Ways to Improve Voice Calls

t29 voip phoneAs Voice over IP becomes more popular, technology experts are figuring out ways that make the quality of VoIP phone calls better. Essentially the goal is to be able to listen and speak in a clear continuous voice without unwanted noise in the background.

Before we go into the ways to improve VoIP calls, let’s first get a better understanding of what a “bad” call is. We’ve all experienced them but there are technical terms that are thrown around to describe these flaws. Here are the 3 big terms used a lot and what they mean –

Data Loss – This is when voice data packets are lost and the result is really choppy conversation. Unlike other types of data packets that can be resent, if a voice packet is lost it is GONE. Therefore when this happens the persons voice is choppy.

Latency – This is when the the packets are delayed. Latency is the time between when a voice packet is transmitted and when it reaches its destination. If there is a delay the result is an echo and it can also cause the one talker to interrupt the other.

Jitter – Jitter is a variance in latency from one packet to the next that result of network congestion, clocking issues and route changes.

So now that we know the technical terms of the “stuff” that affects the quality of a VoIP phone call, here are things that can be done to improve your network and call quality.

Bandwidth
The size of connection to your Internet Service Provider (ISP) is called your bandwidth. Bandwidth is very much like a highway. The more lanes a highway has the more capacity it has to handle heavy traffic. If a highway has a lot of traffic and it only has 2 lanes you are going to have a problem and things will be really slow. However if you are on a really big highway, you won’t have trouble with traffic. The same thing goes for your Internet connection. Moral of the story, get a big / fast connection to the Internet.

Consistency
While having ample bandwidth is a big factor, another issue is the consistency of the speed. If your Internet and / or Local Network has certain times of the day that is experiences heavy traffic it is going to affect the performance of your VoIP calls. For instance you may have a 30MB connection to the Internet that usually works well, but if for some reason your ISP throttles it down to say 8MB because they are really busy that could have an effect on your VoIP calls. Also consistency matters during a phone call. For instance if the speed is fluctuating during course of a phone call that is going to cause jitter or latency during that call.

Equipment
Another factor is the equipment that you are running. Are your switches 10/100 or gigabyte switches? Are they smart switches? What I mean by that is can you use Quality of Service (QoS)? Are you using Category 5e data cable (or better)? How good is the IP Phone that you’re using? IF you are running VoIP software on a server, how powerful is the server and is it being used for other tasks as well?

QoS
Quality of Service or (QoS), basically means you prioritize the data packets based on importance. For instance you would set all voice data traffic as the highest priority compared to normal data aka, print requests, file transfers, Internet surfing, etc. To be able to program this you need to have a smart switch that allows you to program these priorities. So if your network is busy, the switch will know that is needs to send voice packets first before it sends data packets. Closely related to QoS is a network monitoring system. Network monitoring is used to ensure the overall performance of a network. Essentially this is software that can be run to measure CPU utilization, bandwidth usage and other activities. If failures or slow downs of the network occur the monitoring system will send an alert to a network administrator.

Company Policy
And finally, one thing that can affect the quality of VoIP calls is your company’s policies on Internet usage. A company that allows their employees full access to the Internet by allowing them to constantly stream music or watch YouTube videos runs the risk of gobbling up a lot of their bandwidth and this could cause issues with the VoIP calls.

In summary, Voice over IP telephone call quality has improved over the years. This list isn’t intended to be an end all be all list, but it can give you a basic understanding of the types of things that can affect the quality of phone calls should you deploy a VoIP solution for your business.