Jump On The Bigger Bandwidth Bandwagon For Videoconferencing

by : Jason Cox

Videoconferencing is one of the most popular new technologies to come out of the last ten years. It enables businesses to function better than they have ever been able to in the past. Videoconferencing is a great way to save your firm time and travel expenses. It makes a great alternative to those face-to-face meetings that used to involve days off for employees and extensive travel expenses. There are many things to consider in the world of videoconferencing, but one of the most important facets of the best videoconferencing is bandwidth.

There are three basic ways to set up your videoconferencing system. You can use your current telephone network as the basis for your setup. You can use a private IP network as the basis for your system. You can also use the Internet as your basis. When you get ready to set up your videoconferencing system, you want a minimum bandwidth of 300K to 400K bits per second. This will include video, audio, and control signaling devices. Bandwidth, in the world of videoconferencing, is assumed to be the same on both ends of the spectrum, though it does not have to work that way.

For example, one side may be able to encode data at 100K bits per second but decode 300K bits per second. Before you decide what bandwidth you will need to set up the best videoconferencing system for you, you have to make an estimate of the number of sessions your firm might need that will be simultaneous in nature. You will also need to figure out if the network you are dealing with has end-to-end bandwidth. For example, a T-1 connection would work fine if you needed two 512K bits per second conferences in one simultaneous session or three 384K bits per second conferences.

A T-1 connection can offer you 1.5 bits per second in each direction, which should work for smaller office environments. In addition to making sure that you have enough bandwidth, though, you have to make sure that you have 10/100 switched Ethernet connections wherever your local area network will be experiencing videoconferences on a regular basis.

Depending on the needs within your office, a higher bandwidth is obviously a better choice for applications where you will make extensive use of your videoconferencing system. Poor bandwidth can really slow down your system, making it hard to communicate with the clients. There are a couple of ways to handle bandwidth problems in your firm.

The first way to do it is to use something that holds more bandwidth than the standard telephone line that many firms choose to use. You can do this through Ethernet or through Integrated Services Digital Networks or ISDN. You may already be familiar with Ethernet, as in many offices; it is used to tie computers together. ISDN is a phone cable that is digital. This would, of course, replace the older analog phone line that may be causing some of the bottleneck in your videoconferencing system. Both of these solutions have very different performance abilities.

One of the biggest differences with these larger bandwidth solutions is how each communications channel is switched. An Ethernet line is packet switched. An ISDN is circuit switched. With an ISDN connection, it lasts only as long as the user wants it to, much like a standard phone line might. Once someone has terminated the connection, it is broken. While the connection is active, though, the bandwidth is solely dedicated to it. Ethernet lines work through packet switching, which basically means that every single user in the network shares the bandwidth.

If lots of users are making use of the bandwidth, your videoconferencing system will be much slower. If only a few users are on, your videoconferencing system is much quicker. If you are thinking in terms of more bandwidth for your business, ISDN might sound like the way to go, but you can only get about 1 new frame of video every four seconds, so that can be a bit of a problem for some businesses. On a perfect day, Ethernet can offer you 3 frames per second, but if your Ethernet connection is clogged, it could easily be as slow as ISDN.

There are lots of solutions to bandwidth issues. Talking with your technology services is probably a good place to start.