With so many of us thrust into working from home situations, we’re heavily reliant on telecommunications — and despite all of the benefits to collaboration software, a phone is, and always will be, an integral tool in your communications tool belt.
Your personal smartphone, however, doesn’t usually offer you the same functionality and access as your office phone — not to mention the problems associated with using your personal phone number, as well as running up your phone bill.
Luckily, there’s an answer to this: VoIP. Many VoIP services are currently providing remote workers with the ability to essentially turn their smartphone into their office phone, using call forwarding.
This isn’t to say, however, that VoIP services don’t come with their own unique problems. Here are some you may experience when using a VoIP service from home.
VoIP PROBLEMS OF THE PAST
Most of the problems associated with VoIP are those dealing with call quality — such as jitter, latency, and lack of bandwidth. In a regular situation — meaning working in the office, rather than at home — virtually every issue associated with VoIP can be fixed with upgrades to your business’ network infrastructure. These solutions often revolve around a session border controller, which basically controls how much bandwidth is available for VoIP calls.
Conversations that take place using VoIP technology are broken down into millions of tiny packs of voice data, and then sent through the internet to the phone at the other end of the connection — Hence the name, Voice over IP. Because VoIP uses your internet connection in order to transfer your voice, rather than a landline, it requires bandwidth — and if the proper of bandwidth isn’t allotted, your voice will distort.
This distortion will be heard as stuttering voices, voices sounding like they are coming from underwater, or through a tunnel. Sometimes, when the call is occurring through a very slow connection, you’ll only hear a cacophony of noise as packets of voice information are lost and played on top of each other.
And up until now, these issues were easily solvable in a businesses environment for two reasons; the bandwidth a call requires is measured in kilobytes, and businesses usually have the financial capability to ensure this problem is resolved.
Unfortunately, for most home offices, the aforementioned session border controller is out of the question. First off, a session border controller on the cheap end will cost you around $400 to $500. Second, session border controllers require time and skill to set up, and are a piece of a server — they require other pieces of hardware to function.
So, how do you fix the issue of bandwidth without a session border controller?
VoIP PROBLEMS OF THE PRESENT
The problems may have changed locations, but VoIP voice quality issues experienced at home occur for the same reason these issues happen at the office — bandwidth.
Unfortunately, your bandwidth at home is determined by your ISP and your router. This means that the more data passing through your router and into your ISP’s infrastructure, the less bandwidth your VoIP system will have to utilize.
Internet connection speeds can also vary wildly depending on your location and how many other home networks are using your ISP at the same time. Just like the phone system, the internet transfers data from your router through a line buried in the ground, which joins to a branch, and then a trunk, and then finally a main switch. From this main hub of lines, your data will be sent down another trunk, and then branch, and then finally back to another router. This is how all data, other than that which transfers via satellite, travels through the internet.
If there are multiple networks on your branch all transferring data at the same time, you’ll experience latency, which will cause your VoIP call quality to suffer. This is a problem offices don’t face, as they will usually purchase business ISP packages, rather than home — which of course, costs more.
Since almost all of your issues will stem from a lack of bandwidth, and there’s sometimes very little you can do about it, there’s no fool-proof method of ensuring top of the line call quality for every call. There are, however, some precautions you can take, and best practices to follow in order to boost your call quality:
Stop all other applications
When on a call, you’ll want to stop your Spotify, pause any downloading or uploading, and in general, keep your internet usage to a minimum. This means that if there are other internet users in your home, you’ll want to make sure they aren’t doing bandwidth-intensive tasks like streaming or gaming. It may seem drastic, but if you’re experiencing low call quality, this is sure to help.
Schedule your calls at off-hours
Since there are more internet users at home than ever before, ISPs are experiencing over-loaded lines. In order to avoid this issue, schedule your calls during lunch time, early in the morning, or towards the end of the day. You’ll want to avoid long calls occurring between the hours of 10am-12pm, and 1pm-3pm.
Cell data should only be used as a last resort (as it eats into your personal plan’s data), but it will fix the issues you’re experiencing when in a pinch. If you’re on a critical call and have tried everything other solution, data is a good option. The good news is that your cellphone will be able to handle the bandwidth needs, and since VoIP calls require such small amounts of data, this usage should only take up small portions of your data plan. Over time, however, this can and will add up.
VoIP QUALITY ISSUES ARE MINOR, BUT SOMETIMES UNAVOIDABLE
If you have a high speed, high quality internet connection, you shouldn’t experience any of these issues. If you live in an area with lower speeds, however, these issues may be more noticeable. If you follow these steps, however, you will notice a boost in call quality.