Understanding Network Requirements For VOIP

Voice over IP (VOIP) is a fast and flexible way to provide communications, especially for businesses that need a lot of desk phones and calling points without spending a ton of money on copper telephone switches. The requirements are extremely low end depending on your network needs, since you just need a fast enough network and enough headsets or physical phones for the number of employees that need phones, but knowing how to gauge network performance can be tricky. Here are a few details about VOIP network requirements for office use.

How Much Bandwidth Does VOIP Use?

There isn't a single measurement for VOIP call usage, mostly because there are many ways to generate VOIP calls. Like many sources of audio or video, VOIP uses a set of instructions called codecs, which are made of specific techniques to record sound and convert it to data that the computer can use.

Codecs for VOIP specifically have additional instructions, such as how to segment or chop up the VOIP data into sizes that can be sent quickly, but still in close proximity of each other to be received as a steady stream of audio. The reason that so many codecs exist is because there are many ways to tweak a balance between speed and quality, and even deeper preferences for how to achieve such speeds and quality levels.

Documentation for Cisco products--a vendor that provides networking equipment, including VOIP-specific equipment--shows a charge of not only average VOIP data sizes, but the number of packets sent over time, the time it takes for the data to travel, and the number of pieces that the data can be segmented into during the call. 

To get the amount of bandwidth being used, multiple the bandwidth Ethernet times the number of phones you expect to be calling at one time. Many businesses play it safe by multiplying the maximum number of phones, which is often still lower than the average internet package speeds in the US until you get into Enterprise or corporate headquarters-size businesses with thousands of phones.

Priority Is Key

Before settling on the lowest possible internet speed, or assuming that getting the fastest speed is the best, you need to know how network priority works--or rather, how it doesn't work with the right mixture of technology.

It's best to think of internet as controlled streams of water that has their own goals and directions, but it's still possible for all of the data in the water to get mixed up. When you're on a VOIP call, others in the business mat be downloading important files, browsing the web, watching videos, or anything else that uses the network.

With modern technology, these paths of water rarely mix together. Modems, routers, and switches can keep information from mixing around too much out of the box, but there is still a big challenge when it comes to the two biggest pipes; leaving the network and entering the network.

If your network devices are too old or nearing capacity, all of your information can splash together while competing for the right to go in a specific direction. The "cars in traffic" analogy doesn't do these collisions justice, since the information can collide and slow down while continuing its path, and VOIP is too sensitive to deal with that kind of congestion.

VOIP technicians can configure your routers to get top priority of network capacity or bandwidth, ensuring that they get the best possible path while other data sources sort out their issues. Contact a VOIP professional to discuss other ways to keep your VOIP network efficient.