Livestreaming, Video Chat, and Video Conferencing
Video broadcasting or conferencing over Zoom, Microsoft Teams, YouTube Live, Facebook, Twitch or Skype using mobile internet from an RV or Boat presents some unique challenges.
Just like streaming video over Netflix or Hulu, live broadcasting video can require a lot of bandwidth, except going in the other direction. Up instead of down.
For interactive video conferencing, you need to send and receive video content at the same time and in real-time, which complicates matters even further.
Despite the difficulties and compromises of mobile internet that come with a RVing or boating, it is definitely possible to overcome these challenges and successfully broadcast video and conduct video conferences while traveling.
To make it work consistently and reliably, however - you'll need a good mix of tools, equipment, data plans and some knowledge of how to put them all together.
This guide is designed to cover everything you need to know in order to broadcast or video conference successfully while using mobile internet sources from an RV or boat.
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Video Conferencing over Mobile Internet Overview
Here's a 17-minute video that recaps this guide with some tips for successful video broadcasting and conferencing over mobile internet:
Mobile Internet Sources & Video Conferencing
Mobile internet users have three primary options for getting an internet connection: Cellular, Wi-Fi, and Satellite.
A complete list of advantages and disadvantages to each (plus some alternatives) is provided in our Overview Guide:
Most nomads, especially those who need a mobile home-internet replacement, utilize one or more cellular options for their internet connection. And, as an internet source for mobile broadcasting and video conferencing, cellular connections are very commonly used, even in the professional broadcasting world.
Additionally, most mobile broadcasting/conferencing apps for smartphones and tablets are generally designed to work well over cellular connections.
For more on the ins and outs of cellular options, see our guide to the major carriers:
Wi-Fi as an Internet Source
Using Wi-Fi access points is another common internet source for mobile users. There are millions of Wi-Fi hotspots in North America and around the world, and many of those are free and open that anyone can tap into. Additionally, most RV campgrounds and boat marinas have Wi-Fi networks for their customers, as do many other businesses and public places.
Note about Wi-Fi Internet: Wi-Fi internet for our purposes is Wi-Fi that is provided by third parties utilizing connections to the internet that you, the consumer, don't own or control. This is different from connecting to Wi-Fi that you own, like a smartphone, mobile hotspot device, or router. For more on using someone else's Wi-Fi as an internet sources:
The performance of these Wi-Fi networks can vary considerably and some have restrictions and may block certain types of internet traffic to include streaming and broadcasting. It can also be challenging to use Wi-Fi hotspots for broadcasting since they may be located in places that lack privacy or are not conducive to broadcasting.
Broadcasting in a Starbucks or public library utilizing their Wi-Fi is not likely to be a good experience for you, your audience, and the other people around you. You can, however, tap into Wi-Fi sources and broadcast in the privacy of your RV, boat, or vehicle parked nearby.
Since you don't have control over these Wi-Fi networks, you usually don't know how many other people are connected at any one time and you have no ability to prioritize your data over others. This can be risky for important work since other users could clog up the Wi-Fi hotspot and wreck your connection in the middle of an important virtual meeting or broadcast.
Starlink's low-earth-orbit satellite system has generated a lot of excitement in the RV and boating industry. And as of spring 2022, it's now available nationwide and portable without a lot of fuss.
It does provide great download speeds and low latency. However upload speeds can still be quite variable and Starlink can experience intermittent drop outs that make it less reliable for video conferencing and broadcasting.
Thus we recommend combining Starlink with other sources of internet - like cellular or Wi-Fi to create a more stable streaming experience.
For more on using Starlink in a mobile environment :
Other legacy satellite internet options are not ideal for video broadcasting and video conferencing as they are highly optimized for downloading and usually have major limits for uploading data. Even the fastest currently available system for the RV market, the HughesNet Gen 5, has a technical upload limit of 3Mbps although real-world use is usually much lower than that.
Additionally, there are other restrictions as well as data caps and throttles that can make old school satellite-based internet very difficult for video broadcasting. But it may be enough in a pinch, especially if there are no other options readily available.
For more on satellite internet options and their limitations, see our guide:
Alternative Internet Sources
As discussed in our Mobile Internet for RV and Boat Overview Guide, there are alternatives that may be available depending on your circumstances and location:
- A wired internet connection is available at some RV parks and marinas
- A broadband connection at a friend's or relative's home
- Co-working or studio spaces
All these options will usually have plenty of bandwidth for most broadcasting and video conferencing needs.
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Video Broadcasting Requirements
What's the difference between broadcasting and video conferencing? What are the minimum speed requirements to smoothly broadcast, and how do latency and ping times impact interactive video sessions? How critical is your role in a virtual meeting room?
The Importance of Upload Capacity
Unlike most other tasks on the internet, upload capacity is critical to successfully broadcast or conduct interactive video sessions. In this section, we explain what upload capacity is, how it's different than download capacity, and why it's so important.
Optimizing Mobile Internet Upload Performance
Since upload performance is so critical for video broadcasting, we dive into ways to increase your upload speeds for smoother video broadcasting & conferencing experiences.
Getting the Data
Video broadcasting and conferencing can use up a lot of data, which means you'll need to take this into consideration when assembling your mobile internet arsenal. In this section, we address strategies to accommodate this high data usage activity.
Broadcasting & Conferencing Services
We dive into popular broadcasting services like YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Twitch, Zoom, and Skype - and how each is optimized for mobile internet, with their minimum speed requirement and typical bandwidth usage.
Broadcasting and video conferencing on the road are becoming more common as nomads are able to utilize technology for work and to keep in touch with friends and family.
At the same time, mobile internet options are also expanding and can provide nomads with the ability to conduct virtual face-to-face chats and meetings from almost anywhere...assuming you can plan your travels and tweak your arsenal to get the upload and download bandwidth you need. The great thing is that in most cases, you can.
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