A multi-point control unit or MCU is a video conferencing hardware device that bridges different terminals involved in multi-point video conferencing. This multipoint control unit connects multiple endpoints of a web conference, manages them and coordinates between them to ensure seamless flow of media streams.
MCU's consist of controllers/processors to mix and switch multimedia streams to be available at all endpoints. Both, centralized and de-centralized configurations can utilize an MCU server to perform group video conferences. Even hybrid and mixed conferences can be conducted using MCUs with efficiency.
MCUs from brands like Huawei, Avaya and Polycom ensure enterprise quality collaboration by integrating with leading Unified Communication platforms. So, why not give a robust touch to your video conferencing infrastructure with high-end MCUs?
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A multipoint control unit (MCU) is a type of video conferencing hardware that bridges terminals involved into a multi-point conference system. MCU makes it possible for a multipoint audio/video conference to be controlled and moderated from a single location. Multi-stream audio/video conferencing is bandwidth-intensive, easily requiring up to 6 Gbps, depending on the number of members. The units gather bandwidth data for all connected points and then adjust quality so that all points are capable of good performance. MCU are connected near the WAN, often contained in a rack server configuration.
MCU allow a user control different modes of displaying conferenced terminals. Modes include:
The demand for multi-point control unit (MCU) is directed by the latest innovations in the field of video conferencing technology and the need to support heterogeneous endpoints with perfection. The driving forces for the demand of MCU in the market are:
Support Heterogeneous Endpoints
During group conferencing, it is important that audio/video codecs match seamlessly. Other call parameters, such as, resolution and frame rate should also match across all participants. In order to support heterogeneous endpoints, the MCU is important. MCU helps in sharing multi-media streams across heterogeneous endpoints without any hassle.
It is important to consider that MCU offers full compatability and interop with both traditional and new H.323- and SIP-based room and personal video endpoints respectivitly. Today many MCU also offers ways to interop and integration with Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business and WebRTC. To supports maximum interop between multiple vendors, MCU should support video codecs inclduing H.263, H.264, H.264 SVC, H.265 and VP8 video codecs and can transcode between them.
Today, many niche and traditional Video Conferencing vendors are offering multiple Licensing flavors: the subsription based per port and per user/month licenses is trending among them. This allows business to scale up or down their investment in Video's on requirement basis whenver they want.
Under user/month subscription, every user own their virtual video meeting room, it is similar to users having their own "meet me" number on an audio conferencing bridge.
While per port pricing offers video conferencing capacity to the organization, once that port capacity is reached, no additional endpoints can be added to the conference.
Moden MCU's supports distributed architecture across wide area network (WAN) as part of a clusters but it is important to understand the network requirements for the deployment.
As part of the distributed delpoyment, all endpoints join the meeting at their nearest MCU server and if the system finds out that mutilple parties are part of the same meeting but from different locations, it automatically connect both the MCU servers. This architetcure brings huge savings when it comes to bandwidth cost.
MCU uses another feature known as MCU cascading, which allows mulitple MCU's to be part of single video confernce and is generally required to accomodate more number of participants or locations within one single conference.
The MCU market is gaining momentum with businesses getting more inclined towards video and web conferencing solutions. Here’re the highlighting features of MCU that are making it an inevitable part of a robust video conferencing infrastructure:
With the above-mentioned advanced features, MCU can provide these functions to businesses using video and web conferencing solutions:
If the participants are using endpoints with different codec, resolution and frame rate, then these audio and video parameters need to be translated. MCU helps in transcoding and normalizing media streams in real-time for smooth inter operation.
When there are more than two video-connected participants, chances are high that they are following different signaling protocols to establish the connection. The MCU supports different types of clients by managing call signaling with efficient call setup.
MCUs work by mixing and equalizing all media streams to enhance audio quality. They reduce echo and filter out environmental noise to ensure audio clarity. A single audio stream is sent across all endpoints to bring them on the same page.
MCUs also combine different video streams into one single stream to ensure less consumption of bandwidth. Different video streams is sent separately, then there is the chance of bandwidth issue.
For complex conference calls, MCUs help in better coordination by scheduling all calls, reminders, recording services, authentication services, and support for dial numbers when making calls in different countries.
When selecting between different MCUs by leading vendors in the market, check if:
MCUs help in participants connect to a video conferencing session by dialing in promptly. These also improve compatibility between different systems to dial in a conference, and easily convert between H.323 and SIP. With the use of upscale algorithms, MCUs ensure the smooth flow of different media streams across video conferencing networks.
Today, Multi-point Control Unit are avaiable in two variants:
MCU offers varous fucntions to setup video conference between locations. Few of the important control functions includes:
MCU also offers various administration functions including: