How do I configure my network to accommodate videoconferencing?

Over the years companies new to purchasing and using video conferencing got excited about the application possibilities.  They would see a great demo with high quality video at the reseller’s office.  After their purchase buyer’s remorse would sometimes occur and they quickly become disappointed with the equipment because the quality video and audio seems very much degraded.   More often than not the equipment is fine – it’s the network.  Videoconferencing needs bandwidth and many times companies will purchase the hardware and not even consider their network.  If you are sharing your video conferencing application with email, internet access and other telecom functions your video conferencing quality will certainly suffer if you don’t have the proper amount of bandwidth and the correct network configuration.

The most important part of video conferencing is the network.  Before you even consider implementing video conferencing talk to your IT department, network administrator and circuit provider to see if there is enough bandwidth.  The good news is video conferencing technology is getting much more efficient with developments like SVC, (Scalable Video Coding), a video conferencing ITU standard.  Scalable Video Coding keeps the quality of video and audio very good in lower bandwidth environments.  Tiling and image freeze up are all but eliminated with systems that have scalable video coding, (SVC).

Back to the network requirements – First there are three things in video conferencing that will impact your network.  First, is your equipment SD standard definition or HD high definition video?  The later takes up 3 more times the bandwidth.  Second, will you use computer collaboration during a video? On HD this will double the bandwidth required.  Third, are you using an in-house MCU or multipoint control unit?  If the MCU accommodates four simultaneously connections, you need four times more bandwidth with either SD or HD equipment.  These are critical considerations that will impact your network.

One simple way is to purchase dedicated circuits that are exclusive to the video conferencing equipment. There are two benefits to this scenario.  One if your network goes down, you can still video conference because you don’t need a computer server, just the router.  Two there is no interruption in connection or quality of service when your main network is in heavy use.  Another solution is to implement MPLS or Multi Protocol Label Switching.  This prioritizes packets on the network.  Audio and video are given top priority through MPLS so during phone calls using VoIP or video conferencing these packets get sent before any other data.    These simple network configurations will have a major impact on your video conferencing quality.


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