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VoIP and Bandwidth Issues

Updated on September 11, 2012
VoIP bandwidth requirements
VoIP bandwidth requirements

Evaluating the Bandwidth Impact of VoIP

Everyone knows that wireless data networks are not the same as the traditional wired Internet connection that you have at home – or even Wi-Fi. There are significant differences in both speed, latency, as well as connectivity issues. Wired ethernet connections are always the most reliable and the closest parallel to that in the wireless world is Wi-Fi. However, carriers are investing a significant amount of money in upgrading their networks to the latest 4G LTE technologies and this gap is closing very quickly. The latest 4G speeds are touted as being equal to or even better than Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, along with this improvement is the fact that many telecom companies are imposing bandwidth caps for wireless data customers. The trend several years ago was unlimited data but as more and more individuals pick up smartphones and begin to access media heavy content on their devices, it seems that carriers are having trouble coping with the demand.

This may seem to bode ill for advanced Internet services such as VoIP that rely on a seamless Internet connection without bandwidth caps. But many people overestimate the amount of Internet data that a VoIP application consumes. If we take the sound quality of an average telephone call sampled at 8 kHz, it barely uses up any bandwidth at all. Even a humble dial-up modem can easily keep up with the speed requirements. VoIP however aims to do more than that. It gives better sound quality using more advanced HD voice codecs whenever possible. So the amount of Internet usage goes up a bit. But not by much.

VoIP Codecs

There are many different codecs in use for VoIP applications and the exact amount of data they use varies between them. But even some of the highest quality HD voice codecs don't require more than 64kbps. Let's double that to make sure for both upload and download speeds and you still have voice data requirements that are so low as to be almost negligible.

How low is this exactly? In short, it's around 1/10 of the data speech required to smoothly watch a YouTube video without stuttering! How many videos you watch? Multiply that by 10 and that is the amount of time that you can talk using VoIP on your wireless data connection. Also consider that most of the time you will be talking over Wi-Fi since you will probably be at home or at work. These minutes do not count towards your bandwidth data caps. So all things considered you're actually set up pretty good. With increasing data speeds, VoIP is set to strengthen its position. Contact an ITSP who provides Boston phone services. The true danger lies with telecom carriers trying to impose VoIP regulation on Internet services in order to protect their own interests.

Fortunately, bandwidth caps do not pose a threat to VoIP.

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