VoIP Call Quality – Is it as Good as Regular Phones?

Posted on: 2018-06-22 | Categories:SIP

One oft-repeated concern about VoIP calls is the quality of audio. Even though the technology has been around for decades, people continue to ask this question. To be fair – if your only experience with VoIP is using free consumer services like Skype – it’s a valid concern.

Free services provide exactly what they claim – free or inexpensive calls to friends and family members. They are under no obligation to provide the best quality or reliability for users. You’re not paying for the service which means they don’t have any incentive to offer improvements and upgrades. So calls can be choppy and have poor quality audio, especially since residential Internet connections are not as fast as business-grade ones.

However, business-grade VoIP services offer much better quality. Many of them offer upgrades to HD quality voice in certain plans. If you’re wondering whether VoIP is the best fit for your organization in terms of quality, you can set aside your concerns. VoIP call quality is not merely as good as POTS calls but is, in fact, much better!

Factors That Affect VoIP Call Quality

That being said, not everyone is going to get the best audio quality all the time. Some companies see a dip in quality during severe weather conditions. Others have hardware issues that are expensive to solve (swapping out all the old routers for example). Sometimes, call quality can degrade over time as traffic patterns change or more applications start using bandwidth without a corresponding infrastructure upgrade.

Factors that affect VoIP call quality include:

Hardware

Most landline phones and mobile phones feature cheap audio hardware. This refers to the speakers and microphones which are necessary for transmitting calls. This is true of basic VoIP phones as well. Hardware quality extends to other equipment on the network as well such as routers, security appliances etc. But when it comes to phones, you need good quality speakers and microphones for crystal clear audio.

Bandwidth

The quality of any VoIP call depends on the available bandwidth. The more calls that are going on concurrently, the more bandwidth you need. But audio calls are not the only traffic on your network. Your employees use the same Internet connection for streaming videos, downloading applications, using business services like ERP systems and so on.

If a person starts streaming a training video at the same time as several VoIP calls are in progress, quality is certain to drop. Organizations generally get around this by making sure they have the extra bandwidth or by segregating VoIP calls to a separate VLAN so they are unaffected by excess traffic.

Frequencies

VoIP phones operate on different frequencies. In some cases, other VoIP equipment can interfere with call quality they operate on the same frequency and they are close by. This is not a very common problem though. But if all other troubleshooting options have failed, changing the VoIP phone to one that uses a different frequency might solve the issue.

Even the location of different hardware can impact call quality and cause interference. Putting your VoIP adapter close to your router can cause issues due to electrical feedback are static. The problem may only become noticeable in certain weather conditions but may function well at other times. Fixing this issue is often a process of trial and error.

Unoptimized Data Networks

Unlike other forms of Internet traffic, voice calls happen in real-time. They are sensitive to delays even if it happens for a fraction of a second. Jitter, latency, poor QoS settings, and incorrect packet categorization can all affect quality. Quite a few organizations use the default settings on various equipment, forgetting that network have to be optimized for voice traffic. If you don’t categorize voice packets, direct them along optimal routes, and make sure to implement quality settings, VoIP calls are not going to sound good.

Another factor – that is largely not in your control – is the type of codec that your service provider uses. Voice codecs are responsible for converting audio signals to data packets and back again at the destination. Some codecs are developed to reduce bandwidth consumption by using more efficient compression algorithms. Others are designed for high-quality audio but use more bandwidth in return. It is best to ask your VoIP vendor what type of codec they use before purchasing the services.

Today, VoIP audio quality is leagues ahead of where it used to be. Business organizations can afford to pay for better equipment, optimization, and other network improvements. It means you’re more likely to get high-quality calls than the average consumer. Most users cannot actually tell the difference between a traditional landline call and one that travels over the Internet. If you are having trouble with call quality, it might have more to do with specific factors like hardware than a weakness in the underlying technology.