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Bandwidth calculations for wireless networks supporting VoIP

How much bandwidth per user would be required when designing a wireless enterprise network supporting VoIP?

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The number of VoIP calls that a single AP can support simultaneously depends not only on the product and its configuration, but also on the VoIP protocol, voice encoding (codec), voice sampling rate, and the call quality (mean opinion score) that you're aiming for.

VoIP calls don't necessarily require a lot of bandwidth -- for example, 90 Kbps may yield a very good call, but a lower quality call could get by with a fraction of that bandwidth. Here are some links that you can use to estimate VoIP call bandwidth requirements, based on these and other input variables:

However, call bandwidth isn't the most important factor to consider when designing your WLAN. VoIP calls require frequent, consistent access to the channel, because VoIP applications send a large number of small frames for the duration of the call. As the number of VoIP calls increase, channel contention grows, causing more latency and jitter. Call quality will gradually decline, and eventually calls will be dropped.

Therefore, what you really want to calculate is the maximum number of calls each AP must support to achieve your desired call quality (measured as mean opinion score: MOS). You can find a good explanation of these metrics and a Voice-over-WLAN calculator at Connect802.

This was first published in June 2008

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