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Friday, 28 September 2012

H.245 Call Control

Once a call has initiated (but not necessarily fully connected) endpoints may initiate H.245 call control signaling in order to provide more extensive control over the conference. H.245 is a rather voluminous specification with many procedures that fully enable multipoint communication, though in practice most implementations only implement the minimum necessary in order to enable point-to-point voice and video communication.
H.245 provides capabilities such as capability negotiation, master/slave determination, opening and closing of "logical channels" (i.e., audio and video flows), flow control, and conference control. It has support for both unicast and multicast communication, allowing the size of a conference to theoretically grow without bound.
Capability Negotiation
Of the functionality provided by H.245, capability negotiation is arguably the most important, as it enables devices to communicate without having prior knowledge of the capabilities of the remote entity. H.245 enables rich multimedia capabilities, including audio, video, text, and data communication. For transmission of audio, video, or text, H.323 devices utilize both ITU-defined codecs and codecs defined outside the ITU. Codecs that are widely implemented by H.323 equipment include:
H.245 also enables real-time data conferencing capability through protocols like T.120. T.120-based applications generally operate in parallel with the H.323 system, but are integrated to provide the user with a seamless multimedia experience. T.120 provides such capabilities as application sharing T.128, electronic whiteboard T.126, file transfer T.127, and text chat T.134 within the context of the conference.
When an H.323 device initiates communication with a remote H.323 device and when H.245 communication is established between the two entities, the Terminal Capability Set (TCS) message is the first message transmitted to the other side.
Master/Slave Determination
After sending a TCS message, H.323 entities (through H.245 exchanges) will attempt to determine which device is the "master" and which is the "slave." This process, referred to as Master/Slave Determination (MSD), is important, as the master in a call settles all "disputes" between the two devices. For example, if both endpoints attempt to open incompatible media flows, it is the master who takes the action to reject the incompatible flow.
Logical Channel Signaling
Once capabilities are exchanged and master/slave determination steps have completed, devices may then open "logical channels" or media flows. This is done by simply sending an Open Logical Channel (OLC) message and receiving an acknowledgement message. Upon receipt of the acknowledgement message, an endpoint may then transmit audio or video to the remote endpoint.
Fast Connect
Figure 5 - A typical H.245 exchange
A typical H.245 exchange looks similar to figure 5:
After this exchange of messages, the two endpoints (EP) in this figure would be transmitting audio in each direction. The number of message exchanges is numerous, each has an important purpose, but nonetheless takes time.
For this reason, H.323 version 2 (published in 1998) introduced a concept called Fast Connect, which enables a device to establish bi-directional media flows as part of the H.225.0 call establishment procedures. With Fast Connect, it is possible to establish a call with bi-directional media flowing with no more than two messages, like in figure 3.
Fast Connect is widely supported in the industry. Even so, most devices still implement the complete H.245 exchange as shown above and perform that message exchange in parallel to other activities, so there is no noticeable delay to the calling or called party.

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