A guide to broadband for Twitch streamers
According to Statista, April 2021 saw around 9.36 million streamers active on Twitch.
What’s the thing they all have in common? Well, apart from charisma and access to the hottest games, the essential thing is broadband. Fast broadband, to be precise.
If your streams are laggy then viewers won’t become followers so it’s vital to deliver peak performance and ensure your own channel never hits the buffers.
In this guide, we look at what you need and how to optimise a connection for the best results.
What speed do I need for streaming?
As ever with broadband, speed is king. There’s no such thing as too fast no matter what we need it for, and streaming is no exception.
Bandwidth, measured in megabits per second (Mbps), is the crucial thing here and the bigger the better. Fiber connections are best and can range from tens of mbps, to hundreds, or even 1GB+ at their fastest.
However, this is the download rate. Residential providers tend to prioritize download because they are pertinent to largely one-way web traffic that makes up the bulk of usage.
But streamers are content providers who broadcast up into the cloud, so upload speeds arguably matter more.
The down-low on upload
Upload bitrate is vital for live streaming and will impact Twitch performance the most.
Search online and you’ll find estimates that suggest “anything between 672 kbps and 61.5 Mbps” is workable depending on platform and quality. However, this is quite a range and most will demand more than 0.672 Mbps.
Twitch officially recommends at least three to six Mbps staggered across resolution and frame rate as follows:
- 720p @ 30fps = 3000kbps (3 Mbps)
- 720p @ 60fps = 4500kbps (4.5 Mbps)
- 1080p @ 30fps = 4500kbps (4.5 Mbps)
- 1080p @ 60fps = 6000kbps (6 Mbps)
Twitch doesn’t currently support 4K streaming, but this will almost certainly require a higher rate. Given that speeds can fluctuate, it’s advisable to add at least 30-40% more upstream bandwidth to take up any slack.
Fiber optic is optimal
Fiber broadband is certainly more desirable for streaming compared to standard ADSL connections. It gives both faster download and in turn, faster upload speeds.
While it is true that slower connections might still prove passable, they are more likely to compromise video quality. ADSL upstream rates typically peak at only 1.5 Mbps; just half of Twitch’s base recommendations.
Remember that sharing your connection will have performance impacts. Heavy use from multiple people and devices will throttle rates and streaming during quiet times could be advisable. For more information and to compare fibre broadband deals, checkout Broadband Genie’s guide to fibre broadband.
Keen streamers who might hope to go professional might consider having a dedicated connection installed.
Wi-Fi signal and networking: Getting the most from your broadband
Fast enough broadband can still be hindered by your setup. How the data is physically carried around a network is an important consideration.
Firstly, a wired ethernet connection is always better than Wi-Fi. Ethernet cables are faster and have lower latency, delay or lag, between data exchanges.
This isn’t just beneficial for streaming but also for online gaming performance. Wireless signals are susceptible to interference and signal dropouts which can inevitably crash gaming progress.
Adapters or boosters?
Of course, running ethernet cables everywhere around the home isn’t always possible.
Powerline adapters are an excellent alternative here to use electrical mains to transmit data signals. Two or more adapter plugs turn outlets into ethernet ports or even Wi-Fi access points, auto-detecting each other to make setup simple.
However, these are not quite as quick as true cable ethernet, and powerline adapters can suffer some minor signal interference. You may also find that they suffer from issues with reliability and may need power-cycling every once in a while.
Wi-Fi extenders, repeaters, boosters or bridges are a different option for extending wireless signal range. The closer these are to the router the better, without rivalling a direct connection for speed.
Tips for fixing slow broadband
If the network infrastructure is good but speeds still seem too slow, there are other things to explore:
- Speed test – Run online speed tests to measure Mbps performance. Pick a variety of on/off-peak times and quote them to the ISP if they are below expected.
- System check – Streaming while playing a game can be demanding on hardware. Ensure all your components are running optimally, and disable any settings or other software which could impact performance.
- Disable devices – Turn off other connected devices and software that could be using bandwidth to download automatic updates etc. while you are streaming.
Beyond these things, check your router. Visit the configuration page in your browser, to log in and view device settings.
In here, you might try reverting to defaults or updating firmware. Using the latest software or security patches is always best practice across your network devices.
If all else fails then maybe your router is getting old. Wi-Fi 6 routers are available supporting the latest fastest protocols and could be an ideal upgrade. Newer routers can also improve coverage through the use of multiple antennas and other features.