If you are experiencing problems with audio quality on VoIP phone calls, the problem may not be your phone or your phone carrier, but instead may likely be caused by your Internet connection.

Congestion Is The Cause – At Phoneware are able to analyze phone calls and determine if the internet connection is currently experiencing problems with latency or packet loss. Latency is not the same as bandwidth. Think of bandwidth as the number of lanes on a freeway, and latency is like the speed of the cars traveling on the freeway. When one has high latency, it is the equivalent of traffic stalled on the freeway.  And just like a freeway, internet latency is caused by traffic congestion.

Voice over IP and Internet Video are Sensitive to Latency – Voice and video packets are very sensitive to delays in transmission, so when latency problems exist, it will cause cloud-based VoIP phone service and video service like Zoom to experience problems. Often, the congestion or latency is only a problem in one direction. Typically, it is the upload or sending traffic that experiences delays. This would cause the voice or video that is sent to sound or appear choppy or jumpy, while the audio heard or video seen by the local user is fine.

Can Internet Latency Be Self-Inflicted? – Sometimes. It is possible that internet congestion and resulting latency can be the result of overuse of the available bandwidth by a cloud-based backup, or cloud-based file storage services like OneDrive, Google Drive, or iCloud. If someone is uploading a large volume of files, it could cause all available bandwidth to be consumed, and result in congestion and latency. Most cloud-based file storage services and the associated programs that run on your computer allow throttling of bandwidth usage. We recommend setting these for about half of the available bandwidth. For example, for a 50Mbps x 10Mbps connection, the cloud-based file storage service should be set to use a maximum of 5Mbps.

The Pandemic Is Partially To Blame – Some internet carriers are experiencing congestion and latency problems in their networks due to the increase in remote working, remote schooling, and video conferencing due to the pandemic. In our experience, carriers who provide internet service over cable TV networks have been hit especially hard, and many of them are struggling in many areas to meet the varying data traffic demand. When traffic gets heavy, it exceeds their network capacities, resulting in congestion and latency, and poor quality VoIP audio and internet video.

Would More Bandwidth Help?  – Probably not. It depends on whether the problem is self-inflicted or due to congestion problems with the internet provider. If it is a self-inflicted problem, then it is possible that increasing bandwidth might help. However, if the cause is congestion in the area with the internet service provider, increasing bandwidth might actually worsen the problem. Think of this as putting even more cars on that already congested freeway.

What Is The Solution? Step 1 – Is the equipment working ok? If you do not believe that you are transferring large amounts of data that might be causing congestion and/or latency problems, then it is possible that a component of your internet connection is malfunctioning. You may reset your cable modem and router to see if this resolves the problem.

What Is The Solution? Step 2 – Report trouble to your Internet Service Provider — If you are still having problems, the next step would be to report latency problems to your internet carrier. If your carrier is having problems in your area, unfortunately, it will not be a quick or easy task to resolve this, and it usually takes a process of months to add more capacity to the network.

What Is The Solution? Step 3 – Alternate Internet Service Provider – The last alternative is to get an internet connection from another internet service provider who is not experiencing latency problems. Centurylink DSL is typically the best source for this. You can either add the DSL connection just for the VoIP phones, or replace your current internet service altogether if the new service offers a better price/performance package. At the time of this writing, Centurylink DSL is $49 per month on a month-to-month basis with no contract.

Am I A Candidate? – You can check your address at https://shop.centurylink.com to see if Centurylink DSL is available at your address, and the bandwidth that is available. Centurylink DSL is distance. But, before you order new internet service, we suggest that the initial steps of isolating the cause of your internet congestion are first performed.

How Can I Cover the Cost? – It is often possible in most cases to get a discount from Cox for your current internet service due to problems in their network. This might be able to completely offset the cost of the second internet connection.

We are here to help however we can. We can help to analyze the problem, research internet equipment problems, work with your internet carrier, and help set up a new internet connection.

The purpose of this article is to inform, help identify problem causes, and find solutions.