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Home > Technology Update > Video Conferencing

Video Conferencing

The use of Video conferencing software has exploded in the past months with everyone locked down at home.  If one isn’t watching movies online, “work from home” probably means that one is watching webinars or meeting with colleagues and clients via video chat. And it isn’t only work that is forcing you to use this conference software, but also wanting to keep in touch with family members has caused a great increase of this format. 

So, it’s probably time to give some though if your on-board network is up to the task when the guests come on board and want to continue using these communication methods. It is not only the bandwidth here that matters, but also the environment and a little etiquette which makes the experience somewhat better, not only for the guest or yourself but also for the person(s) that are on the other end.

First though let us look at the implication on the network. Video conferencing is a 2-way experience, which means you are not only receiving video (like when you are watching streaming movies from Netflix) but you are also transmitting video! So your upload bandwidth becomes as important as your download bandwidth.

Your upload bandwidth always has to be available, because rule number 1. if you are unable upload you will not be able to download.  i.e. if you are not able to ask the question you will never get an answer… if no bandwidth is available to upload (send) your question, you logically are not able to get an answer, download (receive)!

So, a few numbers to look at here, Zoom requires between 0.6Mbps and 1.8Mbps for a 1 to 1 chat video call (1.8Mbps being for full high-quality HD). When in group conference it may pull as much as 3Mbps. A simple webinar (receive video only) will be up to 1.2Mbps. Webex is 0.5Mbps up to 2.5Mbps to receive. LogMeIn(GoToMeeting) uses between 0.7Mbps and 2Mbps.

Other conferencing softwares getting some popular reviews are Uberconferencing, Anymeeting, Mikogo, and an old favourite that has lost its track somewhat over the past years is Skype.

Skype, Whatsapp and Facetime, all with which you can make video calls, use around 0.3Mbps and 1.5Mbps for a one to one conversation. Adding multiple persons to the conversation will increase it to up to 8Mbps all depending on how many people there are. 

Further the bandwidth required does also rely on the quality (resolution) of the camera and settings in the software like the frame rate, and the computer processing power (to provide better compression/decompression).

As a general (rule of thumb) calculation is that a video call can use around 300MB per hour. i.e. this is not the bandwidth needed to stream the call, but the capacity needed on the 4G card that you have slotted into your cellular modem! And again, this can vary depending on if the call was low quality or at HD. The software will go as high as the link allows it to, giving the best quality possible. Whatsapp and Facetime will be a little less per hour, but not much!

Also whilst calculating the bandwidth, remember that the link latency also affects video calls. Basically, that is to say that VSAT does not offer the best environment for 2-way video calls!

Next, a conference call quality heavily relies on audio quality. Video at times can get digital, but there is nothing worse than the staggering and interruptive audio dropouts in a call. There are 2 items that can significantly improve this. Firstly, a good headset, (and even better, one with simple noise cancelling built in) do wonders! Really, cutting out the ambience noise around improves the experience tenfold. Next a good microphone that doesn’t pick up every sound around also helps a lot. Most laptop computers and handheld devices already have good microphones built in, but if it’s a desktop computer, its worth spending the extra € on something of quality. And here an etiquette tip, when one isn’t talking the microphone should be muted! A desktop microphone with a “push-to-talk” button (or Mute button) is actually the best invention here… handheld radio style, when you want to say something, press the button!

Whilst we are on etiquette, as most these calls are now coming from private spaces, we are getting to see things in the background that may not be always be so desirable. So, it is good to give the background a little more thought, is it tidy, would it be worth turning the camera slightly a different way, will your call be interrupted by unwanted background traffic, and unwanted background sounds! Business calls have become funny sessions (and not always for the one being seen in the video) when that unexpected interruption was a little more embarrassing that foreseen!

And ensure with your IT person that the firewall is set up to handle this type of traffic. Different conferencing software may require special ports to be opened. Are there any fair use rules applied that may be triggered by this increased upload traffic? Is it worth putting in bandwidth shaping rules to ensure that video calls are routed the quickest path and other traffic is pushed another route?

I hope this give some ideas to be prepared for an increased amount of video calls this year!

This article was written by Tim Gorter, teletechnics.com. Teletechnics provides full shoreside support to Superyacht engineers and ETO’s, providing remote monitoring as well as specialising in troubleshooting and analytic maintenance. Call for a AV & IT health check, more on teletechnics.com

by Tim Gorter, AV/IT/Wi-Fi communication consultant (teletechnics.com)