Switching to a virtual phone system can be tricky. And if you’re reading this, you’ve likely seen that even a strong, stable internet connection is no guarantee of a seamless experience. So to get you back on the road to reliable call quality, we’ll outline the most common VoIP issues and offer no-nonsense troubleshooting tips for each.
The Source(s) of Your VoIP ProblemsTo understand what can go wrong, it’s important to understand how VoIP calls are made. When a VoIP user speaks into a microphone, that raw audio is converted into a digitized stream and compressed into data “packets” ranging from 10-40 milliseconds each. Those individual packets are transmitted sequentially through the user’s device, the router, and the VoIP software’s media server (e.g. Twilio or Plivo). This process continues through a carrier network, all the way to a recipient’s device, then repeated in the reverse direction. This multi-step journey presents plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong. You can’t personally step in and fix issues with the carrier or the recipient, but other hiccups can be addressed. The dotted-line box in the image above describes which phases of the call process you can influence directly. That’s where we’ll focus our attention.
So what is going wrong?VoIP issues can make calls difficult or even impossible, from echoing and popping noises, to distortion, one-way-audio, and dropped calls. When your call quality suffers, it may be due to one, or several, of the following:
- Packet loss
A perfect stormIn reality, these issues are somewhat in connection and rarely happen in isolation. A high-speed internet connection alone won’t necessarily solve your VoIP issues. Your network needs proper configuration in order to get the absolute most out of your phone system.
Solving VoIP Issues: Check Your NetworkSorting out and optimizing your network is a serious endeavor. With well planning and guidance, it only needs to do once, and you will see the benefits immediately.
Set Aside Network Bandwidth Just for VoIPIt goes without saying that without sufficient bandwidth, VoIP call quality will always be at risk. Voice packets travel through many stages before they reach a recipient, including access points, routers, switches, and more. Every step is a potential bottleneck and source of frustration. Network prioritization is your ace-in-the-hole to do away with VoIP issues. When users on your network use multiple applications simultaneously, this uses bandwidth and clogs up your network, like a highway during rush hour. When lanes are not designate properly, congestion will quickly build up, and traffic will eventually slow to a stop. Think of network prioritization as adding carpool, emergency vehicle, and “Exit Only” lanes to our metaphorical highway. (assume this is in a world where traffic signs are obeyed.) Reserving space for specific purposes won’t eliminate traffic congestion completely, but it will allow high-priority vehicles (whether apps or ambulances) to travel unhindered when necessary. With network prioritization, you can designate a few lanes (i.e. bandwidth) for VoIP only. This will make sure there’s plenty of space for your conversations to maneuver. In the industry, this earmarking process is called Quality of Service (QoS). It ensures voice packets have higher bandwidth priority than other data packets. Setup requires configuring your router’s bandwidth specifications. This task can be a bit complicating and should be done by an IT professional.
Avoid WiFi When PossiblePlacing calls through a WiFi network means you’re more likely to experience VoIP issues. WiFi coverage can be spotty, leading to inconsistent experiences around your office. This is because:
- Most expensive, professional-grade routers need to be manually configured.
- Wifi was never designed with real-time applications in mind.
- There are likely many internet-connected devices using your WiFi network, competing for bandwidth.