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What is Latency in VoIP?

Every business needs a reliable phone system. That’s why when it comes to choosing a phone system, businesses tend to have a few top priorities:

  • Cost
  • Technology efficiency
  • Quality

In terms of the first two priorities, it makes sense that tons of businesses today are switching over from their old school landline systems to VoIP. VoIP helps companies save massively on their phone bills while providing them with the most advanced technology solution. But many business leaders still want to learn more about VoIP’s quality before they go ahead and make the purchase. To understand VoIP’s overall quality, it’s important to learn all about voice latency in VoIP. 

What is latency?

Chances are, you have experienced latency at one time or another while making a phone call or using the Internet. Latency is a small lag or delay between different endpoints when data is transmitted electronically. For instance, have you ever experienced a delay when clicking to view a video online? This is an example of latency. Basically, it can take a few milliseconds for data to be transferred from one location to another.

With VoIP phone systems, voice latency refers to a small delay as audio data moves from one phone system to another. During a phone call, latency may cause the person on the other end to hear what you say just a few milliseconds later. It may also cause “glitches” in audio data. This may cause someone’s voice to sound muddled, or two peoples’ voices to overlap. Latency is to be expected when using the Internet, which includes VoIP systems.

Why does it matter for businesses?

Businesses rely on phone systems for real-time communication. For many industries, phone systems can be the lifeblood of the business so they need to ensure they have the best phone system possible. While some latency is normal for any VoIP system, persistent latency can slow down phone conversations and frustrate business leaders. Issues like voice echoing and the “talk over” effect can impact the quality of phone calls and over time, impact businesses negatively.

How much latency is acceptable in a VoIP system?

Know that VoIP latency is to be expected. Since VoIP systems utilize the Internet to transmit data, users will face some form of latency. However, only a certain amount of voice latency is acceptable. You should not have to worry about noticeable lags or muddled voices during every conversation. If latency becomes drastic, it can start to cause big problems for one-on-one calls and diminish the quality of your real-time communication.

According to VoIP leaders, such as Cisco, 150 milliseconds (ms) is normal latency for VoIP phone systems. This means that when you speak into the phone, it should not take longer than 150 ms for the end user to hear you. Cisco also says that 300 milliseconds (ms) or more is unacceptable.

Keep in mind that if your system maintains that “acceptable” latency speed of 150-300 ms, you should not experience any severe interruptions during your calls. If you are constantly experiencing a noticeable lag during calls, you may want to measure your latency speed and talk to your provider.

How can you measure it?

Many VoIP providers have online tools, such as ping tests, that allow you to test your latency. This tool allows you to send an audio data “test,” to measure how long it takes for audio data to move from one endpoint to another. If your VoIP provider does not have a similar tool, there are several online resources you can use instead. Keep in mind, however, that ping tests are also affected by factors like bandwidth and location to your server. They may not tell you everything you need to know about your system’s latency.

However, if you do a ping test and get results that exceed the “acceptable” latency range, you should call your provider to discuss this issue. There’s likely things you can do to improve latency speeds.

What factors can increase latency?

It may be helpful to know some factors that can increase latency, or in other words, worsen call quality. While some latency is to be expected, certain things can make it more noticeable. If you can troubleshoot these factors, you can actually improve your call quality on your own. Here are a few factors that can increase latency:

1. Overcrowded network

Your VoIP phone system uses your business’s Internet network. Depending on how your Internet is set up, this may be the same network that connects to your computers, smartphones, and other web-based devices. When too many devices are connected to the same Internet network, it can cause a slowdown in some devices. This is especially an issue if your network has a low bandwidth.

2. WiFi networks

Using a WiFi network for your VoIP phone can also cause a data slow down. When operating wirelessly or using a VoIP system on-the-go, there’s a bigger chance for a lag to occur when data is transferred from one device to another.

3. Hardware malfunctions

As we all know, technology is not perfect and sometimes hardware can cause issues. If you are experiencing bad latency issues with a hosted VoIP system, it’s possible your hardware is the culprit. Check to see if your Ethernet cable or Internet modem is damaged. Additionally, sometimes modems need to be updated to the newest version in order to best support VoIP calls.

How can you reduce latency to create the best call quality?

Luckily, there are ways you can improve your call quality by troubleshooting factors contributing to latency issues. Before you contact your VoIP provider or feel that you need to replace the system altogether, take a look at these ways to reduce latency:

1. Check your bandwidth

As we mentioned, low bandwidth can contribute to VoIP latency. This is especially the case if you have many devices connected to the same Internet network in your workplace. First of all, check to see the recommended amount of bandwidth needed to support a business VoIP system. If your network’s bandwidth is on the lower side, it may be time to upgrade your system. Also keep in mind that as technology advances and your business grows, you may have to inevitably upgrade your bandwidth, anyway.

2. Disconnect unused devices

Sometimes, we forget that we have devices connected to our Internet network that we aren’t using! This is a common issue, since the Internet helps so many business assets to operate these days. If you have devices that are connected to your network that you don’t use frequently, try disconnecting them to free up some bandwidth. This should help to improve VoIP quality.

3. Update hardware, such as your router

The phrase,“if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” applies to many things. But unfortunately, hardware is not one of them! Outdated hardware can cause lags in your VoIP phone system. To get the best voice quality with your VoIP phone system, it’s important to frequently update your hardware to make sure you’re using the newest, most agile technology. If you haven’t checked your hardware in a while, it’s also crucial to make sure none of the cables, wires, ports, routers, and modems are not worn or damaged.

4. Check Quality of Service (QoS) settings

When using an Internet network for many devices, as most businesses do, you have Quality of Service (QoS) settings. Basically, this allows you to prioritize bandwidth on certain devices and data. If you are experiencing VoIP latency and you rely on phone calls regularly, you can configure your settings to prioritize your phone system. At the end of the day, this will give more bandwidth to your phone calls. However, be aware that it may redistribute bandwidth from other devices to do so, and you may see other kinds of slow downs.

5. Talk to your provider

Last but not least, remember that your VoIP phone provider is the expert in this area! If you’re concerned about VoIP latency and need some assistance, your provider can help walk you through the issue and help to troubleshoot it. They will be able to offer several suggestions for improving voice quality.

If you’re looking for a high-quality VoIP provider that can provide top-notch customer service no matter the issue, we can help! Our network of business phone system suppliers are well-trained to handle common issues like VoIP latency, and dedicated to providing the best call quality possible. To connect with our providers and compare rates, get started here!

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