Internet Bandwidth for VoIP

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You may have been considering moving or switching your phone to Voice Over IP and have a basic understanding that this implies the use of the internet connection. Here we’ll review the typical characteristics of your internet connection.

You need to consider having a broadband internet connection; meaning a high speed connection. If you have a dial-up connection; while is not impossible it’ll make it really difficult to have a successful VoIP setup.  The internet connection speed is commonly measured by it’s bandwidth, a big or bigger bandwidth means more data may be transmitted at any one time. To make matters more interesting you have to consider downstream speed (or download) and upstream (uploads).

In itself the utilization of the internet connection by VoIP is relatively small. From all the devices and applications you can have a VoIP Phone is one that will use very little bandwidth. Shall be noted VoIP Bandwidth consumption naturally depends on the codec used. Codecs are used to convert an analog voice signal to digitally encoded version; hence VoIP phone system are usually called digital phones or digital home phone. Codecs vary in the sound quality, the bandwidth required and the computational requirements among other characteristics.

Each VoIP provider, will typically support several different codecs and allow configuration changes; in some cases they will give the choice to have a “bandwidth saver” meaning allowing the user to choose a lower quality codec.

Some of the most typical VoIP codecs are:

Codec Bandwidth/kbps Comments
G.711 64 Delivers precise speech transmission. Very low processor requirements. Needs at least 128 kbps for two-way.
G.722 48/56/64 Adapts to varying compressions and bandwidth is conserved with network congestion.
G.723.1 5.3/6.3 High compression with high quality audio. Can use with dial-up. Lot of processor power.
G.726 16/24/32/40 An improved version of G.721 and G.723 (different from G.723.1)
GSM 13 High compression ratio. Free and available in many hardware and software platforms. Same encoding is used in GSM cellphones (improved versions are often used nowadays).
iLBC 15 Robust to packet loss. Free


The good news is that you won’t have to be playing around these much; unless you use a provider such as Call Centric that offers a la carte services where you can build your setup. For the most part providers have set their ATA (Analog Telephone Adapter) up with the best codec so voice quality is crisp.

Nowadays the most basic high speed internet packages are around 6 Mbps or 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream; typically sufficient for most VoIP Home users. Though you have to factor in the usage all other ‘smart’ devices in the home that may be making use of the internet connection, computers, Laptops, tablets, game consoles and so on. How much bandwidth is enough then? As the old saying goes, the more the merrier.

There are ways you could configure your home internet router to optimize and prioritize VoIP traffic, unless you are a heavy streamer that won’t be required; but in any case that is for another article.

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