Hosted VoIP is an excellent example. By hosted VoIP, we’re referring to an IP-cloud phone service where PBX functionality resides on an application server maintained by your service provider and is usually sold on a per-user-seat basis. Typically, with hosted phone applications, your provider also bundles the network call paths over which VoIP is carried. With the refinement of VoIP core-network technology over the past decade by the likes of Cisco, Argent, BroadSoft and Sonus, the quality of VoIP has increased substantially. For that matter, the core of major IP networks, wherein transport, signaling and hosted functions are provided, now operates at levels of performance comparable to traditional TDM networks. So why is VoIP still perceived to be inferior to traditional TDM services?
One major issue with hosted VoIP is often in the local network transport – the Internet broadband connection – and it’s usually the easiest part of the problem to solve. The problem may be as simple as insufficient bandwidth on your connection. With voice and data converged over the same facility, it stands to reason that your bandwidth, once used just for Internet data transport, must be increased to accommodate your hosted voice traffic. Yet, even if the bandwidth is sized correctly, there will be occasion when prioritizing voice packets will be necessary when they compete with your data packets for the same broadband pipe. A split second delay in a data download is usually more tolerable (and less noticed) than a disconnected phone call, which could occur with hosted VoIP with the exact same packet delay. Packet prioritization is usually accomplished by your LAN router.
In addition to pipe size and packet priority, the type of Internet broadband that you use will also affect your hosted VoIP quality. DSL, for example, is the most popular type of high speed Internet used by small businesses. DSL, however, is supported by a contention-based network. That means your packets, prioritized and sent successfully from you LAN over your DSL connection, still have to “contend” for transport onto the Internet once they reach the other side of the local DSL facility. If the DSL aggregation point (DSLAM) is experiencing a high load of your provider’s traffic, your packets will be delayed, and your hosted VoIP call degraded. It’s often that simple.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Your network connection may be it!