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How to Get the Best VoIP Sound Quality

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shutterstock_92088428While VoIP telephony has soared in popularity in the last few years, sound quality has been the one issue that has kept many from making the switch to this new technology.

Because VoIP uses the Internet, the quality of calls is tied closely to the quality of the Internet connection being used. Because this can vary, VoIP call quality has been somewhat inconsistent.

Problems that can occur include:

  • Jitter – jerky, jumbled speech playback caused by data packets arriving at the wrong times or out of sequence.
  • Packet loss – where packets don’t make it to the codec due to weak signals, link failures, high congestion or mis-routing.
  • Latency – where packets are delayed in reaching the codec due to slow network links, resulting in lags or gaps in speech.
  • Echo – where voice feedback is heard due either to acoustic or electrical problems.
  • Interference – background noise such as humming or static, often caused by wireless interference from other nearby appliances.

There are a number of ways to improve VoIP call quality and significant improvements are being made in this area all the time.

Jitter, for instance, can be reduced with the use of a jitter buffer, which is installed at the receiving end of the data stream. It works by capturing and sorting the arriving data and then feeding it to the codec in the right order and at the right speed.

Using good quality equipment can also make a huge difference to call quality. Choosing modems or ATAs (Analogue Telephone Adapters) with good compression characteristics and features such as echo cancellation can definitely help.

But by far the biggest culprit in the causes of poor call quality is the Internet connection itself. Considerations such as the following should always be a high priority:

  • Choose a good Internet Service Provider (ISP) – one that doesn’t oversubscribe their service, resulting in congestion.
  • Choose a good VoIP provider – one that adheres to the universally-recognised Quality of Service principles, which can have an effect on call quality.
  • Make sure you have adequate and consistent bandwidth – this means not having too many other programs and applications using (and thus reducing) your bandwidth.

Sound quality is improving all the time and as broadband gets faster and more reliable (as with the current NBN rollout), call quality will start to become less of an issue. This will then encourage those still sitting on the fence to take the plunge and join everyone else who’s already made the switch to VoIP.

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