How to Run a VoIP Speed Test

How to Run a VoIP Speed Test

How to run a VoIP Speed Test

Running a VoIP speed test is an effective way to gauge whether your Internet connection is suitable to run a cloud phone system or whether it needs to be upgraded.

A number of factors must be considered, the biggest one being the number of simultaneous phone calls your internet connection will allow. Your current internet connection may be suitable to handle one or two concurrent telephone calls, but may not be able to handle five or six concurrent calls. You can do a quick test for yourself, its not hard.

A VoIP speed test considers a wide range of factors that determine your connection’s suitability for VoIP. After you run the test you may need help to interpret the results. We have added some additional information on the terms you may see, what they mean and the impact.

VoIP is a real-time application

Many internet connections have different ‘upload’ and ‘download’ bandwidth sizes, all home internet services are like this. It makes sense for home use when most of the time we are downloading Netflix, Facebook or simply checking web pages. You are sending or ‘uploading’ a small amount of data – a URL, or movie selection – and then receiving a large data download.

Businesses use applications like VoIP that requires the same amount of bandwidth in both directions. While the download bandwidth may be fine the upload bandwidth may not and need to be increased.

But the internet, because of its design, can also exhibit other issues such as delay (when the internet is ‘busy’), packet loss (where it discards some data because it is too congested) and even jitter, which is where the delay varies. For things like email or file sharing, this will have no impact. The applications know that the packets have been discarded and they are resent. This is a problem for voice or VoIP calls.

Options after running the test

Even if the test result is not great, there are several options.

  • Talk to your ISP. They should be doing a better job of managing your internet connection.
  • Change your ISP. It isn’t just about a possible cloud phone system but many businesses may not have checked their connection to understand how it is impacting other parts of their business.
  • Upgrade your internet connection. It may be fine but you may simply need more bandwidth to handle more data.
  • Talk to us about managed internet options that can vastly improve VoIP performance, either with your current or a different provider.

Where to access a VoIP Speed Test

There are a number of places to go to find VoIP or Internet Speed Tests. Some require flash on your PC, so may not appear to work. Here are a couple of examples we have tested and are currently working. The first is accessed via your browser, the second is an application you load and run from your desktop.

HTML5 Speed Test
This one uses HTML5 so should work well on any PC or Laptop – Mac or Windows – as it does not require flash.

It uses a speedometer type display to indicate the speed as the test runs. At the bottom of the display it shows a line graph view as well, so you can see just how consistent your bandwidth is. It should show a curving line as it gets up to your top speed and stay at the level throughout, similar to the image below. It will do the download test first, then the upload. When finished the view will show the two line views with the average speed in words on top.

VoIP Speed Test View

Typical VoIP Speed Test View

Windows or MAC App Speed Test
Ookla has both a Windows and MAC speed test app that you download onto your PC. The link above is for the Windows version. The App is from a company called Ookla, that is often the app that drives most of the speed tests on the internet. You can get the Mac version from the Mac App Store.

The interface is a little cleaner looking and uses the same speedometer metaphor to show the speed when running. Like the other version, it will show the average download and upload speed but not the line drawing.

Ultimately, there are numerous speed tests out there to try. None will be a definitive and accurate test but they will give you some sort of sense of your internet connectivity.

VoIP Speed Test view

VoIP Speed Test view

Understanding VoIP Terms

Whether you use this quick test or others, if you are doing some research you will likely come across terms that may not make sense. Here is a selection of the terms and their meaning, with more detail later in the document.

  • Bandwidth: The total amount of data your connection can send and receive (expressed as a unit of time) with the M meaning Mega or a million.
  • Jitter: Measures how much variation exists between packets (sent and received). Your router and VoIP provider can make adjustments to account for some jitter. If there is a lot of jitter you should be talking to your service provider as it means your internet connection is not being managed properly.
  • Packet Loss: Measures how much information (expressed in packets) is lost during transmission. Unlike email or file transfers, where the data is resent, VoIP calls simply ignore lost packets. There isn’t enough time to resend on a real-time voice call. A small amount of packet loss is unnoticed as your VoIP provider fills in. A large amount will cause problems and your internet provider should be called.
  • Quality of Service (QoS): An overall term for how consistent the data flows. Your VoIP provider can also adjust switch and router settings to optimize QoS.
  • Mean Opinion Score: This is a numeric measure of the sound quality for a call. It is a score of from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. It is called ‘mean opinion’ score as it was originally the average score from an assessment of a number of people. Now tools try and mimic this score by taking into account the different factors that can impact the quality of a call.

Available Bandwidth

Bandwidth measures how much data your Internet connection can send (upload) and receive (download) over a time period of one second. In most cases your upload bandwidth and download bandwidth will differ considerably. Upload bandwidth is the limiting factor when determining whether you have enough bandwidth to sustain a certain number of concurrent telephone calls using VoIP.

As an example, a typical voice call requires 87 Kbps of upload and download bandwidth. Did your VoIP speed test indicate that you might not have enough bandwidth for your desired number of users? Contact us for suggestions and guidance.

Understanding Jitter

In basic terms, jitter is the difference between when packets are expected to arrive and when they actually arrive. This often has little impact when you are browsing the web or downloading an e-mail, but for a real-time application like voice over IP, it makes a big difference. In the world of VoIP, timing is everything, and when packets are being received at unexpected times, an unstable voice connection can result.

It’s similar to trying to predict when there will be traffic problems on the highway: if you can’t predict traffic, you can’t be expected to be at work on time in the morning. Some voice providers will implement a jitter buffer which tries to calculate what the maximum amount of jitter will be in a voice conversation, and thus delays the voice packets being sent to the receiver, in order to supply them with a constant voice connection. A high level of jitter will cause severe degradation in call quality. There is a balance between a long jitter buffer smoothing the reception and it creating too long a delay. With too long a delay the two people may end up speaking over each other unaware that someone has not finished talking.

Packet Loss

Packet loss refers to how much information is being lost during transmission; it’s generally expressed as a percentage. For instance, packet loss of 5% means that 5 per cent of all data transmitted is not reaching its destination. Packet loss can be caused by failures in network cables within the office, excessive network congestion, or general problems with network switching equipment. Packet loss can be constant or occur in bursts. However, bursts are more typical of packet loss. A burst of packet loss over a period of a few seconds will result in little or no voice traffic reaching you and thus you may miss much of the conversation.

Packet loss can be caused by a variety of sources. If you have packet loss there are some remedies:

  • Avoid network transfers which result in saturation of the upstream bandwidth limit of your internet connection, or enable QoS, or provide a separate connection dedicated to VoIP.
  • Make sure that there are no Ethernet duplex mismatches on your network such as between a cable modem and a router.
  • Check network cables between all network devices such as switches, routers, and modems. Replace each one with a new one to make sure this is not causing the problem.
  • Restart all network equipment to make sure that your issue is not related to low network resources.

Quality of Service

Quality of Service (QoS) is a major consideration in VoIP implementations and should not be ignored. QoS is concerned with how you can guarantee that packet traffic related to voice will not be delayed or dropped due to interference from other, lower-priority traffic. Imagine that you are uploading a large file to a remote website and at the same time you are trying to talk on the telephone. Your router does not know which type of traffic is more important and thus it treats both types of traffic as the same; this will likely result in a degradation of voice quality. There are numerous ways to handle QoS properly on a network and design your network with voice traffic in mind. QoS is discussed in the following article: VoIP requirements – Quality of Service. At its most basic, it will require that your data networking equipment (switches and routers) have the ability to set and adjust QoS on each port or phone connection. Many of the cheaper or unmanaged switches and routers do not support QoS.

Mean Opinion Score

You may run into the term Mean Opinion Score or MOS. Rather than judging the quality of a voice connection by subjective terms such as “very bad” or “great,” the voice industry has developed a scoring method to quantitatively measure what level of voice conversation you can expect. This is called the Mean Opinion Score or MOS.

The MoS gives us an indication of the perceived voice quality of the media after you have received it. MoS is expressed as a number ranging from 1 to 5, where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best. The values do not need to be whole numbers.

Mean Opinion Score Chart

Mean Opinion Score Chart

Different Results at Different Times

Why might you get different results from a VoIP speed test at different times? Networks are dynamic environments and conditions can change depending on network usage, time of day, and other factors. It is best to run the VoIP speed test a few times at different times of the day, or after you experience a network related problem, to try to determine the source of the issue.

For instance, you might experience a voice drop-out when an employee is uploading a large file but not at other times. If you didn’t have QoS setup properly this would affect your voice conversation and thus it would only appear on a VoIP speed test if the employee was still uploading the file – once they had finished the upload, the test might indicate perfectly good results.

The Unity Connected Solutions Advantage

Unlike many providers, we still sell and install premise based systems (meaning you buy and own all the equipment and it is physically installed at one of your locations) as well as cloud or hosted systems. So that means we have staff that are available to go to site as part of the implementation. Just because it is cloud does not mean that on-site telephone set up is not required. Others can ONLY ship to site and have your staff attempt to get it working with some minimally trained person supporting offline.

All our staff are trained to meet vendor certifications. Most cloud providers use internal sales staff and support staff who may have no technical qualifications whatsoever. It is highly likely they are supporting you from outside of Canada and completely offshore. It is your responsibility to get ‘the last mile’ working, not theirs. And that is the most challenging.

We have installed over 3,500 systems across Canada and in the U.S.; over a thousand of those have been IP based systems, proving our expertise.

Talk to us, Talk to a Cloud Phone Expert

The most common reason cloud phone system businesses cite for being unhappy with their current service is voice quality.

This could easily have been addressed at the front end of the sales process if you were working with a company that has in-country support, has been selling VoIP based systems (premise based and cloud based) so they really understand the network and internet issues that can prevent unsatisfactory voice quality. Unfortunately, we run into a lot of businesses looking to change because they went with the cheapest provider they could find and didn’t factor in ongoing support and voice quality.

Give us a call and talk to us about your needs. There are no commitments and we can at least provide you a broad assessment of your options. We work with many ISPs and can determine whether cloud will work for you.

Call 877 736 2842 and ask for Brooke or email us at sales@unityconnected.com