How much bandwidth is required for video conferencing?

The good news is that you do not need a huge amount of bandwidth to do video conferencing.  Manufacturers are constantly improving video conferencing algorithms to yield better quality video conferencing at lower bandwidth.  For example a new technology, SVC, Scalable Video Coding, soon will be an industry wide standard. Scalable Video Coding means your video quality is maintained even when there is packet loss on the network.  SVC offers high network error resiliency.

Although new video conferencing standards help there is still a requirement for a robust and reliable network to have a positive experience with video conferencing.  You need to determine several things before you decide the amount of bandwidth you require.   First – Do you want standard definition video conferencing, SD, or high definition video conferencing, HD?  Standard definition video conferencing, SD, only requires 384kbps, only about 1/3 of at T-1 circuit.  High definition video conferencing, HD requires up to 1mbps of bandwidth. This is a significant jump in bandwidth requirement from SD to HD.  Second – Do you need an MCU or Multipoint Conference Unit?  If you have a central office and three outside locations and you want to connect all four locations simultaneously you will need four times the amount of bandwidth at the central office. For example if you are connecting a multi-site call on standard definition or 384kbps per end-point you need four times that amount of bandwidth or 1.536mbps or a full T-1 circuit.  This requirement goes up accordingly for High Definition video conferencing.

Keep in mind that your network should be accommodating more than video conferencing.  You may need internet access for other applications like email, VoIP, wireless access for visitors, etc.   Potentially there could be conflicts and packet loss.  You may consider implementing MPLS or Multi Protocol Label Switching; this prioritizes packets that carry voice and video data.  When you are using your phone or video conferencing systems the network prioritizes this data — so during phone calls using VoIP or video conferencing these packets get sent before any other data. More unnoticeable applications will slow down, like email. These simple network configurations will have a major impact on your video conferencing quality.

The bottom line is you will need more bandwidth dedicated to video conferencing, especially if you are implementing this application for the first time in your company.  There is more good news as circuit providers are becoming more competitive. We suggest working with a CLEC or Competitive Local Exchange Carrier.  Often they offer more options, better pricing and much better customer service.


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