How Much Bandwidth is Required to Stream a Live Video - StreamHash

Live streaming is a versatile tool to pull a large audience together, even if its members are  scattered across a vast geographical diaspora. It is capable of carrying live sports matches, live sermons and live lifestyle events. You name it, and it’s likely that it can be streamed. But as the scale of a stream magnifies, there is a pertinent question that must be answered: how much live streaming bandwidth do you need to live stream? There is no sacrosanct internet speed for live streaming that determines the success of a stream. The truth is, creating the best internet speed for streaming is dependent on a variety of attributes.

Variable 1. Upload and Download Speeds:

When you conduct a live stream, its seamlessness is a product of your upload speed and your viewers’ download speeds. So, what’s the difference? Well, upload speed speaks of the rate at which you can upload data to the internet, whereas download speed is the reverse; it implies the rate at which data stored on the internet can enter your virtual vicinity. Upload and download speeds are generally referenced in Kbps, and sometimes in Mbps. Once you have your bandwidth locked, you can then go on to pick a premium interface for your live stream. StreamNow, for example, is a versatile tool that lets you plug your stream right into your device and reach thousands of users via multi-bitrate streams. Whether on desktop or mobile, StreamNow is an ideal solution for budding broadcasters.  

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Discrepancy Between Upload and Download Speeds:

When it comes to live streaming, both upload and download speeds play an equal role in determining how well a stream is received by an audience. An upload speed serves as a conveyor of data from your network to a server. For a broadcaster, the higher the upload speed, the more data that can be streamed at one go. Download speeds, on the other hand, are relevant for users who consume a broadcast. The quality of a stream is directly proportional to the live streaming bandwidth. A higher bandwidth can eliminate buffering and lags. Typically, upload speeds are far lower than download speeds. So, remember that you may not be able to broadcast fast enough through your internet connection just because your downloads are seamless.

Live Streaming Bandwidth Catches:

While internet companies promote certain speeds, you should know that these numbers are usually yardsticks that indicate the upper limit of a live streaming bandwidth. So, if you’re being offered 40 Mbps, you may not necessarily receive the entire bandwidth; you may receive only half, or perhaps even a quarter of the speed. What helps regulate your upload speed is a platform that effectively controls your video transfer. With a software like StreamNow, you can optimise your streams with minimal live streaming bandwidth.

Variable 2. Type of Live Stream:

Live streams can be classified under various buckets, each reflecting a different broadcast quality. For instance, if you’re looking to stream at a basic resolution, say 320 x 240 pixels, your data requirement would be fairly low. For video recorded in high-definition resolution, however, the live streaming bandwidth threshold would be much higher.

High Definition Video:

Let’s focus on high definition (HD) a little longer to spotlight the difference in data consumption between standard definition (SD). HD videos boast of a quality ten times superior to SD. This means that a world of possibilities can be unlocked through HD. 4K video, for instance, is setting a precedent for HD videos as viewers are embracing advanced versions of the video.

Frame Rate:

It isn’t only the resolution of a video that determines its size. Frame rate is a term that encompasses the number of concurrent still images that comprise a one-second video frame. Scour the web and you’ll notice that virtually every video is composed of thirty frames per second. A frame rate depends on the nature of the live stream. Fast-moving video streams loaded with graphics are often encoded at higher frame rates, ballooning the size of a video.

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Variable 3. Bitrates:

When you stream live, a codec breaks down your video into smaller consumable nuggets that can be easily transmitted to a viewer. The H.264 codec can deliver the best internet speed needed for live streaming, primarily because it is so versatile.

Ratio Between Bitrate and Upload Live Streaming Bandwidth:

A codec allows transmission across a wide array of devices. But that’s only one-half of the story. What really determines the quality, and consequently the size of a video, is the bitrate that is used. What’s a bitrate, you ask? It’s the quantity of data that is slotted into a single second of a video. A bitrate is indexed in Kbps or Mbps and influences the amount of upload live streaming bandwidth you’ll require. A bitrate of 200 Kbps, for instance, requires an upload speed of 200 Kbps. But that’s not all. An upload speed almost always vacillates on a per-second basis, and it’s important that you keep a buffer between your bitrate and your upload speed. The ideal ratio is 1:2.

Types of Bitrate:

It’s a given that your live stream will be received by various kinds of users. Of those, some may have high download speeds, while others may not. That’s where multiple bitrates gain significance. These stream video to various devices at differential rates. So, if you’re viewing a live stream on your mobile, it’s likely to be a product of a different bitrate than the one on your lightning-speed Roku box. Multiple bitrates tailor a live stream to the infrastructure hosted by various viewers. To employ multiple bitrates, broadcasters must stream several feeds simultaneously. Luckily, the latest broadcasting tools in the market, such as MPEG-DASH, HLS and Microsoft Smooth Streaming, adapt a single stream to suit various viewers’ bitrates, saving viewers the trouble of engineering a variety of streams. This is called adaptive bitrate streaming.

Multi-Bitrate Streaming:

By now, you probably know that multi-bitrate streaming requires far more upload live streaming bandwidth than conventional streaming. Because each stream requires a separate amount of live streaming bandwidth, the total live streaming bandwidth requirement can be fairly high. A 4K stream, for example, needs an average bitrate of 15 Mbps to stream effectively. That would mean that you need an upload live streaming bandwidth of 30 Mbps. For a multi-bitrate stream, you’ll need to use a relatively robust laptop that has the ability to juggle various live streams. If you’re streaming an important live event, you may also want to consider building in redundancy by employing a hardware encoder. Matrox, Niagara and Teradek are excellent options. Each of these tools is nimble at condensing large video streams into smaller units, to ensure fluid, free-flowing content.

Variable 4. Formats:

There are a number of conventional streaming formats that have been used over the past few years. Flash, for example, has proved immensely popular. However, as technology evolves, many traditional software have fallen behind. While Flash can deliver the best internet speed for streaming on personal computers, it hasn’t quite captured the mobile space. Considering that more than half the video market is consuming content on mobiles, this is a space that holds ample opportunity.

The HLS Format:

Flash is rather obsolete in the iOS context, and so HLS is quickly being adopted as a streaming format by broadcasters. HLS can be played by several flash players and reduces the need for a multitude of formats. Plus, it allows streaming to almost any device and is ideal for iOS streams. HDS is a more recent offering from Adobe’s repertoire of products and is a perfect software for non-iOS devices.


MPEG-DASH can help control the live streaming bandwidth required when multiple streams are being broadcasted, saving you from blowing your upload bandwidth.

Building Your Own Live Streaming Platform:

For many new broadcasters, determining the right mix of live streaming variables can create a much-needed foundation for a live streaming interface. StreamNow is an ideal addition to your kitty when you embark on your broadcasting journey. Then, by handpicking your live streaming attributes, you can furnish your platform completely. It all boils down to the details. With this little guide, you’re sure to have yours in place.