Is 100 Kbps Still Sensible for VoIP Bandwidth Requirements?

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As digital communication tools and technologies continue to evolve, one of the constant truths is that simplicity usually wins over complexity.

Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) is one of the simplest internet technologies ever invented. It’s been around for over 25 years, becoming a communications mainstay for businesses everywhere.

A key benefit that has helped VoIP withstand the test of time is that it operates on a modest data diet—the traditional rate of VoIP bandwidth is 100 Kbps per line.

But, with today’s appetite for larger helpings of the bandwidth pie, many people question if 100 Kbps is still enough.

The answer is a resounding yes. Converting voice signals to data packets is still remarkably efficient, so 100 Kbps per line is still a good target for VoIP performance.

If you test your VoIP speed and find it to be slower than 100 Kbps, you might run into some problems. VoIP systems can still work at speeds as slow as 90 Kbps, but anything below that and you might run into issues like choppy audio, lag, or dropped calls more often.

Will DSL and Cable Meet VoIP Bandwidth Requirements?

DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) and cable are the two most common business internet connections.

However, the bandwidth these connections provide is typically not enough to withstand the demands of a business that relies heavily on VoIP calling.

DSL provides enough bandwidth for only the smallest offices with minimal VoIP needs. When multiple employees need to make calls simultaneously, a DSL connection can create a bottleneck. This congestion can lead to poor call quality, including delays, echoes, and even dropped calls.

Cable internet delivers service via the same infrastructure as cable television. It tends to provide much higher download speeds than DSL, but cable internet upload speeds can be 10 times slower than its downloads—which can cause problems for a busy office making many VoIP calls.

An example of the contrast between upload and download speeds for a standard household cable internet connection could be something like 150 Mbps down and 10 Mbps up.

Speed test results page with the speeds for Downloads and Uploads shown.

While 150 Mbps download speed might seem like plenty of speed for your business needs, coupling it with only 10 Mbps upload speed could cause problems when your business uses the internet for a variety of tasks.

That’s where you run into trouble for VoIP calling. When your employees make calls, they’re both receiving and sending, so when many people are sending data all at once, it creates a bottleneck. Simply put, voice data can’t transmit at the same rate it enters, so this leads to many problems that can affect VoIP call quality.

Coming to the rescue in this bandwidth challenge is fiber-optic internet.

A fiber-optic connection uses a dedicated cable to transmit data with symmetric upload and download speeds. That means you can send and transmit equal amounts of data concurrently.

Along with its consistent speeds, fiber-optic internet is highly reliable and stable. This makes it the gold standard for businesses like call centers that use software to make many VoIP calls at the same time.

VoIP Requires Steady Bandwidth

Since 100 Kbps is still just a mere morsel in the buffet of today’s bandwidth standards, it has to be consistent.

For VoIP calling to work seamlessly, there must be a steady, uninterrupted flow of uploaded and downloaded data. Even minor interruptions can cause major problems that impact call quality.

If your business values efficiency, productivity, and a good client experience, then you’ll want to ensure your bandwidth is up to the task of delivering a quality VoIP calling experience.

That said, even with a fiber connection, your call quality can still be affected by other programs and processes that eat up your bandwidth.

Here are some common bandwidth hogs to be aware of at your office:

  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software: CRM software is essential for managing customer interactions, sales, and support services, but they can also gobble up bandwidth—especially while working with large datasets and real-time updates.
  • Video conferences: Video calling is a mainstay of modern businesses that collaborate remotely. But high-quality streaming video and audio provided by platforms like Zoom consumes large amounts of bandwidth.
  • Downloading or uploading large files: Businesses often have to transfer large files like videos, multimedia presentations, and other assets. Data transfers like these can put a strain on bandwidth, especially when many people are running them at the same time.
  • Automatic operating system (OS) upgrades: Regular OS updates are crucial for computer security and functionality. But when they’re automatically occurring in the background, they can hog large amounts of bandwidth without the user being aware.

Protecting Bandwidth For Clear VoIP Calls

If your business relies on VoIP, steady bandwidth is worth fighting for. That said, there are several strategies out there for controlling bandwidth use and ensuring problem-free voice communication.

  • Traffic segregation with VLANs: A VLAN (virtual local area network) is an internet broadcast domain isolated from the rest of the network. By creating one that segments VoIP traffic from other data, you can ensure the voice data takes priority. This keeps congestion caused by data-heavy applications from affecting your voice calls.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) Settings: Internet routers with QoS features let you prioritize specific kinds of data transfer—including VoIP. With it activated, your router will automatically give preference to VoIP data packets over other types of data. This can be a great technique to keep your calls running smoothly.
  • Monitoring and traffic analysis: Keeping an eye on your bandwidth usage patterns can offer important insights. Network monitoring tools can analyze bandwidth usage patterns and help you optimize network activity to ensure VoIP traffic isn’t affected by congestion.
  • Network audits: Conducting regular network audits can help you identify bandwidth bottlenecks so you can optimize your network infrastructure. Audits commonly reveal opportunities for upgrading hardware, improving configurations, and implementing more efficient traffic management solutions.
  • Buy more bandwidth: When all else fails, consider purchasing an internet package that gives the internet pigs at your office more bandwidth to hog. You’ll then have a bigger trough of available data that ensures seamless VoIP calling without letting other data-hungry activities affect performance or productivity.

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