What is a CODEC? And why is it an important component of videoconferencing?

A CODEC is a device or computer program capable of encoding or decoding a digital data stream or signal.  The word CODEC is a portmanteau of “coder-decoder” or, less commonly, “compressor- decompressor.” CODECS are used in videoconferencing, streaming media, and video editing

The term CODEC is commonly used to identify a video conferencing hardware system or software app.  The CODEC is the heart of the video conferencing system.  A CODEC makes video conferencing work.  As indicated in the above definition they compress and decompress data.   This is what happens in the network when you are making a video call.  On your monitor you are seeing the decompressed data and in between the data is compressed for quick and reliable transportation.

There are several CODEC manufactures with new ones emerging with very competitive pricing.  The key is to make sure they work on the ITU, (International Telecommunications Standards), based protocols.  A good CODEC will accommodate both H.323 and SIP or Sessions Initiation Protocol.  Even though a CODEC can be a device or software on a computer it certainly should accommodate both protocols.  Most CODEC devices however are computer free.  Early in the development the video conferencing, CODEC manufacturers combined the hardware with the computer.  This was short lived as computers are inherently unstable and thus a video conferencing call became unreliable.  Today there are CODEC software apps that work on your computer, iPad or any other mobile device as a video conferencing end point in a of itself.  The CODEC app is critical for the increased demand for mobility.  In the very near future everybody will have a video access just like we have cell phone access.  The refinement and further development of the “Coder-Decoder” or CODEC will make this happen.

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