Is Using a Leased Line for VoIP a Good Idea?

Posted on: 2017-08-04 | Categories:SIP

For a long while, VoIP calls were synonymous with poor quality audio. Slowly providers started improving audio quality to the point where individuals and households could no longer tell the difference between VoIP and PSTN calls. Even then, organizations were wary of VoIP and for good reasons. Call quality is not just about clarity of voice, especially for businesses. Enterprises also needed reliable connections to the outside world when making calls.

Today enterprise VoIP quality is on par with traditional phone calls. Enterprise providers have built up their infrastructure to be robust to deliver reliability. But even though the technology itself has improved by leaps and bounds, some organizations continue to suffer with bad quality audio.

Solving this problem is not always easy. Enterprises need to start by identifying the likely cause of the issue but that’s only the first step. Then you need to figure out what you need to resolve it. However most companies go wrong at the first step! Many executives assume that slow Internet connections or lack of bandwidth is the only reason for bad VoIP call quality. So will getting a better Internet connection solve your quality problems?

Slow Internet Is Not the Only Reason for Bad Quality

If slow speeds or insufficient bandwidth is the actual reason for your poor audio quality, then upgrading it will probably solve a part of the issue. But many organizations rely on data connections for everyday workflows. This means that few enterprises have insufficient bandwidth, most have excess capacity for business continuity. In many cases, there will be nothing wrong with the Internet connection from your ISP. But you may still have dropped calls, missed conversations, echoes or other quality issues.

LAN Issues

Perhaps the most common cause of poor quality audio is lack of appropriate QoS settings on your network. Before you go rushing off to buy more bandwidth, you might want to check the quality settings on your hardware and software. When audio calls and other types of data travel on the same network, VoIP packets need to be given priority at network checkpoints.

Voice calls happen in real-time which means that even a small delay in delivering packets can cause significant pauses in conversations. The order and timing of packet delivery is crucial for superior call quality. If QoS is not implemented correctly, your voice calls will suffer even if you have high-speed Internet connections and more bandwidth than you know what to do with.

Dedicated VoIP Circuit

If QoS settings are not the root cause, we can move on to other potential issues. Packet loss, jitter and latency are the enemies of VoIP call quality. You can control all of these variables on your internal LAN. But it is next to impossible to correct them on the public Internet. To most organizations, hosted VoIP means sending calls over the Internet. But just because you’re using hosted services on IP protocols doesn’t mean you are forced to use the public Internet for audio calls.

There is an alternative to using the Internet but most organizations brush it aside assuming that it is expensive. Instead of relying on an Internet connection from your ISP, you might want to consider a dedicated circuit as an alternative. What does this mean and who do you get it from? You can get a dedicated circuit for VoIP calls from your hosted service vendor. This could be a fiber line, T1 or even Ethernet over copper.

The biggest difference between this and your typical ISP connection is that it provides a direct and private connection between your organization and the vendor’s servers. Your hosted provider can control everything about the connection including packet loss, jitter and latency. In many cases, it will cost about the same as your existing connection with the ISP. Instead of getting a separate bill from your ISP and the VoIP provider, you will now get both bills from the same vendor.

The VoIP vendor can configure the connection to prioritize voice calls. The same connection can also deliver access to the public Internet using leftover bandwidth. The actual consumption of bandwidth for voice calls will vary according to call volume and the codec used.

So why don’t more companies use this alternative? The reason is simple – not many enterprises actually need this. For most small and medium businesses, using hosted VoIP services over the public Internet is sufficient. Once you have fixed any QoS issues on your internal LAN, you should not have any major quality issues.

Many hosted providers do not offer this option at all because their customers don’t ask for it. Delivering a dedicated circuit is also more involved than providing phone services.  But if you have tried everything else and voice quality is still poor, it may be time for you to consider a dedicated circuit for VoIP.