Now that the dust has settled and people are getting used to working from home on a regular basis, on-line meeting tools such as Teams, Zoom and BlueJeans are becoming second nature.
However, you may have noticed when using these tools that your video / sound sometimes gets distorted or freezes, along with a warning about “unstable network connection”. Then you realise that your home internet connection, which up until last month was used for the odd bit of Netflix, YouTube, Tiktok etc is now being given a workout designed by Joe Wicks!
Why is Quality of Service needed?
Normally your broadband connection at home would have plenty of bandwidth so that the occasional increase in transmissions would not be an issue. But in the current “lockdown” situation, home networks are being increasingly saturated with a change in data usage, be it from Virtual Learning Environments replacing traditional schooling, Video Conferences replacing onsite meetings and potentially Netflix running as background noise while everyone watches “Tiger King”. So as this happens you may find that your router can’t keep up and data packets are going to be dropped to try and keep up.
Most routers today support something called Quality of Service (QoS) which can help alleviate these issues, prioritising your available bandwidth to ensure that traffic relating to VoIP calls, Video Conferencing etc get first “dibs” on the connection, with lower priority devices and applications are pushed down the queue.
There are two types of protocol that your device can use when making a data connection, TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) and UDP (User Datagram Protocol). Applications that are time sensitive such as VoIP calling or Video Conferencing use UDP to transmit data rather than TCP, unlike TCP if there is any interruption to the data UDP will not attempt to resend the packets so they are lost for good. In this scenario the loss of even a few packets in a voice or video call will result in distorted quality and potentially result in the session being dropped. Popular Video Conferencing platforms such as MS Teams, Zoom and BlueJeans all use UDP for transmitting data when in meetings.
How does it work?
When you enable Quality of Service (QoS) on your network, the router will try to help to manage delay and packet loss by managing the limited external bandwidth that you have. When you are setting up QoS it is important to be accurate when it comes to entering your connection speed. If you are using broadband over the phone (ADSL or Fibre) then your modem should be able to set the QoS bandwidth settings from this. If you are using a Cable connection or mobile broadband, use something like speedtest.net or fast.com to get your network speed. Do this a few times over the course of few days to get an average speed. There are a few different ways to “tag” the traffic, the most common one that routers follow is Class of Service (CoS) this is split into 3 different priorities, Class 1, 2 and 3. With 1 being the highest priority and 3 being the lowest, anything not classed is way down the bottom of the pile. Above Class 1 there is VoIP Traffic.
See graph below taken from our Draytek Router at Technology Support 24/7 Ltd:
As you can see from this, we have most of our traffic being routed via the other pile (in this case it is the Sonos stream)
Once you have the bandwidth issue sorted out then it is time to plan what applications and devices are priority. For example, we have configured our Draytek Router to prioritise all traffic from our 3CX Phone System, and any data that is using the TCP/UDP Ports for Zoom, MS Teams and FaceTime. Then on the flip side we have demoted the Sonos to lowest of the low so that gets shunted first. You could maybe do the same with the lounge TV, kids Xbox etc.
Once the applications are tagged on the router it can then apply the appropriate policy on the data packets as they are in transit, allowing higher priority traffic to exit onto the router first, queuing any lower priority packets if you are reaching your bandwidth thresholds. If you reach your limit’s the router will drop packets from the lower priority applications / devices first to ensure that your voice & video calls do not suffer.
If you have any questions regarding this or you would like us to help you to configure your router, then please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.