September 2011

VoIP Quality

What’s the Quality Like of VoIP?

By: Peter Radizeski, RAD-INFO INC

There is a range of quality when it comes to VoIP. Cellphone calls run on VoIP, so you have an idea of what I mean.

But if you are selling VoIP (and if you are a channel partner, you HAVE to be), how do you decide what VoIP to sell? There are so many VoIP Providers it is mind boggling.

Start with OTT VoIP or BYOB VoIP like FreedomVoice, Grasshopper and Packet8. These are services riding over-the-top (OTT) of your broadband; hence, bring your own broadband (BYOB) type of Voice of Internet Protocol (VoIP). These companies deliver a quality service for a cost savings, which is the way a majority of VoIP is sold (on “I will save you money”).
In an economic climate where it takes a 20% price cut to get business managers to make a change that might not be possible with VoIP, even if it is sold as just a POTS replacement service. (And for the people that just want cheap, there are offerings from Google Voice, Skype and Vonage.)

Quality from OTT providers will depend upon a number of factors – including the quality of the broadband service – some of which will be out of control of the channel partner or the customer. For example, congestion at the DSLAM or the SIP Gateway (or anywhere in-between) will not be issues that can be resolved and the customer will have to accept the call quality (much as they do from a cell phone call.)

The quality of the broadband will affect more than just the VoIP. It will affect other real-time applications, like web conferencing (Webex); video conferencing (Vidyo); virtual desktop (Citrix); and database and SAAS usage (Salesforce). Sometimes a business would do better to purchase business-class service or even dedicated Internet Access for their Internet bandwidth if they have a need for high demand applications.

Some VoIP providers have decided that it is not economically feasible to provide high voice call quality, because quality costs money to deliver. Providing high quality voice means adding extra gateways, which require collocation, power and connectivity. Getting gateways closer to the customer can improve quality, but adds costs.

Another way to improve call quality is for the VoIP Provider to directly connect with many of the top ISP’s in order to (possibly) decrease latency and packet loss. I say possibly because there may be issues with middle mile or with the size of the inter-connection that create congestion. A different way to look at this is for the customer to use the same ISP (Internet Service Providers) as the VoIP Provider, since in many cases it will ride on the same carrier network from customer to gateway.

To go up the stack in quality, the client would need to be On-Net with the VoIP Provider. By that, I mean that the access circuit (T1, Metro Ethernet, DSL or other broadband access) for the customer would need to connect directly with the VoIP Provider. This means that the client will have Voice over IP as opposed to Voice over the Internet. It’s usually a better experience.

Now, On-Net doesn’t necessarily mean buying an MPLS circuit from the provider. It can mean that a regional provider, like PBX-Change in Tampa Bay or M5 Networks in NYC, will be connected to the Internet providers in the region in order to provide a better quality service to the customer. If an ISP furnished broadband circuits from their POP, it would provide for On-Net service for the customer. In other words, the voice packets would traverse the broadband to the ISP POP and not out over the Internet. The other kind of On-Net involves either an MPLS network or private lines, both of which add expense to the Managed VoIP solution. (The industry is starting to call end-to-end solutions like Hosted PBX over a private network as Managed Services; hence, the Managed VoIP solution.

SIP trunks are usually provided via a T1 or larger circuit by a VoIP Provider (or carrier like Broadvox or XO). Inherently, quality is controlled by the VoIP Provider through the T1 circuit that the trunk rides on. This is an On-Net solution.

When a channel partner is choosing a VoIP Provider, he (or she) should learn about the way in which the VoIP service will be delivered for two reasons. One, On-Net is more expensive. In the case of MPLS or private line, the size of the customer must warrant the circuit size and expense. Two, if the VoIP service is not riding OTT and the provider wants to provide the access circuit, the sale will be contingent upon the state of the contract the business has for its current access. This will delay a sale – or even complicate it.

For channel partners, having both an OTT and a Managed VoIP Provider in your toolbox will enable you to deliver the VoIP solution best suited for the customer. During the sales process, rendering an appropriate expectation about the quality may help you to alleviate customer concerns later. Of course, you want to be comfortable with the solution you sell, so check your providers out carefully.

About the Author
Peter Radizeski, President of RAD-INFO INC, started as a telecom agent in 1999. Now, he is an industry blogger, speaker, author and consultant. His website is