Bandwidth is an important consideration for CCTV systems
Bandwidth is an important consideration for CCTV systems to reach their full potential

Most surveillance systems today transmit data over IP networks. As manufacturers continue to improve the capabilities of CCTV systems, the amount of traffic traveling on a network becomes increasingly large. Bandwidth is a key consideration in managing surveillance systems and ensuring their full potential is reached. In this article, Bosch discusses the importance of bandwidth and how to estimate the amount of bandwidth needed for a particular CCTV system.

What is bandwidth and why is it important?

Modern-day CCTV systems increasingly use IP networks to send video from one point to another (for example, from a camera to a Video Management System typically running on a PC).

IP networks are an attractive medium for transporting video because one cable can carry the video from many cameras. These networks also serve a multi-functional purpose because the same cable can carry video as well as two-way audio, alarm signals, relay signals, PTZ commands, and serial data. With Power over Ethernet, the cable can even carry power to the camera. This greatly simplifies the multitude of cables usually required.

However, the network is limited by the amount of traffic it can carry - known as bandwidth, which is measured in bits per second (bps). The table below shows the three kinds of star-topology Ethernet networks in common use today.    


Name Also known as Bandwidth
10Base-T  Standard Ethernet 10 Mbps (Megabits per second)
100Base-T Fast Ethernet 100 Mbps
1000Base-T Gigabit Ethernet 1,000 Mbps or 1 Gbps

Video over IP consumes a large amount of bandwidth. As a rough guide, one camera might consume between 100 kbps and 2 Mbps - compare this to audio, which typically consumes only 80 kbps. This explains the immediate success of Voice over IP. The factors that affect bandwidth consumption are described in the table below.

Factor Description Examples
Video compression method Typically temporal or spatial compression MPEG-4, M-JPEG, Wavelet, and MPEG-2
Frame rate Images per second 1-30 IPS
Image resolution The number of horizontal and vertical pixels QCIF, CIF, 2CIF, 4CIF (also known as full D1)
Scene activity level The amount of activity in the camera's field of view  Low, medium, and high
Quiet time The fraction of time where there is no movement (important for temporal compression algorithms like MPEG-4 because neglibible bandwidth is consumed during quiet time) 8:00 pm - 6:00 am Monday - Friday, all day Saturday and Sunday, equates to about 50% quiet time

If you run out of bandwidth on your network, you will start to experience the following:

  • Video artefacts (e.g., blocks in MPEG and M-JPEG, and increased fuzziness in Wavelet)
  • Frames may get dropped, making the video appear choppy
  • The video resolution may drop from 4CIF to 2 CIF or even CIF, making the picture less clear
  • The video may freeze entirely and lose the connection temporarily

What is the relationship between bandwidth and disk storage?

A single IP network cable can carry out multiple functions
A single IP network cable can carry video from many surveillance cameras and also carry out multiple functions

They are directly related. If video is being transmitted at a certain bit-rate across a network to be stored, then it will consume disk space at exactly the same rate. For example, a 1 Mbps video stream will use 1 Mb (Megabit) of space in one second, or about 1/8 = 0.125 Megabytes per second, which equates to 0.125 x 3,600 = 450 Megabytes per hour (about 11 GB per day or 75 GB per week).  

How do I know how much bandwidth I need?

This is an excellent question, particularly because it is unanswerable with any certainty. As explained earlier, it depends on so many factors that you can really only estimate your bandwidth and/or rate of disk-space consumption. This initial guess is based on your experience with previous projects and it is useful - but the best way to  predict your needs is to run the actual test.

 For example, consider planning an IP-based CCTV system for a school. How much bandwidth will the network need to carry for approximately 16 cameras, and how much disk space is required for seven days of recording?


 Bit rate capped
 View larger image
Graph showing results gained by capping the bit rate

Capping the bit rate

You can ‘cap' the bit rate of each IP camera or encoder so that it never uses more than that specified amount. Note that when capped, the actual bit-rate at any particular moment may be well below the ‘cap' limit.

Advantage: Once you know the available disk space, you are guaranteed to get a predictable number of days of video. This is especially important for regulated environments. It is also good news for IT departments who want to know how much you are going to stress the network.

Disadvantage: To not exceed the allowed bit rate, the IP camera or encoder has to do something if it finds itself over-stretched. Normally it has the option to either drop some of the frames or reduce the video resolution of the frames - but this can be an issue when the video quality you need has to be degraded under any circumstances.

  Unlimited bit rate

 Bit rate uncapped
View larger image
Graph showing the results of unlimited bit rate

You can let the IP camera or encoder help itself to whatever bandwidth it needs.

Advantage: Image quality never deteriorates.

Disadvantage: Under certain conditions, the peak load on the IP network may cause problems. This "help yourself" policy also may allow disk space to be consumed faster than you anticipated, so you may not have as many days of video as you expected.


With conventional VCRs, it is easy to predict the amount of disk space required for a specified number of days of recording time. With DVRs and IP-based CCTV, it can also be easy to predict (by capping) - as long as you are comfortable with the possibility that the video quality may degrade under certain circumstances. If you overestimate your bit rates, you will end up paying for more storage than you need.

The best way to predict your real needs is to pilot a small IP surveillance system (perhaps just one camera). Run it for a short while, then review the video and make any necessary adjustments. This is the most reliable way to get what you need and plan your infrastructure accordingly.

In addition to better estimating, it is also important to remember the enormous value of Recording at the Edge, which keeps video off the network for recording. In such a scenario, the network is only used for live streaming and playback.

View the Bandwidth quick reference guide

Bosch Bosch Security Systems
Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities
Disruptive Innovation Providing New Opportunities In Smart Cities

Growth is accelerating in the smart cities market, which will quadruple in the next four years based on 2020 numbers. Top priorities are resilient energy and infrastructure projects, followed by data-driven public safety and intelligent transportation. Innovation in smart cities will come from the continual maturation of relevant technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), fifth-generation telecommunications (5G) and edge-to-cloud networking. AI and computer vision (video analytics) are driving challenges in security and safety, in particular, with video management systems (VMSs) capturing video streams and exposing them to various AI analytics. Adoption of disruptive technologies “Cities are entering the critical part of the adoption curve,” said Kasia Hanson, Global Director, Partner Sales, IOT Video, Safe Cities, Intel Corp. “They are beginning to cross the chasm to realize their smart city vision. Cities are taking notice and have new incentives to push harder than before. They are in a better position to innovate.” “Safety and security were already important market drivers responsible for adoption of AI, computer vision and edge computing scenarios,” commented Hanson, in a presentation at the Milestone Integration Platform Symposium (MIPS) 2021. She added: “2020 was an inflection point when technology and the market were ripe for disruption. COVID has accelerated the adoption of disruptive technologies in ways we could not have predicted last year.” Challenges faced by cities Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018 Providing wide-ranging services is an expanding need in cities of all sizes. There are currently 33 megacities globally with populations over 10 million. There are also another 4,000 cities with populations over 100,000 inhabitants. Challenges for all cities include improving public health and safety, addressing environmental pressures, enabling mobility, improving quality of life, promoting economic competitiveness, and reducing costs. Spending in the European Union on public order and safety alone stood at 1.7% of GDP in 2018. Other challenges include air quality – 80% of those living in urban areas are exposed to air quality levels that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) limits. Highlighting mobility concerns is an eye-opening statistic from Los Angeles in 2017: Residents spent an average of 102 hours sitting in traffic. Smart technology “The Smart City of Today can enable rich and diverse use cases,” says Hanson. Examples include AI-enabled traffic signals to help reduce air pollution, and machine learning for public safety such as real-time visualization and emergency response. Public safety use cases include smart and connected outdoor lighting, smart buildings, crime prevention, video wearables for field agents, smart kiosks, and detection of noise level, glass breaks, and gunshots. Smart technology will make indoor spaces safer by controlling access to a building with keyless and touchless entry. In the age of COVID, systems can also detect face mask compliance, screen for fever, and ensure physical distancing. 2020 was an inflection point when technology and the smart cities market were ripe for disruption, Kasia Hanson told the MIPS 2021 audience. Video solutions Video workloads will provide core capabilities as entertainment venues reopen after the pandemic. When audiences attend an event at a city stadium, deep learning and AI capabilities analyze customer behaviors to create new routes, pathways, signage and to optimize cleaning operations. Personalized digital experiences will add to the overall entertainment value. In the public safety arena, video enables core capabilities such as protection of people, assets, and property, emergency response, and real-time visualization, and increased situational awareness. Video also provides intelligent incident management, better operational efficiency, and faster information sharing and collaboration. Smart video strategy Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security Video at the edge is a key element in end-to-end solutions. Transforming data from various point solutions into insights is complicated, time-consuming, and costly. Cities and public venues are looking for hardware, software, and industry expertise to provide the right mix of performance, capabilities, and cost-effectiveness. Intel’s smart video strategy focuses around its OpenVINO toolkit. OpenVINO, which is short for Open Visual Inference and Neural network Optimization, enables customers to build and deploy high-performing computer vision and deep learning inference applications. Intel and Milestone partnership – Video solutions “Our customers are asking for choice and flexibility at the edge, on-premises and in the cloud,” said Hansen in her presentation at the virtual conference. “They want the choice to integrate with large-scale software packages to speed deployment and ensure consistency over time. They need to be able to scale computer vision. Resolutions are increasing alongside growth in sensor installations themselves. They have to be able to accommodate that volume, no matter what causes it to grow.” As partners, Intel and Milestone provide video solutions across many use cases, including safety and security. In effect, the partnership combines Intel’s portfolio of video, computer vision, inferencing, and AI capabilities with Milestone’s video management software and community of analytics partners. Given its complex needs, the smart cities market is particularly inviting for these technologies.

What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?
What Are the Physical Security Challenges of Smart Cities?

The emergence of smart cities provides real-world evidence of the vast capabilities of the Internet of Things (IoT). Urban areas today can deploy a variety of IoT sensors to collect data that is then analyzed to provide insights to drive better decision-making and ultimately to make modern cities more livable. Safety and security are an important aspect of smart cities, and the capabilities that drive smarter cities also enable technologies that make them safer. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the physical security challenges of smart cities?

New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021
New Markets For AI-Powered Smart Cameras In 2021

Organizations faced a number of unforeseen challenges in nearly every business sector throughout 2020 – and continuing into 2021. Until now, businesses have been on the defensive, reacting to the shifting workforce and economic conditions, however, COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans. This is now giving decision-makers the chance to take a proactive approach to mitigate current and post-pandemic risks. These long-term technology solutions can be used for today’s new world of social distancing and face mask policies and flexibly repurposed for tomorrow’s renewed focus on efficiency and business optimization. For many, this emphasis on optimization will likely be precipitated by not only the resulting economic impacts of the pandemic but also the growing sophistication and maturity of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML), technologies that are coming of age just when they seem to be needed the most.COVID-19 proved to be a catalyst for some to accelerate their long-term technology and digitalization plans Combined with today’s cutting-edge computer vision capabilities, AI and ML have produced smart cameras that have enabled organizations to more easily implement and comply with new health and safety requirements. Smart cameras equipped with AI-enabled intelligent video analytic applications can also be used in a variety of use cases that take into account traditional security applications, as well as business or operational optimization, uses – all on a single camera. As the applications for video analytics become more and more mainstream - providing valuable insights to a variety of industries - 2021 will be a year to explore new areas of use for AI-powered cameras. Optimizing production workflows and product quality in agriculture Surveillance and monitoring technologies are offering value to industries such as agriculture by providing a cost-effective solution for monitoring of crops, business assets and optimizing production processes. As many in the agriculture sector seek to find new technologies to assist in reducing energy usage, as well as reduce the environmental strain of modern farming, they can find an unusual ally in smart surveillance. Some niche farming organizations are already implementing AI solutions to monitor crops for peak production freshness in order to reduce waste and increase product quality.  For users who face environmental threats, such as mold, parasites, or other insects, smart surveillance monitoring can assist in the early identification of these pests and notify proper personnel before damage has occurred. They can also monitor vast amounts of livestock in fields to ensure safety from predators or to identify if an animal is injured. Using video monitoring in the growing environment as well as along the supply chain can also prove valuable to large-scale agriculture production. Applications can track and manage inventory in real-time, improving knowledge of high-demand items and allowing for better supply chain planning, further reducing potential spoilage. Efficient monitoring in manufacturing and logistics New challenges have arisen in the transportation and logistics sector, with the industry experiencing global growth. While security and operational requirements are changing, smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye, but have a significant impact on the overall customer experience. Smart surveillance offers an entirely new way to monitor and control the physical side of logistics, correcting problems that often go undetected by the human eye. Video analytics can assist logistic service providers in successfully delivering the correct product to the right location and customer in its original condition, which normally requires the supply chain to be both secure and ultra-efficient. The latest camera technology and intelligent software algorithms can analyze footage directly on the camera – detecting a damaged package at the loading dock before it is loaded onto a truck for delivery. When shipments come in, smart cameras can also alert drivers of empty loading bays available for offloading or alert facility staff of potential blockages or hazards for incoming and outgoing vehicles that could delay delivery schedules planned down to the minute. For monitoring and detecting specific vehicles, computer vision in combination with video analysis enables security cameras to streamline access control measures with license plate recognition. Smart cameras equipped with this technology can identify incoming and outgoing trucks - ensuring that only authorized vehicles gain access to transfer points or warehouses. Enhance regulatory safety measures in industrial settings  Smart surveillance and AI-enabled applications can be used to ensure compliance with organizational or regulatory safety measures in industrial environments. Object detection apps can identify if employees are wearing proper safety gear, such as facial coverings, hard hats, or lifting belts. Similar to the prevention of break-ins and theft, cameras equipped with behavior detection can help to automatically recognize accidents at an early stage. For example, if a worker falls to the ground or is hit by a falling object, the system recognizes this as unusual behavior and reports it immediately. Going beyond employee safety is the ability to use this technology for vital preventative maintenance on machinery and structures. A camera can identify potential safety hazards, such as a loose cable causing sparks, potential wiring hazards, or even detect defects in raw materials. Other more subtle changes, such as gradual structural shifts/crack or increases in vibrations – ones that would take the human eye months or years to discover – are detectable by smart cameras trained to detect the first signs of mechanical deterioration that could potentially pose a physical safety risk to people or assets. Early recognition of fire and smoke is another use case where industrial decision-makers can find value. Conventional fire alarms are often difficult to properly mount in buildings or outdoor spaces and they require a lot of maintenance. Smart security cameras can be deployed in difficult or hard-to-reach areas. When equipped with fire detection applications, they can trigger notification far earlier than a conventional fire alarm – as well as reduce false alarms by distinguishing between smoke, fog, or other objects that trigger false alarms. By digitizing analog environments, whether a smoke detector or an analog pressure gauge, decision-makers will have access to a wealth of data for analysis that will enable them to optimize highly technical processes along different stages of manufacturing - as well as ensure employee safety and security of industrial assets and resources. Looking forward to the future of smart surveillance With the rise of automation in all three of these markets, from intelligent shelving systems in warehouses to autonomous-driving trucks, object detection for security threats, and the use of AI in monitoring agricultural crops and livestock, the overall demand for computer vision and video analytics will continue to grow. That is why now is the best time for decision-makers across a number of industries to examine their current infrastructure and determine if they are ready to make an investment in a sustainable, multi-use, and long-term security and business optimization solution.