Video Conferencing Over the Public Internet

We have been told that you can video conference over the public internet for a few years now. TA has been skeptical about the quality of these types of calls. Historically, the internet did not support a continuous presence. By this we mean that when you are using the internet to view a page there is a lot of network activity in down loading the page to your computer, you then set and read/scroll through the page with no network traffic. However when you are on a telephone call, that network connection has constant network traffic, that pause in your conversation might be important and just not a stutter caused by the Internet. This “bursty” nature of the Internet did not allow for the constant connection. However, new tunneling products have been developed to address this issue. Tunneling products undo what the public Internet does – they hides the issues created when transmitting real-time data over bursty networks. To do this, the tunneling product increases reliable delivery and re-times data so that packets arrive in the same order and timing in which they were sent.

Last month we tested a system between our Raleigh Durham area office and our San Francisco area office. To begin with you need video conference units (CODEC – coder/decoder) that are H.323 compliant. This is standard on almost all reputable units from manufactures such as Tandberg, Polycom, ClearOne, etc. H.323 is the international standard that allows CODEC’s to communicate over a private (company wide) IP network. Then we installed a Bulldog Easy-VC E107 tunneling box between the CODEC and our Internet connection at each office. The results were pleasantly surprising. We still do not consider it “business” quality at this point in time, but it is very useful for engineering and other intra company meetings.

We spent a great deal of time with both the CODEC manufacturer and with Bulldog. At last count we replaced one CODEC and updated the operating system 3 times. The added cost of the Bulldog (about 1500 dollars at each end) would pay for itself in about 10 months (assuming 1 hour weekly meeting) over the cost of a 3-line ISDN call. So if you do not need to conference with a client, then this might be a solution.