A key decision factor when selecting a security camera is how you want to transmit footage so it can be viewed and recorded. You essentially have 3 options; wired, wireless or don’t transmit it at all!
In this article, we will talk about the various wired and wireless technologies used to deliver footage and allow you to control the cameras. Starting with Ethernet, the most commonly used wired transmission technology.
Ways to Transmit & View Security Camera Footage – At a Glance
- PoE or Ethernet Cables: High-speed, secure, but can be costlier and requires more setup.
- Coaxial Cables: Older, affordable, reliable, but may not be future-proof.
- Wi-Fi Options (2.4 GHz or 5 GHz): 2.4 GHz offers wider range but can restrict bandwidth, while 5 GHz provides higher bandwidth with shorter range.
- 4G LTE: Expensive, but versatile for remote locations without Wi-Fi or cable access.
- Local Storage: Bypass transmission and store footage directly on the camera, useful as a backup.
Note: In this article, we discuss how to transmit security camera footage, not how it can be stored. Check out our “How to Store Security Camera Footage” article if you are interested in that aspect.
1. PoE or Ethernet Cables
In most modern CCTV systems, the preferred method of wired communication is via Ethernet. (or more specifically through the RJ45 interface.)
You might recognize these as the LAN cables running internet connectivity to your router and computers, and just like they deliver internet to your devices, they can deliver video and instructions to security cameras.
Power over Ethernet, or PoE is the more advanced form of Ethernet, where security cameras and other devices (such as Wi-Fi routers) can receive power and data signals through a single Ethernet cable.
The main advantage of PoE (other than transferring power) is that these cables can transfer up to 2.5 to 5 Gbps of data seamlessly over a distance of 100 meters / 330 feet. On top of that, they are more secure than wireless networks as they cannot be intercepted over the air.
However, a few things you need to consider is that PoE compatible devices are more expensive and require more work to set up properly. (Running cables, setting up a network switch, power supply units, etc..)
2. Coaxial Cables
The other wired alternative for security camera systems are coaxial cables, also known as the RG59, RG6 cables. However, these use the older (yet still reliable) HD-TVI infrastructure instead of the IP-based networks.
Coaxial cables can be used in two different video transmission technologies, there’s the older and more cost-efficient Analog HD (which can manage 1080p and 4K transmission without any major modifications) and Digital HD. (which can support high resolutions with uncompressed video in real-time)
A coaxial transmission interface (also called HD over coax) has better range, (upwards of 400ft) minimal latency, and doesn’t rely on encoding/decoding algorithms to compress data. In most cases, they are the more affordable and convenient option for setting up a noise-free and secure transmission interface.
Unfortunately, they do happen to have some downsides: they cannot transfer extremely high-resolution footage, (upwards of 8MP), and are not really future proofed as the vast majority of new cameras are IP using PoE.
3. Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz)
If setting up a hardwired network all-around your home is not what you intend to do, then the remaining option is to go fully wireless, and there’s nothing better than Wi-Fi to help you get started with your wireless security camera system of the future!
Setting up Wi-Fi security cameras is very easy, all you need to do is figure out how you want the camera to be powered, (using either a hardwired power connection, rechargeable batteries or Solar) set up a Wi-Fi router to provide coverage, and connect the camera to your Wi-Fi network. Easy Peasy!
However, there are some things you need to consider about your Wi-Fi network, especially if you intend to set up multiple cameras in this manner. The major issue you will face is limited bandwidth. If your Wi-Fi cameras are recording and transmitting 24/7 (some battery-only models only record when there’s motion) it’s going to be hogging up bandwidth from your Wi-Fi network.
Therefore, when there are multiple cameras all transmitting data at the same time, there’s going to be none left for your phones and computers to stream Amazon Prime or Netflix! That is unless you install a separate Wi-Fi network (on a different channel) or improve the bandwidth of your existing one.
Bandwidth and transmission speed goes hand in hand, the faster the data transmission rate, the more bandwidth is freed up faster, allowing for other devices to move in and get their work done as well.
Most conventional home networks use something called the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band. This is a range of frequencies that allow devices to transmit and receive wireless information. The 2.4GHz band has a maximum speed of 450 to 600 Mbps with an indoor range of 150ft (depending on the make-up of obstacles such as walls and floors).
Therefore, when you consider that the average security camera utilizes a maximum of 4 Mbps to transmit high-quality footage, connecting too many security cameras to the same Wi-Fi network can restrict the bandwidth very significantly.
So, before setting up Wi-Fi cameras for your home security system, it’s best to determine how many cameras you will be using and if the Wi-Fi network will be able to handle it. (Don’t forget that you have all your smartphones, computers, and smart devices sharing this network too.)
4. Wi-Fi (5 GHz)
Fortunately, if the bandwidth of a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi network is not enough to manage all of your devices, then you can switch over to the 5 GHz frequency band. This more powerful band has a maximum bandwidth of 1300 Mbps and will be able to support tons of Wi-Fi cameras alongside your other smart home devices, phones, and computers.
Unfortunately, there is one caveat. 5GHz Wi-Fi cannot cover a very wide range as its maximum indoor range is limited to 50ft. (because higher frequencies have lower wavelengths, i.e shorter propagation distances.)
So if you are thinking of making the transition over to 5 GHz Wi-Fi, you’ll need some access points pretty close to those cameras.
5. 4G LTE
Apart from Wi-Fi and ethernet, the remaining option to transmit data remotely is by using a cellular 4G LTE connection.
4G LTE-based security cameras are not the most economical to set up because each wireless camera needs a dedicated cellular plan and SIM card. Also, you need to make sure that the location you’re setting up the security camera has enough cell phone reception to send and receive data over 4G.
However, if you manage to find good reception and the budget for a dedicated cellular plan, you’re going to have a very reliable security camera that will capture and deliver footage seamlessly without the need for a Wi-Fi or hardwired PoE connection. On top of that, you can have a fully self-reliant security camera by getting one that has rechargeable batteries and an optional solar panel to keep it powered.
These feature-packed security cameras will be relatively more expensive than your usual Wi-Fi cameras and the cellular plan will add to the cost. Nonetheless, they will work almost anywhere, making them the perfect choice for setting them up to monitor remote cabins, boats, RVs, construction sites, and any other location that requires quick surveillance without the hassle of cables and dedicated networks.
6. Don’t Transmit it! Use Local Storage
Finally, if none of the above works for you, you always have the option of picking a security camera with onboard storage. (Some cameras have microSD slots that can record 24/7)
In this scenario, if you need to access the footage, you can remove the microSD card from the camera and view the footage on your laptop.
Not an ideal option as a primary means of accessing footage, however works great as a backup option, in case the central NVR is destroyed or stolen.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to capture, record, and transmit security camera footage. However, despite the variety of choices, not every technology will suit every situation.
So before you start deciding on a mode of transportation for your video data and camera commands, you should consider the scope of the system, i.e how many cameras you will use and how far apart they will be from the NVR, DVR, or Wi-Fi router.
As a rule of thumb, we like to recommend that you go for a full-fledged IP/PoE-based system if you hope to install more than six security cameras.