VOIP: fibre road to VOIP call perfection
The road to VOIP call perfection still remains in the hands of the connectivity giants laying down and managing the data highway. Fortunately, the technology has evolved and the materials used to build the network are vastly more advanced and definitely more future-proof.
Unfortunately, VOIP providers are still confronted with: "I have a 10MB fibre line, so why are the calls dropping?" The complexity of reasons range from high latency, packet loss, jitter, device configuration and sometimes they simply have a 10MB fibre package that has a contention ratio of a million to one, and they are only guaranteed the full 10MB speed 10% a month, and that may be on a Sunday at 1:43am. It's like being given a chance to drive the latest VOIP Formula One car, but the fibre track you're given access to has gravel and potholes.
In the past, VOIP providers found themselves at the mercy of best-effort data technology because of the limitations of copper, but now the struggle is due to best-effort products running on state-of-the-art technology. In an ideal world, clients using your voice service also have your data products, but we all know this is not always the case.
While there may be instances where the full solution for voice and data sits in your hands, it is not always guaranteed to be that way. If you find yourself in this situation where you only own part of the solution, be prepared to address a variety of issues that sit outside of your control.
As a VOIP provider that prides itself in offering its client the best VOIP experience, how do you proceed when the connectivity part is not yours?
* Identify the current connectivity provider. The more established providers understand that VOIP traffic needs to be handled differently, and it's also likely they have dealt with an array of VOIP providers in the past.
* Confirm the type of service the client has signed up for. Not all clients really spend time reading the fine print, and many of those who do skim through it aren't concerned about it until the product doesn't work in the way they had hoped for. It would be good for you, as the external party, to review the agreement. Fibre is fibre but broadband fibre and dedicated fibre services are not the same thing.
* Are they getting what they paid for? Clients are always happier when the Internet is faster than it was before, but what they don't realise is that it could or should be better. Some clients utilise some kind of online speed test, and sometimes the problem is clear, but generally, the problem gets overlooked. Do your own thorough testing and give the client substantive feedback. Ping tests and trace routes are a step up, but top VOIP providers will have software that can monitor the quality of the line 24/7. Wanatel's resellers have the option of accessing the advanced VOIP monitoring software, which makes troubleshooting and line analysis simple.
* Understand how they handle VOIP traffic? Do they prioritise VOIP traffic? Do they offer dedicated bandwidth for VOIP-only traffic, and if they do, is this option available to an independent VOIP provider?
* How has the internal network been configured? Is the voice and data network separate, or is it only separated at the gateway or firewall?
* How long is the connectivity contract term? Sometimes the best option is finding a new connectivity provider. Hopefully the client is nearing the end of the contract term and you will be able to advise them accordingly. If they are stuck in a contract that still seems like a life sentence, maybe an additional connectivity solution is the answer for business grade VOIP.
VOIP should no longer be viewed as a product of the future, but a solution for the now. For this to be possible, voice and data providers need to work together to make the overall user experience world-class. Wanatel's experience has shown that most connectivity providers are willing to make the required changes to improve the client's VOIP experience. Unfortunately, it's most and not all.