Streaming on WiFi is possible, but not recommended. Here's the good, the bad, and ugly for WiFi streamers.
It’s easy to get excited about streaming, and launch into it without thinking through the details that make it possible. One of the most important factors of streaming is a solid, fast internet connection. Without a good internet connection you’ll have a low quality and possibly laggy stream that will be unwatchable. With the increase in mobile devices there’s been an uptick in households utilizing WiFi connection rather than a hardwire connection. Is this you? And are you wondering...
You can stream on Twitch and other platforms using WiFi, but it is not recommended. WiFi connections aren’t as reliable or fast compared to a hardwired ethernet connection, and often lead to laggy, poor quality streams. If your only option is to stream by WiFi it’s recommended that you decrease the quality of your stream to lessen the load of data that is being streamed, and in effect decreasing the chance of lag.
It’s not always possible to have an ethernet cord running through a home, and sometimes the only possibility is streaming by WiFi. While it’s not recommended, sometimes you’ve got to use the cards that are dealt to you. Here’s a few recommendations on how you can stream by WiFi as effectively as possible.
If you’re forced to use WiFi you’ll want to make sure that you have the best equipment that your budget will allow. By upgrading your router and WiFi adapter (or card) you’re guaranteed to have a stronger, more reliable connection.
There’s hundreds of various routers currently available. I recently purchased a cable modem by Motorola. It’s the AC1900 and I’ve been happy with it. For me I wanted something that would give great WiFi coverage, not break the bank, and be a router/modem combo. You can see it here on Amazon.
But you’ll need to check your current setup, and see if it’s ready to upgrade. I would also recommend looking at your setup to determine what it’s WiFi speed should be, and then taking an online speed test to ensure you’re coming close to those marks. If not you’ll want to troubleshoot and make sure your WiFi setup is configured correctly.
We all know the areas of our home/office that don’t get the greatest connection to WiFi. Perhaps the router is all the way on the other side of the house compared to where your gaming system is set up. WiFi has a hard time traveling through multiple walls, and can receive interference from microwave and other devices. One way to have a better WiFi connection for streaming is to move your gaming system closer to the router.
If others in your home are using WiFi, you’re guaranteed to lose bandwidth for your stream. Have you ever experienced a lag spike on the stream, told your viewers to wait a moment, while you ran through the house to check who’s watching YouTube while you stream? I’ve been there!
If multiple people are using your internet and WiFi, there’s a good chance that your stream is going to experience lag, the dreaded buffering, and dropped frames. While longtime viewers may have more patience for this, newer viewers will leave the channel if the video quality is in a constant state of lag.
One option would be to see if others in your house can not use the internet for an agreed upon amount of time while you stream. The more expensive option would be to increase your internet plan with your provider or purchase a separate plan that you could use exclusively.
While it’s nice to be able to stream at the highest quality it will require a faster, more reliable internet connection. If you’re streaming by WiFi you could lower the quality so that the stream isn’t plagued by buffering or lag spikes. Unfortunately, it just won’t look as good to the viewers. A 1080p stream is nicer to look at compared to a 720p stream.
If your WiFi connection is weak you could purchase a WiFi extender that will boost and extend the internet signal. It’ll provide a stronger Wi-Fi connection, and can help if your signal is obstructed by many walls, furniture, or a far distance.
It’s a small suggestion, but you could reduce the load on your bandwidth by streaming a game that isn’t online. This way the bandwidth would be devoted to only the stream, and not also an online game.
This is the best recommendation for streaming. If you’re able to move away from WiFi and to a hardwired connection you’re guaranteed to have a stronger, faster, and more reliable connection. You’ll be able to stream at a higher quality, and not have to worry about your viewers dealing with a loss of frames. While streaming by WiFi might be more convenient than stringing an ethernet cord throughout your house, you can’t beat the strength of a hardwired connection.
This is the setup that I use in my own home for streaming. My computer that I stream from is placed in a spot that I’m unable to run an ethernet cord to. In addition, I don’t want to stream by WiFi for all the reasons listed above. Instead I have utilized Netgear Powerline adapters (see on Amazon) to get an internet connection through electrical outlets.
This has worked well for me, but not ideal for everyone. Read the reviews of powerline, because you’ll see some homes for various reasons don’t get the best connection with this device. The benefit of the powerline is that you won’t need to run an ethernet cord through your home. The downside is that the connection still isn’t as strong as a regular ethernet connection.
You can stream by WiFi connection, but I wouldn’t recommend it unless it’s a last resort. Most of the time a hardwired connection will result in a better quality stream. Viewers are more likely to stick around a channel that isn’t laggy and is broadcasting at a higher quality. Before diving into a WiFi streaming setup I would explore all options to get an ethernet from your router to your streaming setup.
With this said, there have been times where I have streamed by WiFi and it wasn’t the end of the world. Twice I have done IRL (cooking) streams with my iPhone 6, and the quality was good enough that viewers stuck around and the channel didn’t experience lag. I only chose to do this, because I was limited by the equipment I own.
But I had my phone 15 feet away from the router and made sure no one in the house was using the WiFi. I had no issues as long as I streamed from the Twitch application. When I switched over the StreamLabs application, and attempted to broadcast I experienced huge lag spikes. I don’t think this was an issue with the StreamLabs application, but rather that it required a higher upload rate than my phone was capable of.
All this to say, try and get a hardwired connection as you and your viewers will enjoy it more. And if this isn’t possible - try to make your WiFi connection as strong as possible before hitting that “Go Live” button!