VoIP Bandwidth Calculations

If you’re preparing for a your CCIE Written or Lab exams, or (far more importantly) if you need to perform bandwidth sizing for a VoIP design or implementation, it’s critical to be able to accurately calculate the amount of bandwidth that your precious voice streams are going to need as they traverses your network.

Vik Mahli makes an excellent overview of what this means in terms of a QoS configuration here, but skips the calculation part altogether in order to focus on the LAN QoS config that he wished to cover in his post.  Naturally, this created some confusion which was carried over into the comments section!

I encourage you to read the comments, specifically Mark Holloway’s length post on this topic.  Mark makes an excellent reference here to the QoS SRND, and is well worth a read!  Please see this link and refer to where Mark and Vik use a 93bkps base for G.711 calls from.

Building on some of the discussions there, I’d like to provide some additional detail on how these calculations can be performed in this post.

Finally, please take note that this does not account for signalling bandwidth requirements.  This is a different discussion – ping me and I’ll blog about this too! 🙂

 

Performing VoIP Bandwidth Calculations

 

Calculation Assumptions

Firstly, we will have to make some protocol-related assumptions for sizing purposes:

  • IP – 20 bytes
  • User Datagram Protocol (UDP) – 8 bytes
  • Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) – 12 bytes
  • Compressed Real-Time Protocol (cRTP) reduces the IP/UDP/RTP headers to 2 or 4 bytes
  • Multilink Point-to-Point Protocol (MP) – 6 bytes
  • Frame Relay Forum (FRF).12 Layer 2 (L2)– 6 bytes
  • End-of-frame flag on MP and Frame Relay frames – 1 byte
  • Ethernet L2 headers– 18 bytes

 

Codec-Specific Information

Secondly, we need to know some values that are codec-specific:

  • Voice Payload Size
  • Codec Bitrate

Some values worth keeping in mind here are:

  • G711
    • Bit Rate – 64 kbps
    • Default Payload size – 160 bytes
  • G729
    • Bit Rate – 8 kbps
    • Default Payload size – 20 bytes
  • iLBC 20ms
    • Bit Rate – 15.2 kbps
    • Default Payload size – 38 bytes
  • iLBC 30ms
    • Bit Rate – 13.33 kbps
    • Default Payload size – 50 bytes

 

There is a detailed discussion of these values and their explanations here.  I won’t go into more detail in this post.  Please refer to the above document for clarity.

NOTE:

For differing Millesecond Packet Sizes (e.g. G.729 20ms/30ms), the codec bitrate is always constant.  Therefore the payload size can always be scaled as a ratio using the formula of:

codec bit rate = codec sample size / codec sample interval

More on this later in a worked example…

 

Bandwidth Calculation Formulas

From the TAC Online Help, we’re presented with a fairly simple calculation:

Total Packet Size = (Media Access Header - Layer 2) + (IP/UDP/RTP Header) + (voice payload)
Voice Packets Per Second (PPS) = codec bit rate / voice payload size
Bandwidth = [ (voice packet size) + 1 byte (frame flag) ] * PPS

Finally, it is best practice to allow for a 5.0% overhead in all calculations.

 

Some Worked Examples

This seems simple enough, so let’s put it into practice in some worked examples!

 

Example 1 : 3 Concurrent G.711 Calls over Ethernet

Total Packet Size = [ (18) + (40) + (160) ] = 218 bytes 

Packets per Second = [ 64 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ] / [ 160 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 50 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 218 bytes ) + (0 bytes ) ] * 50 pps * 8 bites/byte = 87200 bits/sec = 87.2 kbps

5.0% Overhead87.2 kbps * 1.05 = 91.560 kbps

Concurrent Calls = 3 * 91.560 kbps = 274.68 kbps

 

Example 2 : 5 Concurrent G.729 Calls over PPP with Compressed RTP

Total Packet Size = [ (6) + (2) + (20) ] = 28 bytes 

Packets per Second = [ 8 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ] / [ 20 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 50 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 28 bytes ) + (1 byte) ] * 50 pps * 8 bites/byte = 87200 bits/sec = 11.6 kbps

5.0% Overhead = 11.6 kbps * 1.05 = 12.18 kbps

Concurrent Calls = 5 * 12.18 kbps = 60.9 kbps

 

Example 3 : 10 Concurrent iLBC Calls over Ethernet using a 20ms bitrate

Total Packet Size = [ (18) + (40) + (38) ] = 96 bytes

Packets per Second =[ 15.2 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ]  / [ 38 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 50 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 96 bytes ) + (0 bytes ) ] * 50 pps * 8 bites/byte = 38400 bits/sec = 38.4 kbps

5.0% Overhead = 38.4 kbps * 1.05 = 40.32 kbps

Concurrent Calls = 10 * 40.32 kbps = 403.20 kbps

The TAC Tool does not cover iLBC calculations, but we can see that there’s nothing special going on here.  We just needed to know the bitrate values for the codec and the calculations are effectively the same.

 

Example 4 : 5 Concurrent iLBC Calls over Ethernet using a 30ms bitrate

Total Packet Size = [ (18) + (40) + (50) ] = 108 bytes

Packets per Second =[ 13.3 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ]  / [ 50 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 33.3 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 108 bytes ) + (0 bytes ) ] * 33.3 pps * 8 bites/byte = 28800 bits/sec = 28.8 kbps

5.0% Overhead = 28.8 kbps * 1.05 = 30.24 kbps

Concurrent Calls = 5 * 30.24 kbps = 151.20 kbps

 

Example 5 : 2 Concurrent G.729 Calls over Ethernet using a 40ms bitrate

OK, let’s end it off with a challenge 🙂

As I said above, the bitrate is always a constant for any codec:

codec bit rate = codec sample size / codec sample interval

Therefore, we will need to calculate our new Payload Sample Size for 40ms instead of 20ms:

Codec Sample Size = 8 kbps * 40ms  / (8bits/byte) = 40 bytes

See?  Not so hard!  If you’re following, you can actually see that you could have just used a ratio of:

New Payload Size = Old Payload Size * (New Sampling Interval / Old Sampling Interval)

 

OK, I digress.  Now, carrying on as before:

Total Packet Size = [ (18) + (40) + (40) ] = 98 bytes

Packets per Second =[ 8 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ]  / [ 40 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 25 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 98 bytes ) + (0 bytes ) ] * 25 pps * 8 bites/byte = 19600 bits/sec = 19.60 kbps

5.0% Overhead =19.60 kbps * 1.05 = 20.58 kbps

Concurrent Calls = 2 * 40.32 kbps = 41.16 kbps

As you can see, the payload size may have doubled, but the packet throughput has halved!

 

Example 6 : 8 Concurrent G.722 Calls over Ethernet using a 10ms bitrate

Building on the ideas presented in the previous example:

New Payload Size = 160 kbps * (10/20) = 80 kbps

Total Packet Size = [ (18) + (40) + (80) ] = 138 bytes

Packets per Second =[ 64 kbps * 1000 bits per kilobit ]  / [ 80 bytes (default voice payload) * 8 bits per byte ]  = 100 pps

Bandwidth = [ ( 138 bytes ) + (0 bytes ) ] * 100 pps * 8 bites/byte = 110400 bits/sec = 110,4 kbps

5.0% Overhead =110.40 kbp * 1.05 = 115.92  kbps

Concurrent Calls = 8 *115.92 kbps = 927,36 kbps

OK, at this point not much more to cover! 🙂

 

A Final Note on Sampling Rates…

I highlighted the PPS value in Example 5 in red to make a final point on this topic.

As you can see, the payload size may have doubled, but the packet throughput has halved.

 

Where does all of this come  into play?  Well, there are two competing considerations here:

  1. Longer Durations (i.e. a lower PPS value) reduces Network Overheads
  2. Increased Packet Sizes decreases the resiliency to Network Errors (such as packet loss)

 

Considerations such as physical hardware capabilities, link stability, available bandwidth, PBX feature sets (and don’t forget that of your Peering Partners!)  etc. can all be considered when deciding on a preferred sampling rate for your VoIP network – a lot for the VoIP designer to think about when making decisions on what codecs (and respective capabilities) to support!

 

Online References

I have managed to find a number of excellent documents to help you.

 

For a detailed breakdown of how to perform these calculations:

 

A TAC tool, and simply the best out there with a nice GUI:

 

Configuring Bandwidth-based CAC for CUBE:

 

For quick and dirty calculations that don’t take into account network overheads:

 

Additional links to various sites that offer similar tools:

 

Hope this helps all you CCIE aspirants and VoIP network designers!

 

#dontcalltac

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3 thoughts on “VoIP Bandwidth Calculations

  1. Meena says:

    Nice blog thanks to shared this http://www.ipmomentum.com

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Janusz Klink says:

    Example 6 seems to have a “little” mistake:
    in line 5.0% Overhead =19.60 kbps * 1.05 = 115.92 kbps – > should be 5.0% Overhead =110.40 kbps * 1.05 = 115.92 kbps

    Liked by 1 person

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