Hourly Data Consumption of Popular Video Conferencing Applications
Building on our prior work, this investigation explores the hourly data consumption of popular video conferencing applications: Google Meet, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams and Zoom. As video conference applications have become an integral part of our daily lives, we wanted to not only better understand the bandwidth usage as previously explored, but also the total data consumption of these applications. This investigation provides a first step in better understanding that latter dimension. To avoid any appearance of endorsement of a particular conferencing application, we have not labeled the figures below with the specific apps under test. In short, we observed that a single user on a video conferencing application consumed roughly one gigabyte per hour, which compares to about three gigabytes per hour when streaming an HD movie or other video. However, we did observe substantial variance in video conferencing app hourly data consumption based on the specific app and end-user device.
Key Components of the Testing Environment
Much like our prior work on bandwidth usage, the test setup used typical settings and looked at both upstream and downstream data consumption from laptops connected to a cable broadband internet service. We used the same network equipment from November and our more recent blog post in February. This includes the same cable equipment as the previous blogs — the same DOCSIS 3.0 Technicolor TC8305c gateway, supporting eight downstream channels and four upstream channels, and the same CommScope E6000 cable modem termination system (CMTS). The cable network was configured to provide 50 Mbps downstream and five Mbps upstream broadband service, overprovisioned by 25 percent.
The data gathering scenario:
- 10 people, each on their individual laptops, participated in the conference under test
- One person on the broadband connection under test, using either a lower-cost or a higher-cost laptop. The other nine participants were not using the broadband connection under test.
- For the laptop under test, the participant used the video conferencing application for the laptop’s operating system, rather than using the video conferencing application through the web browser.
- Total data consumption was recorded for the laptop using the broadband connection under test.
For all 10 participants, cameras and microphones were on. Conference applications were set to "gallery mode" with thumbnails of each person filling the screen, no slides were presented and the video conference sessions just included people talking.
The laptop under test used a wired connection to the cable modem to ensure that no variables outside the control of the service provider would impact broadband performance. Most notably, by using a wired connection, we removed the variable of Wi-Fi performance from our test setup. During data collection, the conference app was the only app open on the laptop under test.
Video conferencing sessions were set up and data consumption was measured over time. We collected 10 minutes of data for each conferencing session under test to calculate the total consumption for one hour. The charts below show the data consumed for each of the 10 minutes of the conference session. During the conference there was movement and discussion to keep the video and audio streams active throughout the period of data collection.
For each test scenario, only one laptop was connected at a time to the broadband connection under test. Our goal was to measure the data consumption of one conferencing user on the broadband connection. The other conference participants were on the internet; they were not in the lab. Once again, we used TShark (a popular, widely used network protocol analyzer) to capture and measure the data.
For the laptop under test, we chose two that have quite different capabilities. The first was a low-cost laptop with an 11-inch screen, like the ones students are often provided by school districts for at-home learning. The second was a higher-cost laptop with a 15-inch screen, like what we often see in an enterprise environment. Note the two laptops not only have quite different hardware components (e.g., CPU, graphics processors, memory, cameras, screens), but also have different operating systems. Once again, to avoid any appearance of endorsement, we are not identifying the specific laptops used.
Table 1 shows hourly bandwidth consumption (combining both upstream and downstream) for the laptop under test, normalized to Gigabytes per hour. The table provides the data consumption for the low-cost and higher-cost laptops in each scenario with the four conferencing applications.
Table 1: Video Conferencing App Hourly Bandwidth Consumption in Gigabytes for Each User (Gigabytes/hour)
The following figures show the data consumption, in Megabytes, for each minute of the 10-minute data collection for each of the permutations of our testing.
A few notes on the charts:
- There was only one client behind the cable modem.
- Each bar represents one minute of data consumption.
- Each bar shows total consumption and includes both the upstream and downstream, and both audio and video, added together.
- App A is blue in each chart; App B is green; App C orange; and App D is purple.
- These charts show real-time consumption measured in Megabytes per hour to illustrate consumption over time.
Figure 1 shows the data consumed when using the lower-cost laptop in the 10-person meetings.
Figure 2 shows data consumed each minute for each of the four apps when using the higher-cost laptop was in the 10-person meetings.
Figure 3 shows the data consumed each minute using App A and compares the two laptops used for data collection. For each minute, the bar to the left is the lower-cost laptop and the bar to the right is the higher-cost laptop.
Figure 4 shows the data consumed each minute using App B and compares the two laptops. The bar to the left is the lower-cost laptop and the bar to the right is the higher-cost laptop.
Figure 5 shows the data consumed each minute using App C and compares the two laptops. The bar to the left is the lower-cost laptop and the bar to the right is the higher-cost laptop.
Figure 6 shows the data consumed each minute using App D and compares the two laptops. The bar to the left is the lower-cost laptop and the bar to the right is the higher-cost laptop.
A. Data Consumption Varies: The first takeaway is that different apps consume different amounts of bandwidth, as shown in Table 1, from 0.5 GBytes per hour up to 3.4 GBytes per hour, for video conferences using the different laptops, the same broadband connections, the same general setup (e.g., gallery view), the same people doing the same things on camera, etc.
- For a given app on a given laptop, data consumption was consistent over the 10-minute collection time.
- App D using the higher-cost laptop consumed the most bandwidth.
- With App D on the lower-cost laptop, there was video quality degradation. We confirmed the broadband connection was operating as expected and was not the cause of the video degradation. Rather, it appeared that the combination of the hardware and operating system of the lower-cost laptop was unable to meet the resource requirements of App D.
- App B consistently consumed less bandwidth regardless of scenario.
B. Comparing Laptops: In Table 1, the two columns of data show the differences between the lower-cost and higher-cost laptops for the data collections. On the lower-cost laptop, Apps A, B and C consume about the same amount of data on an hourly basis.
C. Comparing Laptops: The second column of data show that all apps on the higher-cost laptop consumed more bandwidth than the lower-cost laptop. This difference implies that when using the actual conferencing app (not a web browser), processing power available in the laptop may be a determining factor in consumption.
D. Comparing Apps: App C was the most consistent in data consumption regardless of the laptop used. The other conference applications noticeably consumed more on the higher-cost laptop.
In summary, we observed a more than 7X variation in the data consumption of video conferencing with a very limited exploration of just two variables – laptop and video conferencing application. Notably, however, when data consumption was at its highest, it was of the same magnitude as the data consumption of an HD video stream.
This is an area ripe for further research and study, both to more comprehensively explore these variables (e.g., other device types, larger meetings) and to explore other variables that may meaningfully influence data consumption.
On the Path to 10G: CableLabs Publishes DOCSIS® 4.0 Specification
Today we are pleased to announce the release of the DOCSIS 4.0 specification, which incorporates both full duplex and extended spectrum capabilities. A part of the suite of technologies that support the 10G platform, DOCSIS 4.0 technology achieves a downstream speed of up to 10 Gbps (doubling the maximum download speed available with the implemented DOCSIS 3.1 technology) and an upstream speed of up to 6 Gbps - quadrupling what DOCSIS 3.1 technology could do. These speed increases build on the ample capacity deployed by cable operators today–with gigabit services nearly saturating the US cable footprint–and will enable cable broadband to deliver symmetric multigigabit services, with significantly enhanced upstream capabilities. As cable operators respond to the evolving connectivity needs of customers in our current public health crisis, remote work, learning, and health services stand to benefit from upstream broadband enhancements as DOCSIS 4.0 technology is deployed.
Specification development started in August 2016. The full duplex capabilities were described in an October 2017 blog post, and now the extended spectrum capabilities have been completed as described in a September 2019 blog post.
With these speed increases, we intend to change the consumer broadband industry by ushering in a new era of application development. Although speed numbers are important, broadband is about so much more than speed: it’s about changing the way we collaborate to make the world a better place. We have more devices, and our experiences increasingly rely on connectivity. Streaming video continues to explode. We’re video-chatting instead of making calls, we’re playing music off the web instead of our own media, and we’re playing games with people around the world. As technology continues to advance, we don’t know what the next trend will be, but we do know that the Internet will be central to whatever it is.
DOCSIS 4.0 Technology Increases Upstream Speed
A key piece of this story is the DOCSIS 4.0 multigigabit upstream capability, which greatly increases how fast information can be uploaded from your computer. Traditionally, businesses have required faster upload speeds to move large files around or to perform in-house web hosting. Now consumers are expecting more upstream speed as they work and learn from home. In addition, upstream speed is important to do things such as the following:
- Hard drive backups
- Uploading videos and pictures
- Cloud applications
- Video conferencing
- Smart homes and IoT devices
- Home security cameras
- Distance learning and visual classrooms
These applications are just the beginning. The higher speeds available with DOCSIS 4.0 technology will serve as a catalyst for the next wave of innovations.
The 10G Platform
The DOCSIS 4.0 specification takes to heart the four pillars of the 10G platform initiative. Below are quick descriptions of these pillars, and links to more information.
- Speed is addressed in this blog post. Multigigabit symmetric speeds raise the bar for consumer broadband.
- Lower latency was incorporated into the DOCSIS 3.1 specification and has been brought forward into the DOCSIS 4.0 specification. Lower latency will provide a better experience for consumers on applications such as online gaming and multimedia.
- Increased security comes with every new DOCSIS release. Our security experts are constantly monitoring network threats to the network and taking measures to increase the confidentiality, integrity and availability of communications.
- Higher reliability must be planned into the network and DOCSIS technology takes this to a new level by including methods to proactively identify and address network issues before consumers are even aware of them.
CableLabs continually makes advances in these areas and others, bringing state-of-the-art breakthroughs to cable broadband.
Mapping Out the Next Steps for DOCSIS Technology
Delivery of the specification is the first step of a three-part DOCSIS lifecycle. The second step includes interoperability events and the final step is certification, which will be discussed in future blog posts. These three steps—specification, interoperability and certification—have been part of the DOCSIS process for over 20 years and constitute a time-proven method to deliver high-speed, low-cost, interoperable cable modems to consumers.
Preparations for Full Duplex DOCSIS® Technology are Marching Along
Built on the successful completion of CableLabs’ DOCSIS 3.1 specification, Full Duplex (FDX) DOCSIS® technology (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology) is a key component of the 10G platform that will significantly elevate the level of services available to consumers using existing cable broadband networks. With FDX DOCSIS technology (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology), the same frequencies are simultaneously used for both upstream and downstream traffic, virtually greatly increasing the capacity of the coaxial cable. More capacity means lower latency and speeds of up to 10 Gbps for downstream traffic and up to 6 Gbps for upstream traffic. Cable broadband users will be much more satisfied with services, leading to greater customer retention and the ability to attract new customers.
Field Testing Analysis
In the past year, CableLabs has thoroughly scrutinized FDX DOCSIS technology (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology) in the field. Test equipment and engineers have flown around North America performing analysis on real cable broadband networks, including both a newly constructed plant and coaxial cable that was installed back while I was in college (that coax is well past voting age…). Volumes of data were collected, such as technical parameters on various configurations and various weather conditions: data from real networks in the real world.
And it works. The testing results were positive and in line with expectations, and products built to the specifications are expected to deliver the higher symmetrical bit rates associated with full duplex operation. Now, coaxial cable networks won’t be a limiting factor in getting to full duplex and the next generation of broadband services.
Now that CableLabs has developed FDX DOCSIS specifications (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology), members can move forward with this exciting technology. Members can further benefit from the Kyrio testing services that provide all the engineering expertise and lab equipment needed for testing FDX DOCSIS (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology). All the operator has to do is identify network segments where the work is to be performed.
What’s Coming in 2019
Getting back to the lab (which is a lot dryer and warmer than some of the outside plant scenarios where CableLabs has worked), CableLabs is:
- Hosting lab activities to support the development and interoperability of FDX DOCSIS (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology) products
- Bringing back important discoveries from the field testing into the labs to support testing in real-world situations and scenarios.
- Building the lab infrastructure needed to rigorously analyze performance and reliability in a variety of configurations
CableLabs and the cable industry are continuing to advance cutting-edge developments in cable broadband networks to remain ahead of consumer demand. The focus is on developing innovative network technologies, as well as defining optimal network architectures that provide the necessary capacity and performance in each network segment for multi-gigabit services today and in the future.
You can learn more about Full Duplex DOCSIS technology (now a part of DOCSIS 4.0 technology) and the 10G platform by clicking below.
CableLabs Hosting a Free Full Duplex DOCSIS® Technology Seminar
CableLabs is hosting a free Full Duplex (FDX) DOCSIS® technology (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) seminar , April 17–18, 2018 that will be attended by both cable operators and DOCSIS suppliers. The seminar will take place at a private events center to provide attendees with a comfortable and professional setting to learn all about Full Duplex DOCSIS technology (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology).
Scheduled speakers will be technologists who developed the FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) specifications, . Most have been involved with DOCSIS technology since the beginning, all are accomplished speakers who possess a wealth of knowledge to share not only about FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) but also about how the technology integrates into the family of DOCSIS generations.
FDX DOCSIS 3.1 technology (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) allows cable operators to offer symmetric gigabit-speed data services over their existing Hybrid Fiber/Coax (HFC) networks, building on the core DOCSIS 3.1 orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM)/orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) technology. This additional set of features significantly increases upstream capacity and allows for the same spectrum to be simultaneously used for both downstream and upstream.
The technology seminar will cover a wide range of topics, including:
- The physical layer: The physical layer topic includes how both OFDM and OFDMA have been extended to allow full duplex operation. This also includes how FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) fits into the channel plan, and how the system is expected to operate.
- The Media Access Control (MAC) layer: This topic includes both how the cable modem termination system (CMTS) manages the full duplex spectrum and how today’s FDX (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) modems initialize and communicate with the CMTS for full duplex operation.
- Link Budgets and System Performance: This topic will discuss how to manage both signal levels and loss throughout the system in order to maintain peak operating performance.
- FDX DOCSIS support of existing DOCSIS modems: This topic concerns how FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) modems will be tested for backward compatibility with earlier versions of DOCSIS modems; they will all operate on the same cable plant with no need to upgrade older modems.
- Fiber Node changes: What will change in the Fiber Node, which now supports a Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) solution to distribute part (or all) of the CMTS to the fiber node?
- Node+0 Tips: These tips and considerations will focus on Node+0 (passive coax) plant construction to support FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology).
The technology seminar has been designed to foster interactive discussion with the audience. FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) is an extension of the DOCSIS 3.1 technology and now involves the HFC network to create a system that offers symmetric capacity. Presentations will offer critical insights into these aspects of the architecture and technology. Attendees will come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of FDX DOCSIS’s (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) underlying mechanisms.
The FDX DOCSIS technology (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) seminar is free to attend and is open to all CableLabs members and DOCSIS NDA suppliers. The audience is intended to be composed of technology leaders involved with the early deployments of DOCSIS, including not only the DOCSIS engineers but also experts in outside plant and construction as FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) uses a Node+0 HFC network.
This technology seminar overlaps with an FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) interop being held at CableLabs the week of April 16. All CableLabs members and suppliers participating in the interop have the opportunity to tour the interop and witness FDX DOCSIS technology (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) in operation, viewing—for perhaps the first time—the same spectrum carrying simultaneous upstream and downstream traffic.
With the CableLabs membership spanning five continents, the seminar will provide a unique opportunity for networking, as well as connecting or reconnecting with colleagues involved with the introduction of new DOCSIS technology. The seminar will offer a diverse set of deployment scenarios, and the discussions will include how FDX DOCSIS (now DOCSIS 4.0 technology) can support the needs of cable operators.
Introduction to Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM): The Importance of Broadband
This is the introduction for our upcoming series on Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM).
The advent of the Internet has had a profound impact on American life. Broadband is a foundation for economic growth, job creation, global competitiveness and a better way of life. The internet is enabling entire new industries and unlocking vast new possibilities for existing ones. It is changing how we educate children, deliver health care, manage energy, ensure public safety, engage government and access, organize and disseminate knowledge.
There is a lot riding on broadband service which places a focus on customer service; to create both a faster and more reliable broadband experience that delight customers. Recent technological advancements in systems and solutions, as well as agile development, have enabled new cloud-based tools to enhance customer experience.
Over the past decade, CableLabs has been inventing and refining tools to improve the experience of broadband. CableLabs is providing both specifications and reference designs to interested parties to improve how customers experience their broadband service. Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM) is one of these innovations.
What is Proactive Network Maintenance and Why Should You Care?
Proactive network maintenance (PNM) is a revolutionary philosophy. Unlike predictive, or preventive maintenance, proactive maintenance depends on a constant and rigorous inspection of the network to look for the causes of a failure, before that failure occurs, and not treating network failures as routine or normal. PNM is about detecting impending failure conditions followed by remediation before problems become evident to users.
In 2008 the first instantiation of PNM was pioneered at CableLabs. This powerful innovation used information available in each cable modem and mathematically analyzed it to identify impairments in the coax portion of the cable network. From this time forward, every cable modem in the network is a troubleshooting device and could be used as a preventive diagnostic tool.
This is important when trying to track down transient issues related to the time of day, temperature, and other environmental variables, which can play a huge role in the performance of the cable system. With transient issues, it is important to have sensors continually monitoring the network. Since then, with improvements in technology, more sophisticated tools have been added giving operators unprecedented amounts of information about the state of the network.
Problems are solved quickly and efficiently because we can pinpoint where the problems are. Technicians like PNM because they become empowered to find and fix issues. An impairment originating from within a customer’s home can be dispatched to a service technician. While impairments originating on the cable plant itself can be dispatched to line technicians. Customer service agents also like the tools because they create actionable service requests. Lastly, impairments that can be attributed to headend alignment issues can be routed to a headend technician. All of this can be done before the customer is even aware there is a problem!
So, what does CableLabs have to do with all this?
The PNM project continues to innovate. Because of the success of PNM for the cable network, capabilities have been added to investigate in-home coax, WiFi and soon fiber optic networks. Monitoring is key, and by using powerful cloud-based predictive algorithms and analytics, networks can be monitored 24 x 7 to provide insights, follow trends and detect important clues with the goal to identify, diagnose and fix issues before customers notice any impact.
CableLabs provides a toolkit of technical capabilities and reference designs that interested parties can use to create and customize tools fitting specific business needs. Operators can get started with reference designs, build expertise and their own solutions, and integrate the tools into their own systems. In addition, suppliers have licensed the technology and are creating a turn-key solution that operators can choose to work with.
In my upcoming series, I will cover DOCSIS PNM, MoCA PNM, Optical PNM, Common Collection Framework and explore in greater depth how PNM enhances the customer experience. Be sure to subscribe to our blog to find out more.