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 before you can take part in it, you’ll need to verify if you have the minimum internet speed for live streaming. 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 the vast majority of internet consumers do not need a high upload speed, so they cut costs by providing asynchronous plans with low upload speed capabilities. However, for content creators and live streamers, this part of your internet bandwidth is crucial.
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The Difference Between Asynchronous and Synchronous
There are two types of plans provided by ISPs:
Asynchronous plans are basically a package that has a different speed for both the download and upload bandwidth. An example of this plan would be something like a 300 Mbps download paired with a 1.5 Mbps upload. In this example, you would find it difficult to live stream but would have no problems watching content online.
In the case of synchronous plans, both the download speed and the upload speed are equal. 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.
How to Test the Capabilities of Your Internet Speed
Step one is to test your internet speed, as there is no sense shopping around for a new internet plan if your current one is sufficient. There are a ton of tools available to do this, but I tend to stick to the tried and true Speedtest designed by Ookla.
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.
Minimum Download Speed to Watch Twitch Streams
The minimum download speed required to watch Twitch streams without buffering, stuttering, or pixelated streams is around 6 Mbps. Of course, you can get away with less, especially if transcoding is available to you, but if you have less than 4 Mbps, but you may experience those issues mentioned above. This limit exists because many streamers opt to stream at 4000-6000 bitrate, which is necessary to produce high-quality 720p 60 fps content.
3G & 4G connections should be sufficient to watch live-streamed content, provided you have a good signal. However, live content cannot be buffered like a YouTube video, so it is more challenging to watch live content on a slow mobile connection.
The Minimum Internet Speed for Live Streaming Depends
The minimum internet speed necessary for live streaming depends on what resolution and fps you intend to stream at and how active the content is.
An Art stream, for example, isn’t something with a ton of constantly changing pixels across the entire canvas. As such, you are able to stream at a higher resolution at a lower bitrate than something like Rocket League. So you could probably get away with severely limited bitrate in this edge case.
For your reference, I’ve compiled a baseline table with a rough idea of what bitrate setting you should use at various upload bandwidths. These options are based on Twitch as the Standard, as Twitch is currently the leader as far as live streaming platforms are concerned.
What Is the Minimum Internet Speed for Streaming Twitch?
|Upload Speed||0.5 Mbps (Technical Minimum with drawbacks)||2 Mbps||3 Mbps (Recommended minimum)||8 Mbps (Recommended)|
|Ideal Bitrate||250-400 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
|2800-6000 bitrate for video|
320 bitrate for audio
|Resolution and FPS Capable||320p 30 FPS||480p 60 FPS||720p 30 FPS||720p 60 FPS|
|Potential issues||At the mercy of internet connection stability||Can experience stutters, and severe Compression artifacts||Can experience compression artifacts||Potential for hiccups every now and again|
|Other info||Must be the sole user of the internet||Recommended to be the sole user of internet connection||Room for light use of other users of your internet connection.||Plenty of room for typical use of other users of your internet connection|
The minimum internet speed for streaming Twitch that will provide a pleasant experience for your audience is 3 Mbps. At this level, you can maintain a stable stream at 720p 30 fps. You certainly can go lower, but anything below 3 Mbps will require you to lower the resolution to 480p. However, if you are not the sole user of the upload bandwidth in your house, this number goes out the door.
If you have multiple people within your household who streams, and you have an upload speed of under 6 Mbps, then you will either have to schedule times where each of you can stream to make the most out of your bandwidth, or get a better internet plan. Each person who streams requires their own bit of bandwidth.
Check out this article that dives into the details of streaming at various bitrates if you want to know more.
My Recommended Upload Speed for Streaming Twitch
The internet upload speed that I recommend for live streaming on Twitch 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.
The upload speed that I recommend you try and aim for is at least 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.
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.
Can You Live Stream Using 3G?
While you certainly can live stream using 3G technology and other mobile connection types, there are drawbacks to doing so. Using any mobile network to stream to Twitch or other live streaming platforms will absolutely devour your data, as streaming is a bandwidth hog. It is also highly susceptible to packet loss, and variance in speeds over time, which results in stuttering, buffering, frame drops, and corrupt frames.
Both 4G and 5G are also susceptible to the same issues, but they will be less affected than a 3G connection due to their increased throughput.
Here is a list of mobile network connection types and their theoretical throughput to get an idea of what each is capable of.
|Connection Type||Download Speed||Upload Speed||Recommended Bitrate||Can it Live Stream?|
|3G||7.2 Mbps||2 Mbps||800-1300||Yes, at 480p 30 fps|
|3G-HSPA+||42 Mbps||22 Mbps||2200-6000||Yes, at 720p 60 fps|
|4GLTE||150 Mbps||50 Mbps||2200-6000||Yes, at 720p 60fps|
|4GLTE Advanced||300 Mbps||150 Mbps||3800-6000||Yes, at 720p 60 fps|
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:
- 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 realistically almost always be No. With that being said, there is nothing stopping you from trying. If you do decide to try, give yourself the best possible chance by streaming at 480p 30 fps.
Can You Live Stream Using a WI-FI Connection?
Up to this point in the article, I have been referring to the power of the wired internet. See, wired internet connections offer the greatest network stability of any offerings out there at the lowest latency possible. Packet loss is rare; 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, your connection speed can get to 10 Gbps.
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 rare; 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 a good reason. Wi-Fi is an amazing technology, no doubt about that.
However, it has several disadvantages that its wired sibling does not have to contend with by its very nature:
- 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 living in an apartment without permission to drill a hole or just don’t want to run a dedicated ethernet cable across several rooms.
While not quite as good as the direct ethernet connection, powerline adapters are substantially better than Wi-Fi at maintaining a quality connection. These are little modules that you attach to your power outlets with 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 are the next best thing to a direct connection.
Some drawbacks of this module:
- Both modules need to be attached to the same electrical circuit 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