Google Stadia now lets you stream over mobile data, but why would you want to?

Eric Abent - Oct 30, 2020, 3:27pm CDT
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Google Stadia now lets you stream over mobile data, but why would you want to?

Stadia had a fairly big October, but one addition you may have missed was the arrival of game streaming over mobile data. Specifically, Google upgraded mobile data streaming from an experimental feature to a fully supported one, thereby allowing users to stream games over 4G and 5G, assuming they have access to 5G where they live. The question is: would you want to stream games over mobile data? Given the state of the mobile industry, we’re guessing that you probably don’t.

Why? Google says that streaming games over mobile data could use as much as 2.7GB/hr. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, especially when streaming in 4K to a desktop or a Chromecast Ultra can result in data usage of around 20GB/hr, but of course, home broadband connections and mobile data connections are not and have never been equal.

2.7GB/hr is more or less out of the question for anyone on a mobile plan with a hard data cap. These days it seems like carriers are trying everything they can to get people to switch over to “unlimited” plans, so there are probably fewer people on a metered connection now than there were two or three years ago. Still, if you’re holding onto that old data plan, mobile game streaming through Stadia for any significant amount of time is almost certainly out.

The sad reality is, though, that those of us on unlimited plans don’t fare much better, because no unlimited plan offered by Verizon, AT&T, or T-Mobile is truly unlimited. All three carriers reserve the right to slow your data speeds “in times of congestion” once you reach a certain data usage threshold for the month, which is bad news for streaming of any kind.

On Verizon and T-Mobile, that threshold is 50GB across all of their unlimited plans, while AT&T slows your speeds at 50GB and 100GB in its Unlimited Extra and Unlimited Elite plans, respectively. In addition, the basic unlimited plans offered by all carriers don’t come with any threshold at all, with each carrier simply saying that your data speeds may be throttled if the network is busy.

So, while mobile data streaming for Stadia is a nice touch, most people probably don’t want to rely on it more than once or twice a billing cycle. Unfortunately, until Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile stop using their alternative definitions of the word “unlimited,” that probably won’t change, and the idea of platform and location-agnostic cloud streaming won’t be fully realized.


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