Blog Comp 2017: Battling Bandwidth: Achieve HD Quality Video Collaboration
Guest Blog by Bobby Beckmann, CTO at Lifesize
Battling Bandwidth: Optimise your Network and Achieve HD Quality Video Collaboration
When it comes to efficient, productivity-oriented communication and collaboration, there is no question that video conferencing is an outstanding option, if not the best (besides in person interaction, of course). Long perceived as a bastion of the corporate boardroom, video conferencing has now evolved to be an accessible tool, easily used by anyone in the work force, regardless of location, platform or job function. Thanks to cloud-based solutions, video conferencing is now a very straight forward proposition from a deployment, management and user standpoint.
The quality, simplicity and manageability of video conferencing, combined with wide availability and lower costs of HD displays and IP networks, promises far greater usage and value than the staid video conferencing of old.
The benefits of collaboration and video conferencing are also easy for the IT team to realise with relatively small amounts of bandwidth – clear, crisp HD picture quality leads to an authentic, “just-like-being-there” experience that’s totally addictive.
However, IT departments are usually juggling multiple applications that, when used at the same time, could stress the network and demand more bandwidth than is available. IT must work to optimise the network and manage bandwidth effectively to deliver the best user experience possible, especially when collaboration tools and video are in play.
Below are five tips to help optimise your network and ready it for HD video:
1 – Identify How Much Bandwidth You Need
To achieve high-definition video (1280×720 at 30 frames per second), only 768Kbps is needed. For even better motion handling, 60 frames is achievable at 1.1 Mbps. For some perspective, your office’s standard T-3 line has an output of about 43.23Mbps. A T-1 line emits 1.54Mbps.
These requirements are designed to make sure the call runs smoothly and with the best quality possible. Video conferencing relies on packets of data being sent and received consistently and in real time to ensure that the call remains clear, with every inflection, gesture and word correctly transmitted.
From the IT team’s perspective, this helps to minimise the chance of a quality-related helpdesk ticket being submitted.
Additionally, measurable increases in quality at lower bandwidths can also be obtained. For example, DVD quality is achievable at just 384Kbps. So, for less than 1Mbps over the public Internet, phenomenal video quality is now a reality. Most businesses are capable of allocating this amount of bandwidth for video communications, especially when the cost-to-return component is so favourable. In some cases, it is desirable to use a Quality of Service (QoS) network, but it is not always imperative.
2 – Advance Planning
If HD quality is desired, sufficient bandwidth must be in place on each link to carry the expected real-time traffic. There are a few questions in the planning process that can help estimate the demand and support needed for video conferencing on the network.
- What is the expected traffic? Is it in conferencing rooms? Or done remotely?
- When are the busy hours of the business? Factor in all offices, if the nature of the business is on multiple time zones.
- Can the bridge network connection sustain the maximum number of endpoints in simultaneous conference calls? This will help decide where the bridge should be located.
- Should a centralised bridge be deployed instead of multipoint capable endpoints? A centralised bridge may be ideal and more user-friendly but it could introduce an additional cost to the network.
3 – Hardwire Your System to Your Network – in the Office and at Home
One of the most important factors for video conferencing is the speed of your network. And a simple way to avoid wireless channel interference that can disrupt connectivity is to ensure your system is hardwired to your network. If a user is not certain of their current bandwidth use, try asking them to visit a speed test site prior to the meeting and confirm availability.
Note that use of video at home or on a mobile device versus the office will typically have different outcomes. A corporate office environment will most likely have similar download and upload speeds, whereas a remote environment may not. The information gathered from a speed test is beneficial to all involved with troubleshooting – the user, IT department and/or service provider.
Also, in both cases, but more so from a remote environment, it is smart to avoid unnecessary items running in the background during a video call, like large file transfers, virus protections scanners or downloading fun videos from YouTube.
4 – Utilise Data Analytics
While a majority of networks can handle HD quality, if there are issues with the connection, professional enterprise-ready video conferencing services currently have the ability to course correct automatically. These service providers monitor bandwidth and network speeds in real time, and if there’s a hiccup, audio will be proactively prioritised and video slightly reduced. As data analytics continue to reach their potential, next generation monitoring tools will be able to flag low bandwidth before it even becomes an issue.
5 – Expect Quality Service
Truth be told, not all video services are created equal in technology and interoperability, meaning quality can vary. Free and consumer-grade apps can result in poor picture quality, pixellation and bandwidth issues, which can be distracting during meetings. By stepping up to enterprise-quality HD video conferencing, companies will benefit from seamless and lifelike picture quality and audio that makes it feel like your conversation is taking place in the same room, even if the people you’re talking to are across the globe.
Businesses today recognise the efficiency and increased productivity that collaboration and video conferencing technology provides. Similar to many other applications, HD video conferencing does have an impact on a network’s bandwidth but following the approaches above will help to plan, manage and drive successful collaborating over the network.