This is a bummer but I’m going to say it.
Getting a huge fiber Internet connection may not do anything to help your company’s VoIP call quality.
Assuming everything is squared away on your LAN, the most common causes of poor call quality are latency, packet loss and jitter; None of which can be controlled over the public Internet, no matter how much bandwidth you throw at it.
“But what if we have a 1G dedicated Internet connection?” Sorry, it’s not immune.
“But what if it’s fiber from a Tier 1 provider?” Your call quality is still high-risk.
So, what can you do if your company’s users cannot tolerate an occasional dropped or gargled phone call? What if your company often has big-shot clients on the line?
Should you scrap the option of a hosted VoIP phone system?
Good news: hosted VoIP is still a great option for your company, even if your users have zero tolerance for bad call quality. My advice: avoid sending calls over the public Internet.
“But how,” you ask?
A dedicated circuit.
What is a dedicated circuit?
True enterprise hosted VoIP providers have the capability of supplying your company with a dedicated circuit, typically in the form of a T1, fiber or Ethernet over Copper. This dedicated line is used to connect your company’s on-site handsets directly to your hosted VoIP provider’s off-site servers, creating a private tunnel for your phone calls to travel through … completely bypassing the public Internet.
Using MPLS technology, your hosted VoIP provider will have complete control over the levels of latency, packet loss and jitter your calls experience. As a result, the provider will guarantee 100 percent land-line call quality, at all times.
Here is the crazy part. Although a dedicated VoIP circuit sounds more expensive, it will probably not cost your company any more than using VoIP over a 3rd party ISP.
This is because you will replace your existing Internet connection with the new circuit. Your enterprise VoIP provider can configure your dedicated VoIP circuit to deliver public Internet access on the portion of your bandwidth not being used for VoIP calls. VoIP calls take priority and depending on whether your VoIP provider compresses the voice, each simultaneous call will consume approx. 35k–100k of bandwidth on the circuit.
So, your company is still paying for the same two things:
- One dedicated fiber circuit
- Hosted VoIP service
The only difference is by getting the dedicated circuit from your hosted VoIP provider, (instead of a 3rd party ISP), your company’s hosted VoIP service has guaranteed land-line call quality. Same price … much more value.
But what if we’re in a contract?
If your company is in a contract with your current ISP, I recommend waiting until the contract is close to expiration. If your phone system is on death’s doorstep and you can’t wait, at least choose a hosted VoIP provider with the ability to deliver a dedicated circuit later.
You may also want to consider starting with a smaller dedicated circuit, with only enough bandwidth for your company’s phone calls (and no capacity for public Internet access). Think of it as a different way of buying a PRI T1 for your phone system’s dial tone.
Then, when your current ISP’s contract expires, you can upgrade your VoIP Circuit to include Internet.
When is a dedicated circuit overkill?
This answer will be a little different for every company but for our clients, I typically recommend a dedicated VoIP circuit for any site with 30+ users. My logic is:
- A company with 30+ users is probably already using a dedicated Internet connection, which makes the cost probably equal to using a dedicated VoIP circuit.
- The more users your company has, the higher the likelihood at least one person will experience a voice quality issue every day … so why have the IT department devote the resources for receiving a call for a voice quality issue nearly every day, if it can be avoided.
One thing to keep in mind. The majority of hosted VoIP providers do not offer a dedicated circuit. Delivering a circuit is more “involved” than sending calls over 3rd party bandwidth, so most providers just avoid the complication and continue designing their platform for “micro-size businesses.” In other words, many of the big names will not have this option and will dismiss it’s usefulness (for obvious reasons), but don’t give up. Keep looking.