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Why Cable Modems DON’t WORK FOR (sending) STREAMING VIDEO

If you are looking to stream video and your connection to the Internet is a cable modem, we would strongly recommend that you upgrade to a more reliable connection, such as fiber or metro ethernet. This article will explain some of the reasons why.

Consumer Grade

Cable modems and the infrastructure that support them is not a business grade solution. For outbound streaming video it’s a question of quality bandwidth, not more bandwidth. It is important here to distinguish between incoming and outgoing bandwidth. This type of streaming only deals with outbound (you are the source, not the destination), which is different than most Internet usage (see below).

Signal Noise

The number-one challenge that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have with cable modems is noise. Noise is the result of a poor electrical connection at or near the cable modem data cable. Their technicians are constantly addressing noise issues and trying to resolve them. Cable modems often have a diagnostic web page that will tell you what the modem “sees”.

For more details on what to look for in troubleshooting cable modem issues, we wrote a whole article on it, which can be found here.

Peak Bandwidth

Many times, the go-to for “is our Internet connection good?” is a bandwidth test. Unfortunately, this only proves (as above) what the loudest thing on the network is capable of. Also, it’s only for a short period of time. It’s just fine for determining what the peak bandwidth is – that is, what the ISP (or your network) is allowing you to do, but past that, it’s pretty useless.

Why? Most internet traffic is “bursty” – that is, it’s a quick request here-and-there for either a web page, an e-mail, or perhaps a chunk of video from a service like Netflix, Hulu, or similar. These are all incoming, or “down-stream” data feeds. The get the data, then disconnect. Your encoder is not getting data, but pushing data – it’s outgoing, or “up-stream”, and it’s not short requests – it’s a single, un-interrupted stream up to our data center, which must be un-interrupted. Your encoder only sends a single stream to us, so the actual bandwidth requirement is small, but it must be available, without interruption.

Un-Managed Network

The biggest issue that we see with customers that use a cable modem is that the local network and the cable modem resource itself is un-managed. A managed network ensures that critical services, such as your Live Stream, have reserved bandwidth (traffic shaping), and has the data (graphs, etc) to prove things are as they should be. An un-managed network is a free-for-all where only the “loudest” services on your network get priority.

Many times, a poor Internet connection will seem just fine most of the time, but every so often, something either (a) saturates the available bandwidth and keeps your stream(s) from getting out the door, (b) the actual available bandwidth is limited by noise (above) or some other factor, (c) your Internet completely dis-connects and re-connects due to the same factors.

The point here is that if you don’t have graphs, data, or indeed any long-running indication that there is an issue, you simply don’t know – and have to rely on complaints to manage the network.

Next Steps

Have questions? Please feel free to reach out – it’s always free (and easy) to talk to us! Also, we’re super passionate about networks and monitoring, as it’s fundamental to our service. We’ll gladly share what we know, point you in the right direction, give you tips to set up a proper monitoring platform for yourself, or provide network monitoring and traffic shaping as part of your service.

Updated on May 18, 2020

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