H.323 is a protocol standard for multimedia communications. H.323 was designed to support real-time transfer of audio and video data over packet networks like IP. The standard involves several different protocols covering specific aspects of Internet telephony. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU-T) maintains H.323 and these related standards.
Most voice over IP (VoIP) applications utilize H.323. H.323 supports call setup, teardown and forwarding/transfer. Architectural elements of a H.323 based system are Terminals, Multipoint Control Units (MCUs), Gateways, an optional Gatekeeper and Border Elements. Different functions of H.323 run over either TCP or UDP. Overall, H.323 competes with the newer Session Initialization Protocol (SIP), another proven standard often found in VoIP systems.
A key feature of H.323 is Quality of Service (QoS). QoS technology allows real-time prioritization and traffic management constraints to be placed on "best-effort" packet delivery systems like TCP/IP over Ethernet. QoS improves the quality of voice or video feeds.