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VoIP May Struggle as Gaming Sucks More Bandwidth

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The growth of online gaming is starting to give headaches to companies and individuals alike who use the internet in their daily lives.

One of their concerns is that online gamers would eventually take up too much bandwidth, the volume of information per unit of time handled by an internet connection or another transmission medium.

But it now seems that updates to popular online games as well are creating worries by swallowing even more bandwidth.

This is all before the launch of the next generation of gaming consoles, which are intended to be more cloud-based and bandwidth-heavy than their predecessors.

These questions are triggering serious questions for the growing voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) industry as large businesses begin to migrate their communications platforms to the cloud.

Throttled and disrupted

Evidence emerged that some internet providers struggled with huge download volumes generated by game developers, creating VoIP outages.

One internet provider, Windstream, which serves smaller cities in Georgia and several other southern and central states, confirmed in January that its network capacity was throttled by the latest release for the popular Call of Duty videogame. It affected  customers in southern states who could not access Internet-based services.

Windstream said that a patch for Call of Duty led many PC gaming consoles to conduct auto-downloads that used some 48 gigabytes per computer, while Xbox consoles grabbed about 18 GB per update. The Call of Duty patch was intended to rectify some issues with the new game’s original release in October.

These incidents aren’t typical. But when they do happen, they can shut down internet phone calls in the surrounding area or at the very least create call-quality problems.

Major occasions like a big sporting event can have a similar effect.

The situation illustrates how VoIP can be affected by unforeseen factors aside from natural disasters like tornadoes. Windstream said that outages were also compounded by network issues on the trunk line between Atlanta and Washington, DC.

All the issues occurred over a matter of hours but were cleared ahead of the following day’s business hours. However, similar outages are likely to be repeated across the country as internet providers and telecoms struggle with higher demands on their networks, especially from the proliferation of streaming entertainment services.

Elephant in the room

The bigger problems may occur when popular events such as football games or movies are streamed. Online gaming, big patches aside, accounts for less bandwidth than streaming. Streaming 4K video can consume up to 7 GB per hour, while online games will eat around 10 megabytes per hour.

The issues created with Windstream concerned the high levels of bandwidth demanded by the patch download.

One potential outcome may be that internet providers will try to limit the size or the time taken for large patch downloads from games companies to protect more lucrative business VoIP calls.

Online gaming is becoming more sophisticated, however. The latest generation games like Destiny are eating 1 GB per hour per user for live-game play, which is significantly higher than the 10 MB cited earlier. More platforms are also relying on automatic digital updates by which games are updated in the background when a console or computer is powered on.

If there’s a release for a game owned by thousands of users in an area with limited bandwidth, we’ll see more VoIP outages occurring.

Key takeaways:

  • VoIP is competing against online gaming for precious bandwidth but the battle is now creating serious outages which could impact business VoIP users in the future as online gaming becomes more sophisticated.
  • At the moment, major issues are avoided because large gaming patches are downloaded outside business hours when most recreational gaming devices are turned on, for example on weekends.
  • Some patch-related outages are now significant and seem capable of taking dozens of business VoIP users offline for hours at a time.

Source: IT-Toolbox


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