Monday, June 24, 2013

How to Troubleshoot VoIP: Packet Delay

VoIP Spear
A couple of problems may come up when using VoIP. A majority of this has to do with network connections. After all, VoIP is still greatly dependent on the internet, within the system's processes as well as at the user's end.

The most common and perceptable is packet delay. Delays create high latency problems in VoIP communications. Latency is defined as the amount of time a packet takes to travel from its origin to its destination. This can result in decreased voice quality, stalling, echos and feedback.

These are small irritants, to say the least. But, in chronic situations, it can turn the users off from using VoIP as their main means of telecommunications.

Having said this, delays aren't really exclusively VoIP. It is also a problem experienced by traditional telephony. In those cases, satellite connections cause the delays. And the upside with VoIP is that the user can troubleshoot packet delay issues up to a certain point.

Kinds of Packet Delay
Within a VoIP system, voice packet delays happen during transmission or queuing. This is referred to as IP Network Delay. This is normal. Packets travel through switches, routers, hardware, as well as wireline phone systems. Delays here are negligible and won't affect voice call quality. However, when compounded by other issues, such as a congested network and slow connections, then network delays can reach up to thousands of milliseconds – which is unsuitable for VoIP.

Another type of packet delay is referred to as End System Delay. This is delay during data handling, which is likely to be caused by jitter buffer of all the other processes that voice data goes through (encodind, decoding and others). Compared to others, jitter buffer can compound delays the most because it is affected by IP Network Delays. As IP network delays lengthen, buffer sizes increase. Buffers can increase delays by hundreds of milliseconds.

How is the VoIP User Affected By Packet Delays
It doesn't really matter what the cause of delays is. The service to the VoIP user gets affected by any kind of delay. Quality decreases, to say the least. Echo, feedback and other conversation problems may be experienced.

Within a one-way conversation, the effects of delays may not be as apparent. When only one end is sending out voice packets, data can be processed seamslessly enough that there appears to be no disturbance in the voice call.

However, this is hardly the case. In typical conversations, there is an interaction between at least two parties. Data sent between two ends or more will experience problem when there are packet delays. This can appear as doubletalk, echoes, pauses and call interruptions.

If the occurrence is bad or frequent enough, it can dissuade the user from using VoIP services, whether free or paid.

How to Troubleshoot Packet Delays
There are ways to troubleshoot experienced VoIP packet delays.

If you're a network administrator or IT manager, you need to be on top of the situation and spot issues before they cause problems for your end users. You can do this through VoIP Spear or other similar services. Through consistent testing and monitoring, you can diagnose problems correctly and address them efficiently.

If you're the end user, there's still some things that you can do. First of all, get an account with VoIP Spear or other similar services. These offer trial packages for individual users. Monitoring VoIP can help you assess problem areas and troubleshoot.

Here are other basic things that you can do:
  1. Trim down the systems that packets need to go through. So, if you're using wi-fi and begin experiencing delays, try connecting directly to your router. The idea is to cut down on possible interference.
  2. Fix damaged hardware, such as cable wires and adapters. This affects VoIP call quality.
  3. Do a power cycle on your router. This may speed up your connection.
  4. Dedicate your system to VoIP. Close other applications that eat up bandwidth.
  5. Log into you router's software if you can. You give voice the highest priority temporarily while you use VoIP.

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