How Much Bandwidth Does Video Calling Use?

Bandwidth Feature Image

If you have a fast, unlimited Internet connection, you probably don’t think twice about firing up an HD video call. When you run into slower connections or data caps, though, you probably start wondering just how much bandwidth video calls use and whether you really want to trade a few hours of browsing for a Zoom meeting. Bandwidth usage can vary dramatically depending on the app, quality, and participants, but it’s still possible to get a general estimate of how much you’ll use, especially if you change the quality settings of your video chat app so that they stay low.

How Much Bandwidth Do You Use with Video Calling?

Measuring exactly how much data is being used on a video call depends on many different factors, which is probably why most programs release “minimum” and “recommended” numbers rather than usage estimates. However, converting Mbps to MB/s and using the “recommended” bandwidth to measure minutes and hours is a pretty safe way to estimate your traffic. However, you then have to multiply by two to account for both the upload and download traffic.

To accurately compare how much bandwidth each specific video conferencing application uses, I first did a bandwidth test with nothing more than a single static tab open in my browser.

As you can see below, the required bandwidth was minimal, with only 74.61 Kbps down and 27.86 Kbps up.

Video Call Bandwidth Nothing

Also, there are many video calling apps, and each use various amounts of bandwidth, making it even harder to approximate. However, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Meet are some of the most popular video platforms. By testing each of these, the data should give you a fairly good estimate of what to expect from other apps as well.

Zoom Bandwidth Usage

With a simple five-minute call on Zoom via PC, I experienced the following in terms of bandwidth usage:

Video Call Bandwidth Zoom

At the peak, I needed only 373.68 Kbps for download and 313.45 Kbps for upload. As you can see, though, my average bandwidth usage was much lower, with 133.74 Kbps up and 171.65 Kbps down. This is fairly low, considering my Internet connection can provide about 100 times that, and the average Wi-Fi network is capable of at least 25 Mbps.

While these numbers are fairly low, the Zoom support page provides these bandwidth recommendations for 1:1 video calls, as of February 2022.

DefinitionRecommended up/downTotal MB/minTotal MB/hr
480p/Standard600/600 Kbps9540
720p1.2/1.2 Mbps181080 (1.08GB)
1080p3.8/3.0 Mbps271620 (1.62 GB)

For group calls, the recommendations change slightly:

DefinitionRecommended up/downTotal MB/minTotal MB/hr
480p/Standard1.0 Mbps/600 Kbps13.5810
720p2.6/1.8 Mbps22.51350 (1.35GB)
1080p3.8/3.0 Mbps452700 (2.7GB)

According to Zoom, your bandwidth usage will be optimized based on each participant’s network. Furthermore, Zoom says that in thumbnail mode, your download data usage will automatically drop to reflect the resolution you’re receiving.

Skype Bandwidth Usage

Just as with Zoom, I conducted a simple video call via PC using Skype. During that time, I experienced the following in terms of bandwidth usage.

Video Call Bandwidth Skype 1

Overall, Skype seemed to use slightly less bandwidth despite using all the same settings and resolutions as I did with Zoom. In fact, the average bandwidth requirements for Skype were right around the 100 Kbps range, with mine resting at 105.23 Kbps down and 104 Kbps up.

Although it surprised me, this aligns with the differences in bandwidth requirements between the two video call clients. You can see Skype’s bandwidth suggestions (which were gathered directly from its support page) below:

DefinitionRecommended up/downTotal MB/minTotal MB/hr
480p/Standard300/300 Kbps4.5270
720p500/500 Kbps7.5450
1080p1.5/1.5 Mbps22.51350 (1.35 GB)

For group calling:

PeopleRecommended up/downTotal MB/minTotal MB/hr
3512 Kbps / 2 Mbps37.682260 (2.26 GB)
5512 Kbps / 4 Mbps67.684061 (4.06 GB)
7+512 Kbps / 8 Mbps127.687660.8 (7.66 GB)

By these numbers, Skype adds much extra data when more people join, but for 1:1 conversations, it’s pretty lightweight, based on my experience.

FaceTime Bandwidth Usage

As you may already know, FaceTime is a video platform that is specific to Apple. However, you can FaceTime with someone on your PC if they send you a chat link. I had an iPhone user send me a FaceTime request, then measured the bandwidith in the same way I did with the other platforms.

Video Call Bandwidth Facetime

As you can see from the data above, I experienced similar bandwidth requirements with FaceTime as a I did with Skype. The average bandwidth here was slightly over that of Skype, with 107.61 Kbps average download and 114.82 Kbps average upload. The other important note here would be that, unlike Zoom and Skype, I noticed FaceTime actually required more upload bandwidth than download, which could pose a problem for people with significant differences in their download and upload speeds.

Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t provide bandwidth requirements for FaceTime and only provides hardware requirements and OS requirements. Most measurements report that it uses about 3 MB of data per minute, or 180 MB per hour, which makes it a fairly economical video call option.

Google Meet Bandwidth Usage

As more and more workplaces switch over to Google Workspace, it may also help to know how much bandwidth Google Meet uses. I tested it with a 1:1 Google Meet video session.

Video Call Bandwidth Google

Google Meet has by far the lowest bandwidth requirements out of the four video conferencing platforms I used. In fact, my call only required an average of 32.17 Kbps down and 60.22 Kbps up. However, I do think it’s important to note that the upload bandwidth here was nearly double that of the download bandwidth for the entire duration of the call.

Although I needed virtually zero bandwidth to complete my call with Google Meet, Google provides substantially higher minimum bandwidth requirements via its support page.

DefinitionRecommended up/down
Standard1/1 Mbps
HD3.2/2.6 Mbps

How Bandwidth Is Measured

If you go on a video-chat app’s website, they generally measure bandwidth requirements in megabits per second, which isn’t that useful, given that we’re more concerned with how many megabytes we’re using over a series of minutes. Luckily, the math to convert between the two isn’t too complex.

Note: I’m using Mbps for megabits per second and MB/s for megabytes per second, just to differentiate them more easily.

Video Call Bandwidth Megabyte Megabitconversion

1 megabyte (MB) = 8 megabits (Mb)

Video Call Bandwidth Megabit Megabyte Conversion

1 megabit (MB) = 1/8 megabit (Mb)

That means if you see a number in Mbps, you can just divide it by 8 to get the equivalent MB/s.

To convert it into the more-usable minute unit of time, just multiply by 60. To convert to hours, multiply by 60 again.

Here’s a quick reference.

Megabits per second
Megabytes per second
Megabytes per minuteMegabytes per hour
4.5301800 (1.8 GB)
81603600 (3.6 GB)

Converting the Mbps you find in an app’s bandwidth recommendations to megabytes per hour will give you a general idea of how much data you’re likely to use in a video call, but not all calls are created equal.

Factors in Video Call Data Usage

Pretty much every major video-chat application has quality settings ranging from “atrocious” to “pretty clear,” and many of them employ algorithms that automatically adjust the quality based on your device and connection. The data difference between 360p standard definition and 1080p high definition is significant, though, with HD calls consuming two to four times as much bandwidth as SD calls. If you want to conserve your Internet, knocking down the quality to the lowest setting is a good way to do so.

Video Call Bandwidth Sd Vs Hd

Don’t forget, though, that data is moving in two directions during a video call: up and down. That makes video calls quite a bit hungrier than typical one-way video streaming, as you’ll typically be eating through double or more than double the bandwidth.

Video Call Bandwidthupload Download

Adding extra people to the call also takes more data on the download side (you’re still just uploading one stream, after all), but how much extra depends on the app. Zoom handles group calls much more efficiently than Skype, though Skype apparently uses less bandwidth for 1:1 calls.

Screensharing is the least data-intensive task you can do on a video call, typically taking up less than 200 Kbps (1.5 MB/s).

Bottom Line: Video Calls Use Bandwidth

Statements about what constitutes “a lot of data” don’t tend to age well, and a gigabyte definitely isn’t as big as it was a decade ago, but video calls are still fairly heavy on the bandwidth. That’s mostly because you’re uploading quite a bit, which you don’t typically have to do with Netflix or YouTube.

The app you use can make a big difference, too, as some of them are pretty light on data when the conversation is 1:1 but tear through a lot more when participants are added (looking at you, Skype). That’s according to their official estimates, though. In my testing I’ve actually found bandwidth usage typically runs under rather than over. Your mileage may vary depending on connection, device, and how you’re using the call, however, so it’s best to assume the heaviest-usage scenario.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the minimum bandwidth requirements for video calls?

Most video call apps use a minimum of about 500 Kbps (3.75 MB/minute) for one-way standard definition calls and a maximum of around 1.8 Mbps (13.5 MB/s) for one-way high-definition video. Doubling those to account for the two-way flow, that’s a total of 7.25 MB/minute minimum, 27 MB/minute maximum.

2. How can I test my Internet bandwidth?

There are several ways to check your bandwidth usage and total bandwidth for your Internet connection. The simplest way to do this with a PC is by opening Windows Task Manager to see bandwidth for either a wired or wireless connection. You can also use websites like Ookla Speedtest to measure your download and upload speeds in real time.

3. Can I do anything to increase my Internet bandwidth?

If you notice you’re having issues with video calls, you can do several things to increase your bandwidth. First, you can check that you’re receiving the bandwidth you’re paying for from your Internet provider. If it’s an internal issue, you can check your router settings or change the W-iFi network signal channel. Finally, you can free up bandwidth by controlling which devices get priority in your home network.

Image credit: Anna Shvets on Pexels

Bandwidth data gathered using Bitmeter OS

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