What Is Upstream Bandwidth?

By Corr S. Pondent

If you like to share photos and videos with your friends online, you need more upstream bandwidth.
i John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Ever wondered why it takes forever to upload photos and videos to Flickr or YouTube? It could be your computer's upstream bandwidth. The way you use the Internet has changed. In the early days, people used the Internet mostly to browse for information. The Internet has evolved to include forms of user-generated content and Internet service providers (ISP) are typically not keeping up with the need for upstream bandwidth.

Upstream Bandwidth

Upstream bandwidth refers to the speed in which data returns to your ISP. This influences how fast you're able to upload photos and send file attachments in an e-mail. If you have upgraded upstream bandwidth, you can perform these tasks faster.

Downstream Bandwidth

Downstream bandwidth refers to the speed in which data travels from your ISP to your computer and affects tasks such as surfing the Internet. This was what people cared about before the use of the Internet evolved. When broadband connections became more common in the late 1990s, ISPs focused on providing maximum downstream bandwidth, often ignoring upstream bandwidth.

Upstream Bandwidth Uses

Today, Internet users need upstream bandwidth for many different tasks. People are trying to cut cable television bills by access video content over the Internet. Upgraded upstream bandwidth is good if you use the Internet to play interactive video games, make phone calls via Skype, or for videoconferencing. As the Internet evolves to be more interactive, there is likely to be a need for more upstream bandwidth.

Accessing Upstream Bandwidth

A "very-high-bit-rate" Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) can help optimize upstream and downstream bandwidth. If this isn't an option, check with your ISP to find out if it offers additional upstream bandwidth. You may be able to add bandwidth for an additional fee. If your ISP doesn't offer additional upstream bandwidth in your area, or you don’t want to pay an additional fee, there are ways to optimize the performance of your current upstream bandwidth. For example, you can purchase a router that assigns a priority to your network traffic so that you get the most out of your upstream bandwidth.