What Internet Speed Do You Need to Support VoIP?

Obviously, faster Internet is usually better than slow Internet access. But, how much speed is really necessary for VoIP service? What do you need to keep your calls high-quality–that’s the real question. VoIP, or Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) has actually been around commercially since the 1990s and existed as a possibility much earlier when the technology began with the Internet itself. It would take some time before the Internet speeds were fast enough for meaningful VoIP speeds. Now, though, this is much less of a concern with the right connection.

In this article, we’ll talk about what you need to consider when getting VoIP and how to choose the right Internet speed. We’ll also look at some of the reasons Internet speeds make a difference. If you’re interested in getting a better connection, you’ll know how to determine if your connection is too slow to function properly. There are some basic problems that can occur with VoIP that may change the sound quality dramatically.

Article Contents:

  1. VoIP Sound Issues
  2. Choosing a Great Connection
  3. Troubleshooting Connections

1. VoIP Sound Issues

We know that VoIP is transported over the Internet, using packets of data that are sent along various routes and reassembled at their destination as audio. Instead of using landlines to transmit this data, VoIP relies primarily on the Internet–because VoIP connections can still call traditional wired connections, some of the path call data takes will probably use landline wiring routes. If this is the case, you will probably have limited control over making every part of your connection high-quality. Thankfully, there is often a lot you do have control over. Your Internet connection speed is one very important factor.

As such, there are various points in transit where sound issues can crop up. Finding and identifying these problems can help you get your connection working again or restore quality to your connection if it’s suffering from noticeable problems.

2. Choosing a Great Connection

To find the right connection for you, you first need to decide how you’ll be using your VoIP connection primarily so you know what speed will benefit you the most.

Generally, you’ll need these things in a great connection:

  • Reliability: Uptime that’s consistent is essential for businesses that rely on their phone service. It’s also important to find out how reliable your VoIP vendor is. Doing your own investigation can help ensure that you’ve considered actual user experiences, reviews, and more.
  • Bandwidth: How much bandwidth is available for your VoIP connection? Because you’ll definitely need enough to cover your VoIP call usage. It turns out that using the same connection with VoIP and with web surfing can slow down your calls and interfere with your call quality.
  • Speed: Okay, you’ll also need a great connection speed, and just how fast it needs to be depends on a variety of factors.

Speed’s Contribution to Connection Quality

Basically, your speed declines dramatically as you use up bandwidth. Your speed and bandwidth are essentially two ways of describing the same thing. Two sides of the same coin–speed is just how you perceive and experience bandwidth when you use the Internet.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind:

  • VoIP Call Protocol: Depending on the protocol you use, you’ll get different quality levels and need different amounts of bandwidth. So your mileage may vary.
  • Typical Calls: If you are using G711 protocol, which is fairly common for VoIP calls, you will probably need at least 64kpbs for one call. Other protocols may have different requirements.
  • Your Business Demands: Businesses using a lot of calls on the same connection simultaneously will need higher Internet speeds. If you are using the same connection to run a lot of phones or do heavy web browsing and downloads, you’ll likely need much more speed. Businesses that rely on a lot of web conferencing and other bandwidth-heavy activity may need to make adjustments in order to reserve speed for their VoIP calls.
  • Availability: Like it or not, some areas don’t have fast Internet available. Shop around and get the fastest Internet that your budget and region allow.
  • Equipment: Even with a fast connection, factors such as a slow router or aging equipment can negatively impact your Internet speed and make it more difficult to run your VoIP phone system. Upgrade your equipment regularly and keep the software updated as well. Router manufacturers, for instance, often release firmware updates that can make a meaningful difference in security and speed.
  • Your VoIP Service: The specific needs of your VoIP plan, your integrations, applications and software can also make a difference. Find out from your vendor if your service will require special speed standards.

3. Troubleshooting Connections

Keep in mind that speed isn’t the only factor in VoIP phone call quality. Many other characteristics and influences can impact your calls, and sometimes it’s hard to tell if speed is really the problem or not.

Here are some additional considerations that may help you determine if you are really dealing with bandwidth and speed issues:

  • Latency: Latency issues can sometimes disguise themselves a problem with bandwidth, but latency can be caused by problem landline wiring, distance, and prioritization problems. It’s important not to simply assume that all delays in phone calls are caused by problems with speed.
  • Jitter: Having nothing to do with connection speed, jitter (or jumbled, garbled calls) is caused by a prioritization problem with VoIP data packets as they are being transmitted. Data packets are sent out of order sometimes or arrive taking different routes along the Internet to arrive in a garbled mess. Or, some packets arrive sooner than others, causing delays that come and go. This isn’t about bandwidth per se–it’s about priority, with some other data packets crowding out important VoIP data so it either doesn’t arrive or arrives with problems. To fix this problem, you’ll need to change prioritization or set rules for how data is routed. VoIP data needs to be a high enough priority to arrive at its destination without interference from other, competing types of data.
  • Network Configurations: The network may be configured wrong for what you’re trying to accomplish. Keep in mind that many VoIP systems are relatively new and many companies have been using their networks for a variety of different activities that have absolutely nothing to do with VoIP calls. So, you’ll need to re-configure the network to meet your new needs–now that you’re adding VoIP calls, the connection needs to know how to treat VoIP data so you get the level of quality you’re looking for.

Now that you know how speed and bandwidth impact your connection, you probably understand the benefit of faster Internet for your VoIP phone service. Faster Internet does mean you can have more calls simultaneously. If you need a dozen different calls at once, for instance, you will probably need to get a connection with at least 1 Mbps. From there, add bandwidth for every additional phone call you would run at the same time. And if you use your connection for anything else at all, factor that in as well.

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