Upload speed determines how fast you can upload information like a social media post, a YouTube video you made, or a cloud file from your computer to the rest of the internet—it’s essentially the reverse of download speed.
Many people are shocked their first time taking an internet speed test to find that even though they’re paying for a 300 Mbps internet connection, their upload speed is hovering around a measly 5–10 Mbps. This is actually pretty standard and not usually something to worry about.
All online activities use a bit of upload speed when we click on a link or select a video to watch, but this is fairly minimal. A 5 Mbps upload speed is more than enough for surfing the web, shopping on Amazon, checking your email, or watching YouTube.
Even if you don’t live in an urban area with access to cable networks, upload speed usually isn’t as important as download speed. A 1.5 Mbps upload speed from a service like DSL is usually perfectly capable of handling these sorts of online tasks. Although you’ll still have to deal with latency, satellite internet is a bit better on that front, with both Viasat and Hughesnet offering upload speeds of 3 Mbps.
Some activities, however, require much more upload speed to run smoothly. Livestreaming to sites like Twitch or Facebook is perhaps the most demanding, and people who are working from home might find their connection bogged down every time they have to upload a file to their company servers.
If upload speed is becoming a bottleneck, it might be time to look into an ISP that offers a type of internet with higher upload speeds. Fiber connections offer the best upload speeds, reaching 1 Gbps or higher, but cable connections can offer decent upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps. Neither of these types of connection are widely available in rural areas, so if you live outside the range of a cable network, your options are limited . . . for now.
SpaceX’s Starlink internet service is a low-orbit satellite constellation that is currently under development.* When it launches, it will be available throughout the US, much like other satellite internet services, but will offer download speeds estimated at up to 150 Mbps and upload speeds that were recently measured at over 40 Mbps—nearly as fast as the fastest cable upload speeds.1 This could be a game changer in many rural areas, allowing people to livestream and video chat as easily as people living in the city.