Testing AvaLAN's Wireless Video Surveillance

By: John Honovich, Published on Jan 23, 2010

Wireless IP video surveillance has plenty of hype (claims of 300 Mb/s city wide meshes) and also significant challenges (repeated deployment nightmares). Recently, we helped an integrator friend of ours who needed to deploy a wireless link. He has many years of experience deploying both analog and IP wireless. As such, he knows too well the risks and problems that wireless video surveillance brings.

This report shares test results from the AvaLAN AW5800HTP-PAIR [link no longer available]. This is a kit with built in antennas that offers a tightly integrated solution though with modest bandwidth.

Our key findings include:

  • Wireless connection was "plug n play" without any configuration, however some poorly documented steps should be taken for optimization
  • The system offers limited advanced features 
  • We achieved consistent 3.5 - 4 Mb/s IP video throughput
  • In our setup, with HD/megapixel cameras, using MJPEG was more stable than H.264

The AvaLAN AW5800HTP-PAIR [link no longer available] consists of 2 wireless radios, running in the 5 Ghz range with integrated 23 dBi antennas. The system is sold as a kit - pre-configured to run together. AvaLAN sells their products direct on-line. The AW5800HTP-PAIR [link no longer available] costs $2,800 from their website.

5 Mhz Channels

AvaLAN's use of 5 MHz RF channels is an important and somewhat controversial/different design decision. Most unlicensed IP wireless systems use 20 MHz RF channels (like your home WiFi connection) and newer 802.11n / MIMO systems are using 40 MHz RF channels (needed to achieve higher bit rates). A tradeoff of using wide RF channels is that limited unlicensed spectrum is available for both 2.4 and 5 GHz systems (usually between 60 MHz and 100 Mhz). 

Using 5 MHz channels ensures lower maximum theoretical bandwidth. While AvaLAN provides configuration options for data rates up to 13.5 Mb/s, they recommend using 6 Mb/s as the data rate. Using this, we achieved IP video throughput of 3.5 Mb/s to 4.0 Mb/s.

AvaLAN claims that the use of smaller RF channels allows the system to be more robust to interference and to achieve longer distances (because the RF power is more concentrated in a narrow area). We cannot test nor judge this. We do believe that these smaller RF channels would allow using multiple links in the same physical area (since, unlike more common 20 MHz links, each 5 MHz uses a much smaller portion of the overall spectrum). 

Only Point to Point

The AvaLAN AW5800HTP-PAIR [link no longer available] only supports point to point wireless links. The kit cannot be modified for point to multi-point or for mesh. As such, it's primarily useful for a single camera or for closely located cameras to be transmitted back to a main building/headend.

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

Distance

AvaLAN claims the system can achieve up to 15 miles wireless links. Since our test was over a 100 meter link across two adjacent buildings, we cannot comment on distances achievable. However, multiple mile links almost always require expert planning as the narrow beamwidth of these antennas, the curvature of the Earth, etc. make antenna alignment non-trivial.

Physical Overview

In the screencast below, the key point to emphasize is:

  • No physical adjustments can be made to the radios. The built in antenna cannot be removed nor can replacement antennas be added. It's a sealed unit meant to use the built in 23 dBi antenna.

Configuration and Optimization

As we mentioned in the summary findings, the system did not require configuration to establish a connection and transmit video. However, there are some important points to keep in mind:

 

  • The default data rate is set to auto. However, according to AvaLAN's technical support that is not recommend for optimal use - 6 Mb/s is. Furthermore, any other data rate setting but 6 Mb/s (like 3 Mb/s, 6 Mb/s, 12 Mb/s, etc.) acts as auto mode. Finally, the the traffic generator tool only works with 6 Mb/s. For all these reasons, the radios should be switched to 6 Mb/s.
  • The IP address of the units are hard coded at 192.168.1.66/67. If this is being deployed in an existing network, the IP addresses will need to be changed.
  • The system does not offer any QoS optimizations.

 

Bandwidth Consumption Analysis

With the data rate set at 6 Mb/s, we achieved 3.5 to 4 Mb/s IP video throughput (unidirectional). We tested the AvaLAN system using 3 cameras - 2 megapixel and 1 standard definition connected to Exacq's video management software.

Not surprising, in our tests of a standard definition camera at 1 to 2 Mb/s, we had no issues.

Challenges arose when we switched to 1 or more megapixel cameras and, surprisingly, when we used H.264 encoding.

The screencast below demonstrates that using MJPEG, frames gracefully dropped but the connection remained and full quality video was recorded over AvaLAN at a slow frame rate. However, when using H.264, the camera's connections to Exacq disconnected. With 1 megapixel camera at H.264, the camera disconnected intermittently. However, with 2 megapixel cameras at H.264, both connections dropped and we were unable to re-establish the connection.

IP Camera Use and Load Recommendations

IP video surveillance regularly exhibits strange problems with insufficient bandwidth is available. However, different IP cameras and VMS software respond differently to shortages (some drop connections, some display macro-blocking, some display green 'slime', some drop frames, etc., etc.).

While it is not possible to accurately predict what will happen with various combinations of cameras and VMS systems, we can provide guidelines of what to consider when faced with the limited bandwidth of a wireless system like AvaLAN:

 

  • Test exactly how much throughput the system can deliver in your setup. For instance, while we achieved 3.5 - 4 Mb/s, a longer link or one with more interference could deliver significantly less. We recognize that this is logistically difficult to do (as it requires testing on site), however, we think it's risker to assume manufacturer claimed throughputs.
  • Test the bit rate of the IP cameras you plan to use at both low light and high motion. In wired systems, manufacturer 'rough' estimates of bandwidth consumption are generally not a problem. However, in wireless, if the manufacturer estimates 1 Mb/s but you find that at high motion or low light, consumption is 2.5 Mb/s, you may have a serious problem with your wireless system. We see such significant variations in our IP camera tests repeatedly.
  • Test the specific combination of IP cameras and VMS system you plan to use. This will help you understand how the combination degrades with insufficient bandwidth.
  • Favor the use of constant bit rate over variable bit rate streams. While variable bit rates stream may reduce storage use, a spike in the bit stream could break the connection.
  • Choose lower frame rates. Lower frame rates (10 fps vs 30 fps) do not significantly reduce usability of surveillance video but can dramatically reduce bandwidth consumption.
  • Plan to use less bandwidth than available. Wireless links throughput can degrade over time (new systems create interference, vegetation growth obstructs link, antenna alignment shifts, etc.) 
For this AvaLAN system, I would not use IP camera streams over 3 Mb/s. I would also limit frame rate to no more than 10 fps (though I think 5 would be even better). I would not do more than 2 standard definition cameras at 4 CIF or 1 megapixel camera at 720p (1080p consumes significantly more bandwidth with little video quality improvement).

 

Application Recommendations

We think the big constraints on the system are (1) limited bandwidth and (2) lack of advanced features. However, the biggest advantage is that it is simple to setup. We could see traditional security integrators installing these, pointing them at each other and establishing a solid connection with minimal RF expertise.

The most common application is likely to connect a single camera back to a building. We could also see using this to connect building but the link could not realistically handle more than 2 or 3 cameras (even at lower quality settings).

Comments : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

The IP Camera Lock-In Trend: Meraki and Verkada on Jan 18, 2019
Open systems and interoperability have become core features of video surveillance systems, as virtually all professional IP cameras integrate with...
SNMP / Network Monitoring For Surveillance on Aug 21, 2018
Surveillance systems typically rely on the the VMS to report issues, but this most often just means knowing a camera is "down" with no warning or...
Cybersecurity for IP Video Surveillance Guide on May 18, 2018
Keeping surveillance networks secure can be a daunting task, but there are several methods that can greatly reduce risk, especially when used in...
IP Network Hardware for Surveillance Guide on May 02, 2018
Video surveillance systems depend on IP networking equipment. In this guide, we explain the key pieces of equipment and features, explaining where...
Wireless Networking For Video Surveillance Guide on Mar 29, 2018
Wireless networking is a niche in video surveillance applications, but it can be a difficult one to understand with proper wireless design,...
Axis Z-Wave IP Camera Tested Poorly on Mar 20, 2018
Z-Wave is drawing notable interest for video surveillance use. In IPVM's initial coverage, 84% expressed interest in it, with nearly half being...
Cabling Best Practices Guide on Jan 03, 2018
Surveillance cabling can be a major problem. Poorly installed and maintained networks are often costly, lengthy, frustrating ordeals to...
Hikvision UPnP Hacking Risk on Dec 04, 2017
Hikvision IP cameras are being hacked even for end users who had not set up port forwarding and believed their cameras were 'safe' behind...
Directory of 40 IP Camera Manufacturer Discovery Tools on Jun 19, 2017
Locating the IP address of a DHCP client or factory defaulted device on a network is often a difficult task.  In another report, we discussed...
Hikvision Ezviz Mini Trooper Totally Wireless Camera Tested on Jun 13, 2017
Totally wireless cameras are a major growth trend in video surveillance, driven by consumer demands to eliminate wiring. Hikvision is now joining...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...
Hanwha Face Mask Detection Tested on Jul 01, 2020
Face mask detection or, more specifically lack-of-face-mask detection, is an expanding offering in the midst of coronavirus. Hanwha in partnership...
UK Government Says Fever Cameras "Unsuitable" on Jul 01, 2020
The UK government's medical device regulator, MHRA, told IPVM that fever-seeking thermal cameras are "unsuitable for this purpose" and recommends...
Camera Course Summer 2020 on Jun 30, 2020
This is the only independent surveillance camera course, based on in-depth product and technology testing. Lots of manufacturer training...
Worst Over But Integrators Still Dealing With Coronavirus Problems (June Statistics) on Jun 30, 2020
While numbers of integrators very impacted by Coronavirus continue to drop, most are still moderately dealing with the pandemic's problems, June...
FLIR Screen-EST Screening Software Tested on Jun 30, 2020
In our FLIR A Series Test, the cameras' biggest drawback was their lack of face detection, requiring manual adjustment when screening each...