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Introduction

NOTE!Disclaimer: From time to time we publish articles written by device and product vendors. SmallNetBuilder neither receives or provides compensation for these articles.

Please note that the information and opinions expressed in this article are those of the vendor and do not necessarily represent the views of SmallNetBuilder.

At the end of 2006, there were an estimated 280 million broadband subscribers worldwide (ref. DSL Forum). This massive infrastructure has enabled the rapid creation of new markets such as VoIP, Digital Music Distribution, Online Gaming, Video Sharing, and IPTV, which in turn have led to a need for home networks that connect multiple users and a number of different technologies to the Internet. Home networks—originally architected simply to support web browsing via Internet connection sharing—are falling behind in their ability to support these new usage scenarios.

One of the biggest challenges faced by these networks is that different applications present different requirements. They vary not just in their overall bandwidth needs, but also in their relative tolerance for packet loss, delay and jitter while maintaining a high-quality user experience. When multiple applications with such disparate requirements run on the same network, problems can and will occur.

When we talk about "media" in this context, we are referring to network applications that require special treatment to guarantee a good user experience as network conditions vary. Table 1 shows a representative sample of a number of typical network applications, their bandwidth usage, and their relative tolerance for the variable loss and delay common in multi-application networks.

Network Traffic Bandwidth Required Sensitivity to Delay or Packet Loss
Online games (Client) 10 ~30 Kbps High
Online Games (Host) 10 ~ 30Kbps x # of players High
Audio Chat 64K ~ 256Kbps High
Audio + Video Chat 128K ~ 1Mbps High
Voice over IP 110Kbps (G.711) High
Internet Radio 80kbps ~ 256Kbps Medium
Standard Definition Video 1Mbps ~ 10Mbps High
High Definition Video 6Mbps ~ 25Mbps High
Place Shifting (e.g.SlingBox ) Adaptive 100Kbps ~ 3Mbps Medium
P2P File Transfers Adapts to internet connection Low
Email Bursts to internet connection Low
Table 1: Internet Application Requirements

Usage problems start cropping up, of course, when applications use more bandwidth than is available on the network, but problems also arise quickly when applications designed to move data from point A to B in the shortest amount of time (e-mail, file transfers, and so on) compete with those that are more sensitive to delay and packet loss ("media").

The challenge is creating a media-optimized network: How can these issues be minimized, or even eliminated entirely?

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