Cisco Goes After Wireless Video

New VideoStream tech coming from networking giant aims to make wireless video as good (if not better) than wired video.

Can video delivered over a wireless networking connection be as good as video coming from a wired network? That's the challenge that networking giant Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) now is trying solve with new technology called VideoStream.

With VideoStream Cisco is aiming to enable enterprises to deliver HD quality video to multiple wireless end points. VideoStream is part of Cisco's overall Medianet strategy for delivering an architectural approach for networks that can handle all types of media and includes both wired and wireless connection points.

"With this announcement we're really focused on how can we deliver the elements that have existed in the wired environment for quite some time and learn the lessons we learned from wired and extend those to wireless specifically around bandwidth, quality and scale," Chris Kozup, Cisco's senior manager of Mobility Solutions, told

David Stiff, product manager for Cisco's wireless networking business unit added that with the introduction of 802.11n, users have the bandwidth to do high speed data over wireless. The challenge that remains is that wireless is still a shared media, with one access point and multiple clients all contending for the same data and spectrum.

"What VideoStream technology provides is a system-wide set of features that allows you to consistently deliver video at high-quality across your wireless infrastructure," Stiff told

Functionally VideoStream includes a number of key components, among them is the ability to do reliable multicasting which enables live broadcasting over an IP network. What Cisco has done is figure out a way to have video sent and error corrected from the wireless access point to the client endpoints at the highest wireless data rate available.

With stream prioritization technology, VideoStream provides users with another layer of wireless video quality control.

"Stream prioritization is nice because what it lets customers do is add an extra layer of granularity saying that not all video streams are created equal," Stiff said.

In one case there might be a special CEO video stream and on the other hand there could be a sporting event stream. With stream prioritization the network administrator can prioritize which stream should get more bandwidth for wireless delivery.

Protecting video quality

Another element in VideoStream is something called – Resource Reservation Control.

"This is extremely important and allows us to protect the quality of the video experience by preventing a channel over-subscription -- where you've got so much video being pumped in and traffic going out that all the clients suffer," Stiff said.

The solution is that VideoStream understands how much total wireless bandwidth is available. If a request comes in from an endpoint and there isn't enough available bandwidth, the new request will get a video not available message, which will protect the quality for the users that are already receiving the video.

In order to help provide as much wireless bandwidth as possible, Cisco's VideoStream also has a method to improve wireless scalability for video delivery with packet replication.

"Access points are now the ones that can do packet replication providing scale to all the connected clients, preventing the video from flooding," Stiff said.

Packet replication is not the same as how load balancing an application works for wired Web servers.

"Load balancing implies that you're sharing the load, what we're doing instead is we're being very efficient," Stiff said. "From the wireless LAN controller to the access point we're sending one video stream, and then where we need to we replicate the stream at each access point."

The VideoStream technology is part of Cisco's unified wireless software for all of their wireless controller products.

"We want video to be a core system functionality that works for wireless," Stiff said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

Tags: wireless, Cisco, bandwidth, load balancing, video stream

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