Mobile streaming: solutions and limitations

Mobile live broadcast is usually one of the most difficult aspects for streamers, so let's talk in detail about how to broadcast from remote locations. In places where Wi-Fi or Ethernet is not available (or just too expensive), the only option is mobile Internet.

Whether you plan to broadcast a concert, sporting event, or wedding, using a cellular connection can be a sensible and cost-effective solution. However, streaming over a cellular channel is not always reliable: the signal level may fluctuate, causing missing frames or even disruption of your live broadcast.

Is it possible to achieve more stable live streaming via the cellular Internet? Here are the facts (and some general tips) about mobile cellular streaming.

Via mobile phone

The easiest way to start streaming over the cellular Internet is to tie the phone by setting it to the “Wi-Fi hotspot” mode - a mobile access point. In this very basic setup, your phone will become a Wi-Fi source for a coding device (such as Webcaster X2 ), which in turn will stream to YouTube, Facebook Live, or other content delivery networks. We have already described this option in detail in the article “ 6 ways to“ overclock ”Webcaster X2 ”. This method is always available and inexpensive (especially if you have an unlimited data plan).

However, when using the phone as a Wi-Fi access point, a number of problems may arise. First of all, your phone is now less accessible for other operations. Secondly, the modem tends to quickly discharge the phone battery (which can be prevented by connecting an external battery). But most importantly, this method can fail when streaming from a large crowd of people. A cellular signal tends to deteriorate when many people simultaneously access the same network. This means that even if you have 5 connection bands, the actual signal to your phone may be significantly less than what you need to maintain bandwidth for a live broadcast.

Dedicated 3G / 4G LTE Access Point

A dedicated mobile access point device (or mobile router) accesses cellular signals and converts 3G and 4G signals to Wi-Fi and vice versa, creating a wireless network for devices within range. Dedicated mobile access points can be purchased from operators with prepaid data rates or as separate devices with a SIM card purchased separately.

As a rule, mobile routers are characterized by increased battery life, maximum available bandwidth and small displays that allow you to find out the signal level, data transfer rate and other useful information. These devices can also act as a backup external battery for charging your phone or other devices. Well, the best models also have an Ethernet port, to which you can directly connect the encoder.

Using a dedicated 3G / 4G LTE access point is a much more reliable way of streaming than a mobile phone. An important role in this was played by the serial cellular signal and the Ethernet connection. It is nice to be able to monitor bandwidth and data usage in real time. However, when using a mobile access point, you should always consider the restrictions on the tariff plans. Many operators reduce bandwidth below 1 Gbps after reaching the plan limit.

However, problems similar to a telephone modem can arise when streaming from crowded places and with a weak cellular signal. Maintaining the minimum bandwidth can be difficult, causing skipped frames or even stopping the flow.


When thinking about choosing a solution for cellular broadcasting, it is important to consider the following:

  • Location - Is there enough signal to start? Be sure to test the site in advance. Even cellular communication will not be able to help you if there is no signal in the zone.
  • Site Population - Pre-Check Required: How many other people around you will use the same network during the live broadcast? Now check the location again, this time - with people!
  • Carrier Restrictions - What is your plan limit in gigabytes? Will your operator reduce bandwidth when you exceed this limit? Estimate data consumption and, accordingly, data cost.

As for the future, over time, 5G will be the perfect solution for streaming over the cellular Internet, but you have to wait a few more years for this to happen.