How to Improve VoIP Sound Quality

Posted on: 2015-12-11 | Categories:Business VoIP VoIP VoIP Phones VoIP Services VoIP Technology

In spite of the innovation and progress of the VoIP industry over the last decade, many executives continue to believe in the persistent myth that sound quality on VoIP networks is not comparable to analog phone networks. In a way, they may actually be right since VoIP sound quality can actually be better than POTS!

Generally the reason for this myth is because the business has never tried VoIP, is currently experiencing voice issues or they tried out VoIP a while back but went back to their old systems because of problems with quality.

If an organization is experiencing dropped calls, background noise, garbled words or any other quality issues, the first instinct may be to increase bandwidth or Internet speeds. While that could be one of the reasons, it is not the only factor contributing to sound quality.

So what can a business do to improve VoIP sound quality? Here are a few factors you might want to consider:

Get faster Internet

It is true that slow Internet may not always be the problem but it can sometimes be the bottleneck that is degrading voice quality. Maybe the Internet speeds were adequate a couple of years ago but the needs of the business have changed.

Enterprise data networks carry ever-increasing volumes of data, so it should not come as a surprise that voice quality reduces over time. It may simply be that the existing Internet connection is unable to cope with the extra demand.

Another factor to consider is ISP performance. Sometimes you may simply not be getting the speeds promised in your SLA. If that is indeed the problem, you might want to consider switching vendors.

Reduce network load at Peak Times

As enterprises move away from on premise installations to cloud-based SaaS for various business processes, network congestion is a real concern. If voice quality drops significantly during peak times but is otherwise good, upgrading the Internet speeds may not always  be the best solution.

Rather than trying to restrict the maximum number of concurrent calls or pausing downloads while someone makes a VoIP call, it may be better to the redistribute some of the load to nonpeak hours. For instance, the business may want to run bandwidth heavy tasks such as automated file syncing or backups at night or in the early morning to reduce congestion.

Optimize QoS settings

Proper QoS settings can have a considerable impact on voice quality as the correct settings will allow network hardware to give priority to voice calls over other forms of traffic. However these are not always properly configured or they may not have been set up at all!

Generally routers tend to use First In First Out when it comes to data packets. This means that without QoS, voice packets will not be given priority often leading to dropped or missed packets. On the other hand, with proper QoS tagging, voice packets will be correctly identified and pushed to the front of the queue.

Comprehensive Network Assessment

Sometimes the issue goes deeper than Internet speeds or bandwidth. Factors like jitter and latency can significantly deteriorate the quality of voice calls, regardless of the available bandwidth.

Latency is the time delay for packets to reach their destination from the source. If part of the call travels over the public Internet, latency may increase past the threshold required for high quality audio.

In the same vein, jitter is the variability in time delay across individual packets. It means that the various data packages do not arrive in the same order in which they were sent. From the source endpoint, data is sent in a continuous stream. However at the destination they may appear out of order or in bursts depending on jitter.

A comprehensive network assessment will be useful in identifying if these metrics are close to the standard or not. QoS settings can partly take care of latency but other solutions include policy-based network management, Multi Protocol Label Switching or bandwidth reservation. In the case of jitter, installing a jitter buffer or identifying and eliminating the source of jitter are effective solutions.

Get specialized VoIP hardware

Sometimes businesses are assured by vendors that they can use their current equipment with adapters and headsets with VoIP. It is technically true but you may not always get optimum call quality with such devices. If the business needs to get started with VoIP immediately at the lowest cost possible, such an approach would be appropriate.

However even if that was the most cost-effective approach at first, it is better to upgrade equipment such as the desk phones, routers etc. over time, as and when the business can afford to. No matter how many optimizations or software settings are changed, it can be difficult to improve sound quality on bad hardware.

There are many factors that affect VoIP sound and these are a few steps that can be done to improve call quality on VoIP deployments.