After having had a look at the data rate of Conversations voice and video calls, the next thing I wanted to know was which underlying technology is used for the audio and video streams. Building such a thing from scratch, including authentication, encryption and overcoming NAT firewalls is a monumental task. So how was it done?
For the past two months I and other members of the household have mostly worked from home. That obviously had an impact on the amount of data received and sent over the Internet. But how much and what has actually changed? To better answer that question, I had a look at my router statistics.
So there we go, the Conversations XMPP messaging app has voice and video calls now. A dream come true! Pretty much everyone I used it with so far was stunned by the audio and video quality of the calls. So I was highly interested, of course, to have a closer look at the data rates during audio and video calls.
An interesting piece of data when operating a video conferencing server is how much data is transferred over the course of a week or a month. When I initially calculated the potential amount of data my BigBlueButton server could potentially consume over the course of a month with 70 people in 4 sessions all showing their videos, 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, I came up with around 25 TB per month. That would have been all right since my virtual server rental contains 20 TB of traffic a month, and each additional TB is billed at a euro or two. But that was the theory, how about practice?
In 2019 and 2020, I’ve seen first Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) capable devices coming to the market, mostly smartphones. On notebooks, the standard still hasn’t made a real impact, even the current Lenovo Thinkpad X390 still comes with a Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) modem. Also, on the Access Point side, first products have become available but the impact so far is still small. Nevertheless, now is the time to have a look at the spec and here are a number of resources that give a good technical overview of what’s new:
O.k., you must have figured it out by now, I’m a huge BigBlueButton fan. So while that is certainly true, there are a number of things I have noticed over the past few weeks that are not so nice (yet) and actually get in the way of getting some things done in an efficient way.
I have a cell site sitting on the building right across the street and two years ago I had a post here with some pictures of how the site has changed over the past 10 years. On average, changes are done every two years. So I guess it was time again when things were once again changed recently.
If you compare the picture above with those in my post 2 years ago, you will notice the additional small antennas that have been installed next to the bigger ones. Those are typical 5G n78 (3.5 GHz) active antenna systems (AAS)! In other words, the cell site has been upgraded to 5G!
About two years ago I bought my current VDSL + Wifi Access Point router, a Fritzbox 7590. It is still AVM’s flagship model to this date with 802.11ac Wifi-5 support and it is good to see that the manufacturer continues to develop the software to this day. Especially the Wifi functionality around Mesh and 5 GHz operation keeps getting better and better.
I’ve been waiting for this for 10 years! As I prefer to have as much of my private data flowing over the Internet in my own hands I’m running pretty much all of my ‘business critical’ web based services with open source software either at home or in a data center in Germany. The last piece of the puzzle that was missing was mobile and ‘casual’ end-to-end encrypted voice and video calling over my own infrastructure. I’ve had Nextcloud talk for a couple of years now and over the past two months have set up Jitsi and BBB instances for additional use cases. But all three solutions do not cover the ‘casual’ mobile calling experience where you just take your mobile phone and call someone else. Nextcloud, Jitsi and BBB would all have the potential to do that but non of them tried successfully covered this use case so far. But now Conversations, my mobile XMPP federated messenger app has made a quantum leap forward and has introduced voice and video calling!
Continuing my series on BigBlueButton server operation, I thought I spend a few words about how include those people in video calls that have old and not very powerful notebooks, smartphones or tablets. Most older devices still work ok in video conferences with 3 or 4 people. But in larger groups of 15-20 people, all showing their video feeds, less powerful devices start lagging behind and sooner or later quit entirely.