How To Determine If Your Mobile Internet Connection Is Fast Enough For Zoom or Teams

How To Determine If Your Mobile Internet Connection Is Fast Enough For Zoom or Teams

December 12, 2022 Mobile Business Internet Blog 0

As part of Go Connect’s on going work to great the most reliable internet connection for video conferencing, particularly for Zoom and Teams, we’ve spent a substantial amount of time assessing what makes a “good” connection statistically. One thing we’ve learn through this process is users run a speed test and make their determination based on that. While the results of a speed test can give you an indication of performance, there is a lot more to evaluating the quality of connection for video conferencing than speed.

In this blog post we’ll drive into the network and statistical measurements used to evaluate your video conferencing connection. We’ll share what Zoom and Microsoft recommend, what we look at and some real world suggestions.

We should warn you, while any statistic is digestible by any user, this article is more technical in nature. Don’t worry, Go Connect is working hard to simplify this information and we incorporate these statistics into our mobile app. A big part of our plans for the upcoming 2023 release of our mobile app will be accounting for these stats to help you quickly understand if your mobile internet connection is going to be sufficient for video conferencing.

For Video Conferencing Speed Matters, But It Isn’t Everything

Speed Test’s are most common way to evaluate a connection. It’s simple and focuses on a single number (or two, if also displaying or accounting for uploads). It’s a great sanity check and its easy to use. How easy? Just open a browser and go to speedtest.net or fast.com, hit start, and see the results.

Most speed tests are presented in MBs or mbps. They are largely interchangeable. Higher is better.

What number are you looking for? While Zoom recommends a minimum of 1.2 mbps, we think this number is too low. We recommend at least 2mbps assuming you are planning to do nothing else, including web browser, which doing your video conference. Ideally 4mbps should be the minimum you strive form.

We should also note, while this number is useful it can be misleading.

  1. Speed tests use speed test servers. The actual performance you get connecting to Zoom or Microsoft servers could be dramatically different
  2. Fast.com measures download speed because it’s provided by Netflix. Upload is just an important
  3. It gives you can overall speed, but for video conferencing you need the connection to be stable. Therefore, the 1.2/2/4 mbps recommendations are the minimum at all times, not averages.
  4. Speed tests can show other statistics that can have a huge impact on the performance if your video conference, but the “speed” in mbps does not necessarily take into account these number.

How Do Get Faster Speeds With A Mobile Internet Connection

There are a few ways to get faster speeds with as mobile internet connection. However, the speed you get can be dependent on a number of factors that are in and out of control of you, your device, and even your carrier.

  1. Improve signal – while the “max” speed you get can be impacted by a lot of factors if you don’t have good signal you likely are not maximizing your speed.
  2. Improve Your Hardware – LTE is faster than older devices, 5G can be faster than LTE. Even within LTE cellular, some hardware and “radios” can be faster. More antenna can help as well.
  3. Go Someone Less Crowded – While it can be hard to tell how crowded your cellular tower or connection is, the crowding and noise from other cell phones is often a huge impact on speeds.
  4. Get A Business Or Enterprise Class Mobile Internet Connection – Getting a high quality third party connection can be key. Even data plans you buy direct from the traditional carrier can have limits.

Latency (in milliseconds) and Jitter Are Critical To Video Conferencing

Another stat (or two) you will see with lot of speed tests is known as latency. This is how long it takes your connection to reach it’s destination. It is often posted with a stat known as jitter. As the name implies, jitter is the variation of the different sets of latency.

Latency and Jitter are both expressed in milliseconds (MS for short). Lower is better.

Think of Latency Like A Letter

The best analogy for latency is how like it takes a letter to be delivered and returned. This includes the time it takes to send the letter, for the receipt to read it and respond, and how long it takes the response to reach you. Jitter is how much difference there is across all of the letters you send and get back from all receiptents.

While some of this time period is how long it takes for the person to write a response, often a huge portion of this time is how long it takes the letter to travel to the recipient and then back to you.

Impact Of Latency and Jitter On Video Conferencing

Mobile internet is often slower than regular wired internet or WiFI. In fact, in some cases it can be 10-20 times slower. This has a huge impact on the perceived performance of video conferencing.

Unlike streaming where buffering can help mask latency and jitter issues, their impact is hard to mask on video conferencing. IF you’ve ever been on a video conference where you speak and there is a long delay before people hear it, you are experiencing latency. You can have all of the speed in the world, but if latency is high you’ll be on permanent delay.

What Is A Good Latency For Video Conferencing?

Zoom recommends a latency of 150 ms. Zoom also recommends a jitter of 40 ms or less. We find these good recommendations. Most video conferencing can be useable up to 200ms, though there is some noticeable impact beyond 120ms. Jitter up to 50ms is usually usable, but you’ll really want to be around 25 ms or less if possible.

How Do Get Lower Latency With A Mobile Internet Connection

There are a few ways to get faster speeds with as mobile internet connection. However, the speed you get can be dependent on a number of factors that are in and out of control of you, your device, and even your carrier.

  1. Get Closer To The Tower/Better Signal – latency can be impacted by the quality of your connection, including how far you are from your tower.
  2. Improve Your Hardware – LTE is faster than older devices, 5G can be faster than LTE. Even within LTE cellular, some hardware and “radios” can be faster. More antenna can help as well.
  3. Go Someone Less Crowded – While it can be hard to tell how crowded your cellular tower or connection is, the crowding and noise from other cell phones is often a huge impact on latency.
  4. Get A Business Or Enterprise Class Internet Connection – Getting a high quality third party connection can be key. Even data plans you buy direct from the traditional carrier can have limits. We’ve seen connections on the same tower with the same carrier be 3 times faster with a quality connection.

There are a number of ways your device and carrier can improve latency as well. WAN optimization, which is the process of maximizing your connection to a specific company’s servers and QOS (quality of service), which is prioritizing a specific type of internet traffic like video conferencing can also have an impact. Go Connect continues to work with our carrier partners on both.

Other Statistics To Assess A Video Conferencing Connection

There are some additional statistics you can look at to help assess the quality of your video conference connection. While these statistics may not be available with speed test tools and generally require more advanced tools, for reference we wanted to include them:

  • Packet Loss – Avg(Max): The amount of internet traffic (i.e. those letters in the analogy we reference above) that fails to reach the destination. Typically, a loss of 2% or less is recommended. Lower is better.
  • Frame Rate – The number of “frames” of video that is able to be delivered over the internet connection. TV runs at 30 frames per second, movies can be as low as 24 frames. Usually below 20 frames there is a substantial perceived delay. While frame rate isn’t a core static, but rather the measure of how all of the components of the connection impact what the user sees.
  • Mean Opinion Score (MOS) – while traditionally a measure used for audio, MOS can also be used to assess video as well. Audio conferencing uses substantially less internet than video, so if you cannot maintain an excellent audio connection you are definitely not maintaining a quality video connection. An MOS score of 4.5 or higher is the minimum for video, 3.5 or better is the minimum for an video conference.

Conclusion

While technical in nature, a few key statistics can help you realize before you get on a video conference whether you have a chance for a reliable connection. Of course, with any internet connection, but particularly cellular, every speed test or measurement is generally just a “point in time”. During the course of an hour long video conference its possible a good connection can turn poor, and a poor connection can improve. Staying informed as things change can be important to having good information.

In a future blog post we’ll dive a little deeper into some practical steps you can take with any mobile internet connection to improve it. We’ll also dive further into some of the exciting product changes coming where Go Connect will help guide you through these changes, or even make adjustments for you.