How to improve videoconferencing at lower speeds

September 25, 2020

For many students and employees, daily life has moved almost entirely online. This means we’re all relying on video platforms to connect teachers to students and work teams to each other, not to mention providing spaces for social gatherings and events.

These virtual communities all rely on videoconferencing, which can tax your broadband internet connection, especially when taken together with day-to-day internet needs. Depending on your service speed, you may struggle to get a clear picture or good sound when you’re on video calls. Plus, if multiple members of your household are using videoconferencing simultaneously for schooling or working from home, you may have added challenges.

So, let’s talk solutions. Whether you’re on Microsoft Teams®, Zoom, Google Meet™, or any other leading video platform, there are some common tips that you can follow to maximize the performance of your internet and of your devices — so that you can maximize your own success.

Getting the most out of your WiFi and bandwidth

Every connected device in your home eats up a portion of your bandwidth, so the more devices or applications you have running, the slower the performance will get for all of them. This includes the growing list of smart devices many people have in their homes such as assistants (like Google Home or Alexa), smart TVs, smart thermostats, home security systems, and more. 

Here are some ways to maximize your internet performance to support online meetings, no matter what kind of device you’re on:
 

  • Try moving your device and workstation closer to the WiFi router in your home or office.
  • Use a WiFi extender to extend the wireless range to areas of your home that are farther away from the router.
  • Having “video on” is important for staying connected, but if you are trying to preserve bandwidth, or have a lot of people on the internet, shutting it off may be beneficial. This is the simplest way to cut down on the data passing through your network. In many apps, you can join meetings with your camera turned off and switch it on only when you are speaking. Or, save video for smaller group sessions where you can connect in a more personal way. You can also encourage others to do the same, to reduce the overall video bandwidth for larger meetings.
  • Disable HD (high definition) video and use SD (standard definition) instead to free up more internet bandwidth. If your platform allows this, you can go to the video settings on your app to enable or disable HD video.
  • Avoid running other high-bandwidth activities during videoconferencing, and ask housemates to do the same. During video calls, your family members should avoid streaming video or music, playing online games, uploading and downloading large files, running cloud backups or file syncing.
  • When using WiFi, select the 5 Ghz instead of the 2.4 Ghz frequency to get the strongest signal. In this case, it’s especially important to position yourself as close as you can be to the router, and to minimize physical barriers between your device and the router.
  • Locate the best wireless channel in your router’s settings.

Joining video calls on a computer

If you’re joining video meetings from a laptop or desktop computer, here are some other things to keep in mind:
 

  • Use a wired connection rather than a WiFi connection whenever possible. As long as your computer has an Ethernet port, you should be able to plug into your router directly. Get a longer Ethernet cable, if needed — it’s worth it to get a more stable, reliable connection.
  • If you need to share your screen to present or collaborate during a meeting, turn off your video so you’re not using the video bandwidth required for both at the same time. Share your screen only as long as necessary, and encourage others to do the same, as this can improve call quality for everyone.
  • Try using online collaborative documents instead of screensharing when suitable. This includes platforms like the Microsoft Office® online suite, Google™ apps, Box Notes and others, which let multiple people view and/or edit a shared file synchronously. This tends to use less data than streaming video, while still allowing everyone to see changes as they happen.
  • Having too many open browser tabs and apps can impact your video quality. Close down all tabs and apps that you don’t need.
  • Reduce the size of the videoconference window slightly to boost video quality.
  • If you use a VPN to access an organization network, try disconnecting from it during video meetings whenever possible, as it will route data through a longer path and can cause lags and hurt video and audio quality.
  • Configure your antivirus, firewall, or other security software settings to make sure these applications recognize your videoconferencing app as a trusted application. If you have a computer provided by your employer, you may need to get help from a system administrator to do this.

Joining video calls on a mobile device

If you’re using a smartphone instead of a computer to join a video meeting, consider these additional tips:
 

  • Turn off incoming video if it’s not needed. This will improve audio quality and use up less battery. If you need to have video turned on, have a charger or mobile power bank handy.
  • If you can’t get close enough to your wireless router to get a strong WiFi signal, disable WiFi and use your phone’s LTE signal instead and move to a place in your home where you have the maximum number of bars indicating best LTE signal strength on your mobile device.
  • Consider dialing in to a meeting instead of using computer audio. Some platforms (like Zoom) have an option to join by phone, which will give you a clearer audio connection, and you can still view the meeting’s video on your smartphone screen (or computer) if you need to.
Learn what bandwidth and other system specifications your videoconferencing platform requires:

Getting the most out of your devices

In addition to maximizing your internet bandwidth, it’s also important to consider the processing power of your computer or other devices. Video chatting gobbles up a lot of computer memory (RAM) and processing power (CPU), so you’ll get a smoother experience if you make sure your device and peripherals such as headphones and microphone are running optimally. 

Here are some ideas to make sure your equipment isn’t slowing you down on video calls:
 

  • Make sure your modem/router has the most up-to-date firmware version. This is crucial to make sure your WiFi router is running optimally. Check the router’s vendor support site, or check for updates in the settings portal of any CenturyLink modem.
  • Update firmware and drivers for your headset and webcam to make sure these important accessories are working their best.
  • Close all unneeded applications on your device to save processing power. You can check CPU usage by looking at Apple Activity Monitor or Windows Task Manager to discover which applications could be taxing your system, then close all the ones you don’t need for your video session.
  • Disconnect external monitors during video meetings and use a headset instead of the system microphone to reduce background noise, which also cuts processing power and data transfer.
  • Make sure you’re using a recent computer/device that is compatible with your videoconferencing app. You can check technical specs for any given platform to check system requirements for best performance.
Learn what bandwidth and other system specifications your videoconferencing platform requires:

What’s next?

Let’s say you’ve checked off every tip above to optimize performance and you’re still not getting the speed you need for videoconferencing. What else can you do?

Depending on your internet plan, it may be that you simply don’t have enough bandwidth to power all the video needs on top of the regular internet demand of your household. In that case, you may need to either upgrade your speed or add a second internet line.

Upgrade your service

Start by finding out whether speed upgrades are available at your address. This will depend on the service you already have and which speed tiers are sold in your area. If you’re a CenturyLink customer, the simplest way to see any upgrades we can offer is to log in to My CenturyLink and go to My Products. 

Add a second internet line 

Another popular option today is to add a second internet line to your home, which can be used exclusively for remote working and schooling needs. This is a great option for homes that may already be getting the top speed tier in their area but still need more bandwidth. 

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, we are all learning to make the most of the tools we have. Now, more than ever, it’s important to connect with others, and videoconferencing platforms make that possible. Getting your home setup to work for you may take some trial and error, but with the wealth of resources and a solid internet connection, you can find success.

Please note that CenturyLink does not provide technical support for these platforms. If you need further help with your software, please use the links provided to get help from the manufacturers.

This blog is provided for informational purposes only and may require additional research and substantiation by the end user. In addition, the information is provided "as is" without any warranty or condition of any kind, either express or implied. Use of this information is at the end user's own risk. CenturyLink does not warrant that the information will meet the end user's requirements or that the implementation or usage of this information will result in the desired outcome of the end user. All third party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with CenturyLink.

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