Voice-over-IP is an alternative telephony solution to conventional landlines, where users make calls via an Internet network using a computer, Wi-Fi enabled device, or VoIP phone. VoIP offers a number of benefits including features like web and video conferencing and no long distance charges, which makes it especially attractive for businesses. Yet because VoIP shares broadband with other web applications, call quality can be an issue during peak broadband usage; industry experts note that a common action like Dropbox syncing can cause voice packet drop and reduce call quality.
A proper router can effectively address Internet telephone quality. Below are some commercial and DIY options to help users improve their VoIP experience.
VoIP routers have built-in bandwidth management technology that prioritizes audio data packets above other web data. They either assign a high priority to voice data or have rate control to limit bandwidth consumption for non-calling applications. One of the cheaper models is Cisco Small Business RV320 priced at $190. There are other commercial brands that offer VoIP routers as well, like Draytek, SonicWall, Adtran, and Linksys.
For personal VoIP use, an economical solution is to configure an existing router for VoIP calls. More recent routers have Quality of Service (QoS) controls that let users manually assign a higher priority to voice applications. For older routers without that option, users can give priority to specific devices by their MAC address and customize priority for the port used to process voice data.
A dual-band router can help optimize data traffic management and improve VoIP calling experience as well. Dual-band routers transfer data across two bands: 2.4 Ghz and 5Ghz. The default 2.4Ghz band that conventional routers use can be data jammed with multiple desktops, laptops, and devices working in the same frequency. The 5Ghz band is a newer channel that’s less utilized and often inaccessible by older connected devices. A user can purchase a dual-band router to use the 5Ghz band for making VoIP calls; just make sure that the calling device is 5Ghz-compatible.
Note that by default, band assignment is done by the dual-band router depending on traffic congestion and device compatibility. However, newer devices like Android phones will let users choose to always use the 5Ghz channel under a Wi-Fi frequency band option in Advanced settings.
Enhancing VoIP user experience
VoIP is an attractive option for small businesses looking to expand into a more professional structure by combining their Internet and telephone networks. One concern is having enough broadband for a consistent call experience; there needs to be enough bandwidth to avoid audio packet drops. For high-quality VoIP calls, users can customize their router’s Quality of Service configuration to prioritize voice data over other web applications. Otherwise, users can also purchase a commercial VoIP router or dual-band router that have the needed bandwidth management technology.