- Wi-Fi plays a big role in video monitoring, but there are security cameras that don’t need Wi-Fi.
- Local storage is the key; store videos into a microSD card or local recorder and play them back on your computer.
- Want live video streaming without Wi-Fi? Arlo Go is the solution. Read our Arlo review for more.
Even the simplest security cameras these days offer advanced features like smartphone video footage streaming, cloud video recording, and smart home integrations, but unfortunately, all those features require a connection to the internet either through Wi-Fi or a wired ethernet connection. So what if the area you want video surveillance for doesn’t have Wi-Fi?
We have good news for you: Security cameras that don’t require Wi-Fi do exist. In fact, you have two options: Security cameras that record locally to a video recording box like a DVR or cameras that have a mobile LTE plan. We’ll go over each type as we break down how certain cameras can work without Wi-Fi, and whether or not they’re a good idea to have in your home.
Pro Tip: No Wi-Fi? No problem. Lorex security cameras can record every second of every day, online and offline. Read our Lorex review to see how you can turn your Wi-Fi-free space into a secure fortress.
Can Security Cameras Function Normally Without Wi-Fi?
The short answer is yes; the long answer is that it depends on what you consider to be normal security camera features. If remote live-streaming is a priority, there are cameras that can use LTE signals and a data plan to connect to the internet and stream videos, albeit with data usage restrictions. If recording is your top priority, there are cameras that can record to a DVR, NVR, or microSD card, even without Wi-Fi. You’ll find those features in some of the cameras offered by these top-rated brands:
Cameras That Don’t Need Wi-Fi
There are two types of cameras that don’t need Wi-Fi. The first one are cameras that use other means to connect to the internet, specifically, 4G/LTE or 5G signals. These are newer and more advanced than the other type – those that use a separate device like a local recorder to store videos.
First, let’s take a look at a couple of cameras that use cellular data from two popular security camera brands that offer wire-free cameras.
- Arlo Go: We’ve reviewed many Arlo cameras, but the only one that works without Wi-Fi is the Arlo Go. Rather than connecting it to your Wi-Fi network, you buy a mobile LTE plan for the Arlo Go; footage records onto both a micro-SD card and cloud storage. We controlled this wireless camera through the Arlo app.
- Reolink Go: After reviewing Wi-Fi cameras like the Reolink Argus 2, we tested out the Reolink Go, which also requires either a 3G or 4G LTE plan, a micro-SIM card, and a cellular data plan. Footage recorded directly onto a 64 GB micro-SD card, and cloud storage was an option as well. The Reolink Go is wireless and works with Reolink’s mobile application, so you can get notifications from motion detection along with live views.
The downside of these cameras that use mobile data is that they tend to be more expensive than normal Wi-Fi cameras. The hardware alone can cost over $200, and then you’ll have the data plan and the cloud recording subscription to consider.
With the Arlo Go 2 on a T-Mobile data plan, for example, you’ll pay $249 for the equipment, about $2 per month for the data plan, and $4.99 for the cheapest cloud storage plan. You can forgo the cloud storage plan and use the camera just for streaming (no local recording), but the data plan is a must for it to work.
Another thing to consider is the data usage limit. Carriers that offer data plans for the Arlo Go 2 typically provide 1 GB of data per month. The camera records and streams in 1080p. With a 1 GB data plan, you’ll be able to stream for only about two hours straight. Not to mention, if you buy a cloud subscription, the same data plan will be used to send recordings to the cloud. Your best option to save data is to store videos onto a microSD card and limit your use of the live streaming function.
If you value video recording to the point that you’re willing to sacrifice live remote viewing, then the second type of cameras without Wi-Fi is better for you.
Note: Both the Arlo Go and the Reolink Go require cellular data plans for remote control, remote viewing, and notifications.
Types of Cameras That Record Locally
As for the second type, you’ll have to make compromises in terms of features to avoid using Wi-Fi. These are cameras that record locally, but since they’re not connected to the internet in any way, shape, or form, you’ll have to rely on stored footage alone. You won’t get alerts when they detect motion and you’ll have to review recordings periodically.
These are the most common types of cameras that record locally.
- CCTV: CCTV cameras, or closed-circuit television cameras, are used by businesses and police for surveillance; they’re not usually used for home security purposes. Instead of watching the footage on an app, guards watch CCTV footage on several monitors, and storage is on either a DVR or an NVR, a network video recorder for digital systems. CCTV cameras include analog and IP cameras, along with HD-over-coax.1
- Analog: Analog cameras transmit video from the camera to a DVR, often via coaxial cable.
- HD-over-coax: In HD-over-coax cameras, uncompressed video travels from cameras to recorders via coaxial cable. The video is high-resolution, but very few cameras work with coaxial cables.
- IP: An IP camera is usually synonymous with a surveillance camera, as it’s a lot more expensive than regular home security cameras.2
Are Security Cameras Without Wi-Fi Harder To Install?
Although many home security companies might have you thinking otherwise, security cameras that don’t require internet through Wi-Fi aren’t necessarily harder to install than Wi-Fi cameras. As some cameras that don’t need internet are wireless, like the Reolink Go and the Arlo Go, installation can be quite easy. Learn more about how wireless cameras work and the best wireless cameras available.
Wi-Fi vs. No-Wi-Fi Cameras
So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of using cameras that do and don’t work with Wi-Fi? We’ve broken it down below.
Wi-Fi Cameras Pros and Cons
- No data plans required: Since you probably already have Wi-Fi in your home, you won’t have to pay for any additional data plans.
- Livestreaming: You’ll be able to see what’s going on at home through your mobile app.
- Remote control: Most cameras also allow for remote control, including arming and disarming, zooming in optically, and speaking through two-way audio.
- Notifications: Depending on the camera’s level of artificial intelligence, you’ll be notified when it senses movement, a person, a package, a pet, or a vehicle. The more AI capabilities the camera has, the more specific notifications you get.
While some cameras that don’t require Wi-Fi have these features, again, they’ll require data plans for a price.
- Bandwidth usage: The more internet of things (IoT) devices you add to your network, the more bandwidth it uses, slowing down your internet.
- Faulty Wi-Fi: Anyone who’s ever watched TV on a Chromecast knows that Wi-Fi isn’t always dependable (if you’re not using a mesh network like Nest Wi-Fi, that is). Depending solely on Wi-Fi may mean losing your connection from time to time, depending on the strength of your network.
- Hacking: As we’ve seen with Ring cameras3, Wi-Fi cameras can be hacked, especially if you don’t protect your network and mobile app with a secure password.
Tip: To improve your Wi-Fi connection throughout your home, use a mesh network with multiple access points. One example is the Nest Wi-Fi, which we think is one of the best smart home devices around.
No-Wi-Fi Cameras Pros and Cons
- They’re not as hackable. Although cellular data is hackable as well, it’s much safer than Wi-Fi, even secure Wi-Fi networks4 If you use an IP, Analog, or HD-over-coax camera system, it will be even harder to hack as an intruder would need physical access to your recorder to affect your cameras.
- You may still be able to get remote features. If you use a data plan, you don’t have to miss out on remote control, notifications, and livestreaming, which are the main benefits of smart home security. That is, if your security camera supports LTE functions. Otherwise, you will have to make do with local recording.
While some cameras that don’t require Wi-Fi have these features, again, they’ll require data plans for a price.
- They may require a data plan. Again, if you want the above features, it’ll cost you in the form of a mobile LTE plan.
- They’re bulky. Many CCTV cameras are bulky, especially if they require large DVRs.
- They’re expensive. Intended for business or police use, CCTV cameras cost more than regular security cameras that work with Wi-Fi.
While most smart security cameras on the market these days require Wi-Fi, it’s not needed for you to get all the advantages of IoT security cameras. A few good options don’t need Wi-Fi and can use data plans. But if you don’t want livestreaming, remote control, or notifications, that makes not using Wi-Fi even easier. Rather, you’ll have a local camera security system only that will record onto local storage, probably a hard drive or micro-SD card.
Whatever your comfort level with technology — be it Wi-Fi, cellular security cameras, or huge hard drives — there’s a security camera that will work for you. However, we recommend cameras that are connected to the internet in some way, whether it’s through Wi-Fi or cellular data, so you can see what’s happening at home from anywhere with internet access.
Frequently Asked Questions
The idea of using smart home security cameras without Wi-Fi isn’t that common, so people have a ton of questions about it. We’re here with answers!
Can wireless cameras work without Wi-Fi?
There are wireless cameras that can work without Wi-Fi. The Arlo Go and the Reolink Go, for example, are both wireless cameras that use cellular data plans instead of Wi-Fi.
Do all home security cameras require Wi-Fi?
Not all home security cameras require Wi-Fi. Some cameras, like the Arlo Go and the Reolink Go, can use LTE plans instead of Wi-Fi. Other home security cameras aren’t connected to the internet at all but rather record onto local storage like hard drives.
What is better, wired or wireless security cameras?
It depends on what you’re looking for. Wire-free security cameras are easier to install than wired cameras, especially outside. However, with wireless cameras, you have to worry about batteries running out, while wired cameras are hardwired or plugged into a home’s electrical system. However, wired cameras’ disadvantage is that they’re dependent on a home’s power. A wireless camera works perfectly even during a power outage, although its internet connection may be affected if it’s connected to Wi-Fi, so you may not be able to access the camera remotely.
Can you set up cameras without the internet?
Yes, you can set up cameras without the internet. Many cameras are local only, recording onto local storage like a micro-SD card or hard drive.
Paessler. (2021). IT Explained: CCTV.
Eagle Eye Networks. (2021). Pros and Cons of Analog, IP, and HD over Coax Cameras.
ABC News. (2021). Terrifying video of family’s hacked Ring camera system.
WilsonPro. (2020). How Safe is Cellular Data?.