Compare broadband plans for streamers

The right broadband plan is vital if you want to broadcast video on the Internet.

*The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products has access to, and are not representative of all the products available in the market. Availability will vary depending on your address. Speeds quoted represent a theoretical maximum and are likely to be lower in actual use.

Video games are far from the solitary experiences they once were. Not only is online multiplayer a central tenet of virtually all big-budget games these days, even single-player titles have become shared experiences thanks to the rise of streaming services like Twitch and YouTube Gaming. It's easier than ever to stream yourself playing games on the Internet, with even the PS4 and Xbox One supporting livestreaming functionality out-of-the-box, no additional hardware required.

The one thing you do need if you're planning on streaming your Call of Duty killstreaks and your Five Nights at Freddy's freak-outs, though, is a solid Internet connection. Not just that – you need one that's built to handle the specific bandwidth requirements of uploading high-resolution video. To find the right broadband plan, there are some key factors you should keep in mind.

Upload speed

Upload speed should be one of your highest priorities when shopping for a streaming-friendly broadband plan. The slower your upload speed, the lower your stream's video quality and bitrate will be for your viewers. Lower speeds are more prone to interruptions, too, increasing the chances that your viewers won't be able to see your stream at all.

At the bare minimum, you'll want an upload speed of 3Mbps to stream out at 720p and 30fps through either YouTube or Twitch. At these settings, both services recommend broadcasting at a bitrate between 1,500kbps and 4,000kbps to ensure a decent viewing experience for your audience. Bitrate, in essence, represents the amount of data you're transmitting to Twitch or YouTube every second and is roughly analogous to your upload speed. That said, a broadband plan's stated upload speed is a theoretical maximum only, often dipping below that during peak hours or when network conditions are sub-par. To be safe, you should aim for an upload speed of around 1.5x your target bitrate to avoid drops in quality.

Here are some general recommendations for upload speeds based on your desired video output:

Resolution: 720p
Framerate: 30fps
Recommended upload speed: 5Mbps

Resolution: 720p
Framerate: 60fps
Recommended upload speed: 9Mbps

Resolution: 1080p
Framerate: 30fps
Recommended upload speed: 9Mbps

Resolution: 1080p
Framerate: 60fps
Recommended upload speed: 15Mbps

If you plan on streaming out at a higher resolution than 1,080p, or you simply want to ensure that your stream never suffers any interruptions, you'll want to shoot for upload speeds of 20Mbps or more.

Peak time upload speeds

In addition to the maximum upload speed a broadband plan promises, it's important to investigate the average upload speeds you can expect to see during peak hours. After all, you'll likely want to stream during peak hours to reach the largest possible audience, making peak-hour speeds just as or even more important than the theoretical maximum. While this information isn't always clearly advertised on an ISP's website, you can find it in our broadband plan comparison table above by clicking the "View details" link for each plan.

Download cap

Even though streaming doesn't rely on download speeds, it still affects your download cap. Most ISPs count both downloads and uploads against your monthly data cap, and if you're streaming out at a decent resolution and framerate, it can be all-too-easy to chew through the GBs without realising it. At 720p and 30fps, for instance, an hour-long stream can use up as much as 1.8GB. Stream every night and that's 50GB wiped from your monthly quota. Increase your video quality or the length of your streams and it only gets higher from there.

Ideally, you'll want to spring for an unlimited data plan, but if that's not possible, be sure to factor in both downloads and uploads when choosing your data cap.

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