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How to increase your livestream bandwidth amid in-person, online worship

If your church is lacking the necessary bandwidth to provide optimal livestreaming services, possibly because those who attend in person are drawing from your WiFi, there are solutions to a better outcome. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.
If your church is lacking the necessary bandwidth to provide optimal livestreaming services, possibly because those who attend in person are drawing from your WiFi, there are solutions to a better outcome. Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

While many churches have been able to resume in-person worship, most still have a significant number of people who attend online, and that has created a relatively new problem.

 

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With pews starting to fill up, churches are seeing the bandwidth that’s needed for livestreaming slip away, thus decreasing the quality of the online experience.

There are multiple ways to approach this challenge. Working your way through the options will help your church continue to serve in-person and online attendees well.  

1. Reduce WiFi activity

You can shut down your WiFi router, but a better solution may be to involve the congregation in the solution. Ask people — in a nice mission-centered way — to turn off the WiFi setting on their phones while they are on your church campus. Doing so will free more bandwidth for your livestreaming events.

Talk with your congregation about how the reach of your worship services has expanded since the beginning of the pandemic. Remind them that you are serving people who are attending as well as those online. By disconnecting their WiFi while on-site, they are assisting you in ministry outreach to those in the digital space.

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2. Prioritize your livestream traffic

Right now, much of the bandwidth coming into your church is most likely used by the initial devices that request it. That means that when you have 40 people walk in the door and start checking their Facebook, a significant amount of your internet bandwidth will end up being used by them instead of being available for your livestream audience.

Give priority to your Sunday morning livestream traffic by using “quality of service” or QoS. It’s not something you’ll want to set up yourself, but a professional IT person can have QoS set up for you rather quickly.

3. Get a second, inexpensive dedicated internet connection

If you can find room in your budget for an additional $25-$50 per month, you may want to consider adding a second internet connection that will be used only for your livestream. Whether you get a cable company to install another line or get a WiFi hotspot for a cell plan, a dedicated connection can make a big difference. 

Your bandwidth goal should be to get 5Mbps upstream for HD video. Keep in mind that each one-hour service will use about 1.85 gigabytes of whatever the bandwidth cap is for your plan.  

4. Use bandwidth bonding for rock-solid streaming

Although pricey, budgeting a couple thousand dollars may allow for a more rock-solid solution. You can set yourself up to do what the pros do and stream using multiple connections to the internet at the same time. That way, if one connection goes down, you are covered by the others. For that, you’ll need a special type of livestream encoder such as the Teredek Vidiu Go. Once set up, you can have ethernet, WiFi and cell connections all chugging along at the same time.

No matter the selected method, the key here is to free up some of your bandwidth so that those joining online are given as much priority as those who attend in person. Whether it is getting people to turn off their WiFi or doing something more, a boost in bandwidth can make a big difference. 


Jeremy Steele

Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.