still exist.

Of course, there is transcoding, but unless you are a partner, gaining access to transcoding is on an “as available” basis. If you aren’t at least an affiliate, then the chances are nearly zero.

My recommendation for your bitrate setting is 3800 to 5000 for unaffiliated streamers.


Resolution to Bitrate needs

Resolution & Frames Per secondBitrate needed for image clarity (Higher = Better)
720p301,200 – 3,500 kbps
720p602,250 – 5,000 kbps
1080p304,000 – 7,000 kbps
1080p606,000 – 12,000 kbps
1440p308,000 – 13,000 kbps
1440p609,000 – 18,000 kbps
4k30 / 1080p14415,000 – 34,000 kbps
4k60 / 1440p14425,000 – 53,000 kbps

I’ve compiled a table of bitrates to match to resolutions. The high end of the bitrate in the range mentioned will show the point where diminishing returns kicks in, and you won’t get a noticeable improvement to video quality past that point for a given resolution/framerate combination. The low end is the bare minimum to get a usable image out of it at the respective framerate.

Bear in mind that these numbers are specifically tailored towards high-action gameplay, from games like Rocket League where the pixels are in constant motion. Artists and low action streams like that can get away with lower numbers at higher fps & Resolution, as the screens don’t change enough to need the higher bitrate stream.

Bear in mind that these numbers are specifically tailored towards high-action gameplay, from games like Rocket League where the pixels are in constant motion.


Transcoding Exception for Twitch

Set your fps to 30 for slow Internet upload speed for streaming Twitch
You can get to this window using Settings – Video within OBS

If you manage to become a Twitch affiliate, then you get added to a priority list over unaffiliated streamers for transcoding. This means you are more likely to have your streams receive access to the transcoding feature. However, it is only available when the server load is low enough to pass it down to an affiliate. If the servers are too busy, you don’t get transcoding.

Due to this fickle nature of availability, I recommend streaming at a lower bitrate than 6000 to ensure your audience can actually watch your stream without major buffering every 10 seconds. Like before, that threshold is 720p60 with a bitrate setting from 3800-5000.

If you are unable to output 3800 bitrate, then cut down your fps to 30 and setting bitrate from 1800-3500 before dropping your resolution to 480p60.


For Twitch Partners

Twitch Partner status throws the bitrate considerations out of the window due to gaining access to nearly guaranteed transcoding. If your upload speed for live streaming on Twitch is fast enough to support a bitrate of 8000, set it to 8000. The servers will do the rest, and provide multiple resolutions of your stream to accommodate users of all connection speeds. Just be aware that you probably should have an upload speed of around 10 Mbps if you intend to stream at a bitrate setting of 8000,

Twitch Partner status throws the bitrate considerations out of the window due to gaining access to nearly guaranteed transcoding.

Partners are the exception to the output bitrate rule of thumb for affiliates and unaffiliated streamers. Twitch Partners are highly prioritized for the aforementioned Transcoder option. Transcoding downscales the source feed in bitrate and resolution. As such, they are able to stream at a bitrate of 8000 without worry about their audience with slower, or metered connections.

As for what resolution you should stream at, 1080P30 is possible to do with little issue @ 8000 bitrate. However, we still recommend setting it to 864p60 instead for the extra Fps without compromising your image with compression artifacts. In the past, we’d have said 900p, but that has changed to avoid an issue that results from resolutions that are not a multiple of 8. (Black lines appear on your stream.)

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Nvidia GPU Encoding (Recommended)

If you have an Nvidia card that is a 10 series or newer, then you’ll want to use the New Nvenc encoder over X264 in almost every case. This is especially true if you have a GTX 1650 Super, GTX 1660 TI, or any of the RTX cards.

This is because the New NVENC encoder performs extremely well, with near-zero performance impact on your system as a whole. For a single PC setup, this is the best route you can take. Just remember to run OBS in Administrator mode to give it some resource priority.

Some notes here are: set b-Frames to 0, and ensure “psycho-visual tuning” is enabled. There are more settings you can modify here to get more out of the encoder, but we don’t have an NVIDIA card handy to test them and make any specific recommendations ourselves. Instead, EposVox has a pretty good breakdown video regarding this that will get you situated.

New NVENC vs Old NVENC Comparison Video by EposVox

X264 encoder settings for Streaming

The maximum I’d recommend streaming at is 720P60. This only requires a bitrate of 3800 to 5000, as mentioned above. If you do not use an Nvidia card, then you’ll want to use X264 as your encoder. The encoding speed setting will depend on the processor you have. Here are our settings as an example:

Our output settings in OBS for streaming. The CPU we use is an I7 6700k Skylake CPU, and utilize the built in encoder chip on the x264.  Despite having far more than what is needed for internet speed , We still recommend to stream at 720P60 for twitch, and 900p60 for Mixer.  Image is a large dark grey box containing 7 separate menu styled boxes. The List of options include: "General", "Stream", Selected color is a dark blueish color. - "Output", "Audio", "Video", "Hotkeys, and "Advanced".  In the open window, which takes up the other *roughly* 80% of the image.  There is "Output mode" [Advanced].
Below this option is another miniature menu with four buttons, Selected: Colored dark blue like the other menu "Streaming", "Recording", "Audio", "Replay Buffer"  Within the selected "Streaming" menu is another box, taking up the remaining 70% of the box.  Audio track 1(Selected), 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  Encoder: [X264]  [Checked] - Enforce Streaming service encoder settings  Rescale Output [Checked] 1280x720  Rate Control: [CBR]  Bitrate: [5000]  [Unchecked] Use custom Buffer Size
Keyframe Interval (in Seconds, 0=Auto) [2]  CPU Usage Preset (Higher = Less CPU Reserved) [Faster]  Profile: [High]
Not Shown: Set your Keyframe interval to 2. This is needed for Twitch.

The processor that I use in this example is an I7 6700k, which is a fairly powerful midrange CPU and handles up to “Fast” on the CPU usage preset for some titles. I lowered the preset to “Faster” just to make my life easier, as some games were simply too CPU Intensive. This setting determines how long a frame sits in the CPU for compression. The longer it is processing the frame, the better quality the image becomes. However, the longer the CPU spends processing the frame, the fewer resources it has for processing other things. For example, the game being streamed. This results in a high percentage of the CPU being reserved for encoding, and since CPU’s are serial in nature (One instruction at a time) this also increases frame time.

Rocking a Ryzen? Check out our recommendations when it comes to that beast.

If you have a slower processor with an AMD GPU, we’d recommend testing its capabilities starting with “very fast”.

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AMD GPU Encoding

For AMD GPU users, such as the RX480 8GB, RX580, or newer, we don’t recommend using their H264/AVC Encoder (AMD Advanced Media Framework) at this time, as they really don’t perform all that well. If you use an AMD card, We recommend sticking to X264. If in the future this changes, then this information will be updated.

How about the recommended internet speed for streaming on Youtube?

If you want to call the video behemoth home for your live streaming needs, I have some exciting news. There isn’t a cap on your bitrate like there is on Twitch, and you get transcoding from the very beginning. This means that even 4k streams are totally viable, assuming you have the bandwidth to do so.

And so, things will work a little bit differently: You simply need to test your bandwidth with that speed test tool mentioned earlier and make a decision based on that result for what resolution you want to aim for. Consult the resolution table above to figure out a good bitrate to use for your content.

Final Word:

Streaming has a lot of factors to consider; Our article on the best free vst plugins will teach you how to use VST plugins to improve the quality of your audio. Check it out! 😉

More Twitch Tutorials

15 thoughts on “Do you have the minimum internet speed for live streaming?”

  1. Hello, i’d like to know the required upload speed for streaming at 1080p60 at around 6000 bitrate? PC is not an issue, it’s maxed out on best components.
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 1080p60 requires around 12,000 bitrate to be compression artifact-free. 1080p30 can be done at 6000, but for high action on screen, 7-8000 is better.

      Our recommended route is to go 720p60 at 3800-5000 bitrate or 900p60 at 6000 bitrate if on twitch. On Mixer, 1080p30 @ 7000 or 900p60 at 8000 is an option as well.

      Just remember, the higher you set the bitrate, the fewer people are able to view your stream without buffering issues.

      Reply
  2. Thank you for answering in such detail, i appreciate it a lot. I will take your advice and start at lower ress so more people can watch without issues.

    I plan on streaming on Twitch, would my current internet upload speed of 10MB handle 900p60 at 6000? I will start at 720p, but i plan to up it later to 900p60. Should i seek higher internet upload speed in the future?

    Reply
    • So long as you are the only one using the internet, you have a bandwidth buffer of around 4 megabits if you use the full 6000 bitrate for 900p60 @ 6000. If anyone else on your network uses Streaming services like Netflix or Disney+, you may run into issues. A lot of smart device connections do eat up the bandwidth.

      As for whether or not to upgrade your internet; I wouldn’t until it becomes a problem. No sense fixing what isn’t broke.

      Reply
    • Unless you are talking about it’s recommended value, OBS Defaults to around that value; You can set your bitrate to any number that you want.

      As for the range that works for an upload speed of 9.9 Mbps, you can use a bitrate of 1500-7400 or so. If you are streaming on Twitch, the upper limit is 6000. YouTube has no limit.

      Reply

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