VoIP Blog #2: A hidden cost – Your internet connection

Free calls on the internet

As stated in the previous article, sending your calls over the internet allows you to communicate with others anywhere in the world. But wait… doesn’t a plain old telephone line let you do that too? Of course, but what most people have discovered is that calls using VoIP can be significantly cheaper. However, one thing that you must consider before deploying VoIP for your business, is how suitable your internet connection is.

Two ways your current internet might not be up to the task

1. The Upload Speed Problem

One key to the cost of VoIP resides in the main feature of high-speed internet: its speed (aka bandwidth). The speed is measured two ways: “Download speed” and “Upload speed”. Most internet connections today have a download speed fast enough to support voice and even video streaming (like watching YouTube). That is information being sent “down” to you. For a stream of your likeness to be transmitted “UP” to the internet, the same amount of data must be sent. If the upload speed is not enough, you cannot communicate. Every internet connection, even fiber-optic, has slower upload speed than its download speed, except for a T-1 connection.

2. It’s not the speed, it’s how you use it

This bandwidth/speed must also be reliable, and more specifically, consistent. Unlike common internet uses (loading web pages, checking email, watching online videos), streaming live voice or video cannot be buffered. It is real-time, so any interruption will cause the voice to cut off or the video to freeze.

For example, wireless networks have problems with congestion and interference, so they can have problems delivering a constant stream of information. Living far from major metropolitan areas may be cheaper, but the internet in those areas can be terrible for streaming. You may also run into congestion problems because your bandwidth is shared amongst different users or even your neighbors.

Summary

There lies the first hidden cost of VoIP: Paying for a premium internet connection, at both ends. Where you are located dictates how many options you have, which greatly affects the potential costs. Being informed of this before deployment is crucial. Many times when I encounter a business that is having VoIP problems, it is because the provider and/or the other vendors did not tell them their internet connection was inadequate (whether it is because they were ignorant or deceitful).

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