Streaming Video vs The Corporate WLAN

Sometimes words are just not enough, but seeing is believing.

The picture, above, shows the results of a little lab test I did to see just how much of the available wireless spectrum streaming video would consume. For this test, I recorded three seperate video sources:

  1. YouTube 1080p.
  2. Netflix using the Good Quality setting – upto 0.3 GB/hour.
  3. Netflix using the Best Quality setting – upto 1 GB/hour.

A proper explanation of everything shown in the picture is a bit beyond the purpose of this blog post, but I will try to highlight the important bits:

  • There is a noticable increase in wireless activity during each video. In fact, the duty cycle during the YouTube video was up to 73 percent! Put another way, anyone else trying to access the network via that access point would have been very annoyed.
  • Even at the Best Quality setting, Netflix was not as ‘spectrum-unfriendly’ as YouTube.

As we allow more and more bring your own device (BYOD) access in the enterprise, we need to make sure we have a plan or policy for dealing with this type of traffic. The spectrum available to WLANs is not limitless. Left unchecked, a few streaming videos at the office could have a major impact on the proper functioning of wireless applications and VOIP capabilities. What’s your strategy for dealing with the type of traffic? Do you block it entirely? Do you block it on the WLAN and allow it on the LAN? Rate limit? Whatever you decide, you want to make sure it is you making the decision and not the BYOD devices.

Dan C.

If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, we’d love to hear from you in our comments sections.

Bonus Question: Based on the picture, can you determine which 802.11 standard was being used and what my theoretical maximum bandwidth was at the time?

2 thoughts on “Streaming Video vs The Corporate WLAN

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks for participating, Shivkumar. You are correct. This was a capture of an 802.11a/n connection using 40 MHz wide channels. The card I was using supported 2 spatial streams which gives us 300 Mbps. Maybe one day I’ll get some 3 spatial stream gear and then we can talk about a theoretical maximum bandwidth of 450 Mbps.

    Thanks again for visiting our blog.


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