Giving Voice the Bandwidth it Needs

High-quality VoIP requires network priority. Now there's a tool that guarantees it.

Propel Software has launched a product that it says solves a problem most people don't know they have: performance degradation of time-critical networked applications due to competition for bandwidth.

Its solution? Propel Personal Bandwidth Manager.

Why do people need it? According to Propel CEO David Murray, it's because, on the one hand, "there are more and more applications that people are using on their networks that are time-sensitive," and on the other, "there are more and more applications running on the PC that are using the network as if they own it—often outside of the control of the user."

The result of this mix? PC-based voice over IP applications, conferencing applications, collaboration applications, interactive games, and the like—all of which need high throughput and low latency—that can perform poorly and unpredictably.

Murry pointed out that there is a range of scenarios in terms of the degree of control the PC user can exercise over possible bandwidth competition. In an obvious example, when you're making a VoIP call, you probably wouldn't simultaneously initiate an application download off the Internet. But other scenarios are subtler.

"You might be trying to do something that's important and time-critical," Murray said, "and your PC decides that it's time to download some update software in the background. For example, Adobe likes to download new versions of Acrobat whenever it feels like it."

Then again, "you might be in the middle of a long file upload when you have to take a Skype call," he pointed out.

And it is uploads, rather than downloads that are apt to create serious performance issues. That's because most people's residential Internet connectivity is asymmetrical: "Upload links tend to be much slower than download links," Murray said—sometimes by a factor of ten or more—"and these time-critical applications are typically exercising the upward link as a key part of their job."

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