If a network is provisioned such that it has excess capacity for all the real-time flows using it, a simple priority classification ensures that real-time traffic is minimally delayed. However, if a network is insufficiently provisioned for the traffic in a real-time traffic class, then real-time traffic will be queued, and delays and packet loss will result. Thus in an under-provisioned network, either all real-time flows will suffer, or some of them must be given priority.
RSVP provides a mechanism by which an admission control request can be made, and if sufficient capacity remains in the requested traffic class, then a reservation for that capacity can be put in place.
If insufficient capacity remains, the admission request will be refused, but the traffic will still be forwarded with the default service for that traffic's traffic class. In many cases even an admission request that failed at one or more routers can still supply acceptable quality as it may have succeeded in installing a reservation in all the routers that were suffering congestion. This is because other reservations may not be fully utilising their reserved capacity.