Video Conferencing 10: Does Video Conferencing Use a Lot of Bandwidth?

Businesses and organizations are all looking for more cost-effective ways of maintaining their contacts by maximizing all other communication resources. Rather than driving or flying miles just to see a client or meet with a potential supplier, corporations now adopt video conferencing. The technology is considered the next best thing to face-to-face meetings and seminars, allowing geographically dispersed individuals to interact as if they are all physically located in the same room.

With the decision to implement this form of collaboration technology is a need to explore the bandwidth requirements that will allow for smoother video conferencing sessions. It is important to consider bandwidth because audio and video for this type of meeting is transmitted via the WAN, Intranet and even Internet.

In its simplest form, personal video conferences can be conducted with commodity internet connections such as a DSL line or a cable modem. These connections would suffice if you’re going to talk to only one person or you don’t need to stream high definition video to your contacts. But in order to create a credible enterprise-grade video presence that is close to face-to-face communication, higher bandwidth will be required. The increased bandwidth consumed by enterprise-level video conferencing cannot be sufficiently supported by conventional high speed internet access.

The bandwidth used for video conferencing is ideally at 300 to 400 Kbps per stream range. A typical H.323 video conference session typically runs at about 384 Kbps. It can deliver video at TV-quality at 30 frames / sec. This will cover video and audio along with control signaling. An existing public network or commercial internet connection might be able to support video conferencing but only if nothing else shares with the bandwidth allocated.

When it comes to video conferencing, bandwidth is often perceived as symmetrical. In order to identify how much bandwidth is required, the company has to roughly estimate how many simultaneous video conferencing sessions the network has to support at a given time. From there, the organization has to determine if it has sufficient bandwidth that can be shared by everyone without causing delays in video and audio transmissions. For this, one has to calculate the multipoint conference bandwidth – where three or more parties can efficiently establish video calls.

In case the company’s IP network is unable to handle the additional traffic that is driven by this collaboration technology, it can consider relying on older circuit switched networks (ISDN). Another alternative is to explore the possibility of deploying additional IP bandwidth capacity. The company has to consult with its network provider about connection upgrades.