What Internet Speed Do You Need to Support VoIP?

By Mike Taylor

If you’re considering a VoIP phone system for your business or organization, you’re probably well aware of the many benefits a VoIP  (Voice over Internet Protocol) phone system has to offer. A VoIP PBX saves you money, comes with lots of robust modern features, enables your team to work from anywhere, is incredibly easy to use, scales easily with your business as you grow or downsize, and much more. But you may not know some of the requirements you need to help ensure the best quality of service, such as your Internet speed.

A basic requirement for VoIP

Before you can experience all the benefits of a VoIP solution that utilizes a SIP Trunk (or VoIP Trunk), you first need to make sure your Internet speed is adequate.

Instead of using traditional telephone lines, VoIP Trunks, also known as VoIP Circuits or SIP Trunks use the Internet to make and receive calls, so Internet speed is one of many crucial factors in determining how pleasant your experience will be.

In this article, we’ll go over what Internet specifications you’ll need in order to ensure that your phone system makes a seamless transition to a VoIP provider.

How Internet speed and bandwidth affect your business

You may have noticed that if you try to do too many things online at the same time – like browsing the web, watching videos, or downloading files – your Internet speed can start to drag.  Your internet speed, also known as bandwidth, is delivered as a set amount of speed at any one time and when you try to do too many resource-heavy activities at once, you can quickly exceed the allocated amount.

This may be a simple inconvenience when it happens to your home Internet, for example, your video may take a little longer to load, but ultimately, it gets the job done.  With a real-time voice application, however, as is the case with a VoIP Trunk, having a lack of bandwidth can cause poor call quality and dropped calls.

When taking into consideration that phone calls are still the primary channel for customer communications (source), it’s especially important that your business does not let a lack of bandwidth affect your customer-facing communications platform. A poor phone experience can have a negative impact on your brand.

In order to avoid bandwidth-related call-quality problems  you have to determine how much bandwidth you’re going to need to support a new VoIP phone system, as well as your existing internet-usage requirements.

How much bandwidth do I need for a VoIP phone system?

Bandwidth is one of a series of important aspects of your VoIP phone system setup that is critical for success.  To help you determine how much bandwidth you will need to support a new phone system, use can use the following equation:

 

G711 – A common VoIP call protocol requires approximately 64kbps

Using G711, you can have approximately 12 concurrent calls for each 1Mbps of bandwidth.

So, if your company needs to support 120 concurrent calls, you’d need 10Mbp service

 

You’ll want to keep in mind that the amount of bandwidth you require is above and beyond your standard internet usage. If you are an office with a 10Mbp Internet connection, looking to support 120 concurrent calls, you would have no bandwidth left over to do things like browse videos, check email, or stream music.  Therefore, you would need to increase your connection speed to account for standard usage, plus additional voice calls overhead.  Additionally, other voice protocols can use more or less bandwidth, so you will want to check with your phone system manufacturer to see which protocols your system will use.

Quality is more than just raw speed

The quality of your bandwidth or internet connection also plays a part in how well your VoIP Trunk will function.  Imagine that each call you try to make is a car.  Your car/call is trying to make it from your home to your nearest city.  To do so, it has to hop on the highway.  How many lanes the highway has is essentially bandwidth.  The more lanes you have, the more cars (or calls) that can get to the city.  But what happens during rush hour, or when there’s an accident on the highway, or a lane closure.  These unexpected delays cause your car to slow down and delay your arrival.  The same happens with your voice-calls and internet traffic with what is called latency and jitter.

If your internet provider and VoIP Trunk provider do not account for these potential delays, you could experience equally poor call quality.  Just like you would to avoid being late to your meeting, your VoIP provider and internet carrier can adjust for potential delays and ‘leave earlier’.  From a technical standpoint, you don’t have to know how it happens, however, you do want to ask the question, how does (my system, my trunk, my internet carrier) handle jitter and latency for voice traffic.  

An easy way to prep for VoIP services

While some of this may seem overly technical, there are pre-built tools online to help you in your journey.  You don’t need to be a technology expert or even a voice/telephone administrator to see if your company and your internet connection are ready to support a VoIP service.

To test your current Internet speed, for free, check out our VoIP Network Test tool. It will provide you with an easy-to-read report that will help you determine whether your services will support a Voice platform, or whether you should consider an upgrade.  

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About the Author

Mike Taylor

Mike Taylor is a Content Marketing Specialist at Digium. He’s a small business and entrepreneurial enthusiast, and before joining Digium he spent years helping startups and businesses of all sizes grow using content and digital marketing strategies. He covers business and communication topics on Digium’s blog and on other business publications as well.

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