Successful video conferencing from mobile and laptop devices is highly dependent on network connectivity in terms of throughput and reliability. So when trying to put your collaboration technology to good use in the real world, one key element for success is informing end users of the need for good signal strengths and higher data throughputs if they want to host or participate in video calls while on the go.
For mobile and desktop client users on the road, this somewhat rules out the use of older 2G (GPRS) and 2.5G (E-GPRS) mobile data connections, leaving 3G (UMTS), 3.5G (HSDPA & HSUPA) and 4G (LTE) mobile technologies. Unless you have a good 3.5G or 4G signal, video call performance will likely suffer as the connection may not deliver a high enough throughput to provide a stable connection for a truly interactive video call.
This leads many end users to assume that WiFi networks will offer superior performance when on the go. But just because a WiFi network is available doesn’t mean the throughput will be better than a 3.5G or 4G connection. Many public, shared or open WiFi networks are only as good as the back-haul line behind them.
For example, if you’re connecting to a public WiFi network in a local coffee shop that is only backed by a shared ADSL line, don’t expect a good HD video call just because the WiFi signal is good. The path of the ADSL line will likely be the limiting factor and would adversely impact call performance, despite a good WiFi signal. Similarly, WiFi networks, although usually more localized to a specific site or premise, can vary dramatically with regard to throughput depending on the signal strength and the modulation schemes being used across the network.
Lifesize is optimized for HD video transmission at a 2 Mbps call rate. As a rule of thumb, adding a 10% overhead for signaling and protocol overheads will provide a close estimation of the real-world line throughput. This equates to an approximate data consumption rate of 2.2 Mbps or 16.5 MB/min (megabytes per minute) in each direction to maintain a reliable connection with no packet loss.
While calls are possible at rates less than 384 kbps, this should be considered as an absolute minimum. A continuous call bitrate of 384 kbps or greater in both directions (uplink and downlink) will provide a reasonable quality video call using a mobile device. This is about as low as you really would wish to go before the experience becomes compromised. At this lower bitrate, the resolution will be standard definition but usable if the connection can provide a continuous throughput.
Bandwidth Usage and Data Consumption
Some mobile network providers include both uplink and downlink data as part of the total usage allowance, so this could mean a real-world data usage against a plan/tariff of this type being up to 33 MB/min (assuming equal uplink and downlink rates). Using the same metrics adjusted for an hour-long conference call could potentially net you up to 1.98 GB of data consumed against your mobile data plan.
To help ease the burden of data consumption, Lifesize offers the ability to call in via PSTN audio with local dial-in numbers in over 60 countries — perfect for connecting up to 50-way audio conferences when you can’t be on video.
It’s important to know your options when you’re out of the office and need to connect. With mobile apps for iOS and Android devices, you can join any video meeting right from your phone — just be sure to check for a stable network before joining the call. And don’t forget that you can always fall back to audio-only for those emergency off-grid scenarios.
Check out our Video Conferencing Network Best Practices Guide for more tips on optimizing your network bandwidth for video conferencing and prioritizing security and stability for your video calling.