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Skype and gaming in the fast lane by Qualcomm’s StreamBoost

If you live in a busy household and you’re fed up of certain people always hogging the connection with BitTorrent downloads, 1080p video streaming and whatnot you’ll want to keep an eye on Qualcomm’s Streamboost software. 

What is Streamboost? Developed by chipmaker Qualcomm it’s designed to be installed on home broadband routers. It’s perhaps best thought of as a police officer directing traffic, assigning bandwidth where it’s needed. 

Qualcomm’s StreamBoost brings traffic shaping to the home
Qualcomm’s StreamBoost will come in handy if you’re tired of having Call of Duty lag because your flatmate is always on bloody BitTorrent

Each application, whether it’s YouTube or Lovefilm streaming HD video, a software update or general web traffic, will be given the amount of bandwidth needed to ensure the smoothest possible performance in your home. 

As more people start to use the internet in your home, Streamboost will dynamically allocate bandwidth where it’s needed the most. 

Streamboost: Managing the broadband bottleneck

As download speeds available to customers increase, we’re told that the next broadband bottleneck, where slowdown begins to occur, will be in the home.

Qualcomm says that real time apps like voice chat and gaming will be prioritised over other kinds of web traffic. The idea is that those making calls on Skype or playing games online won’t experience lag during those crucial long-distance conversations/Battlefield frag-fests.

Streamboost generally groups web traffic into four separate categories, prioritised in order:

  • Real time: VoIP and multiplayer games
  • Streaming: live video and catch-up services
  • General web use: shopping, social networking and web browsing
  • Bulk: BitTorrent, software updates and heavy downloads

Mike Cubbage, of the Qualcomm Atheros networking business unit told Recombu Digital that Streamboost can pick up specific details on packets as they come into the home. 

“When packets come in we can tell if its voice or video, tell if its YouTube or another service and even determine the resolution of the video,” Cubbage said. 

With Streamboost, a typical 420p resolution video would be assigned 500kbps of bandwidth. A 1080p stream would get 6Mbps. Normally, Cubbage explains, a standard YouTube video would normally require 30Mbps, because it’d want to buffer. 

Skype and gaming in the fast lane by Qualcomm’s StreamBoost
A mock-up of the StreamBoost interface taken from a Qualcomm slideshow. Click to enlarge.

A mock-up of the StreamBoost interface taken from a Qualcomm slideshow. Click to enlarge.

Streamboost mobile apps will put you in control

While Streamboost is clever enough to assign bandwidth as it sees fit, there will be times when you’ll want to take control yourself. You might want to prioritise a particularly urgent software update ahead of anything else or if you’re streaming a movie you might want to push that to the top of the queue.

You’ll be able to do this through a StreamBoost control panel on your desktop. The screengrabs above give you an idea of how this all works and Qualcomm has an interactive demo on its site.

Qualcomm hopes to develop mobile apps that’ll let control domestic traffic from your phone as well, in a similar fashion to Netgear’s Genie app. There’s no word yet on which platforms will be supported but Qualcomm says its ‘certainly keen’ on developing phone apps. There’s no confirmed any support for any specific mobile OS yet.

Of course if you’re living in a shared house with shared access to the Streamboost control panel, then there may well be arguments. That’s something you’ll have to sort out yourselves…

Skype and gaming in the fast lane by Qualcomm’s StreamBoost
Qualcomm’s visualisation of StreamBoost. Data packets don’t actually look like this.

Which products ship with StreamBoost?

D-Link’s DGL-5500 dual band Gaming Router AC1300 will ship with StreamBoost pre-installed.

“The Gaming Router represents the ultimate in high-performance connectivity to give power users the ability and control they need to do what they love online without the concern or interruption of buffering and lag,” says Daniel Kelley, vice president of marketing, D-Link Systems. “With Qualcomm StreamBoost technology, the new Gaming Router is designed to help gamers do more and lag less.

Specs for the Gaming Router include WiFi 802.11g/n/ac, 4 gigabit LAN ports and WPA2.

Available to pre-order now in the US for $199.99 (£132), it’s expected to go on sale in August. Details on a UK launch are thin on the ground right now.

All though StreamBoost will initially only launch on WiFI AC routers, it will detect traffic on any device. So long as a connection travels through a StreamBoost router, the software will shape the traffic accordingly.

All StreamBoost routers regardless of make will come with an opt-in crowd-source function. This will update Qualcomm with anonymised data on how users make use of the StreamBoost service and so any future updates can be better tailored to suit customers. This process is entirely opt-in and is required if you want to receive updates automatically. If you don’t want to opt-in then the trade off is that you’ll have to update manually.

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