VoIP Bandwidth Requirements: A Small Business Guide
Does your small business internet meet VoIP bandwidth requirements? Perhaps you face issues with call quality. Or want to learn how to improve service consistency. VoIP provides flexible solutions for business owners. But your available bandwidth plays a huge role.
Every phone call affects your business reputation. If your client cannot hear you or the call drops, then so does your credibility. Protect your company by assessing your bandwidth. Then, boost speed with a few easy steps.
In this guide, you'll learn the basics of internet speed and bandwidth. Support your team with a solution that maximizes productivity and improves customer experience.
What Is Bandwidth?
The term “bandwidth” refers to how long it takes data to pass through your network. Compare it to highway traffic. If the cars equal data, then the road symbolizes your internet bandwidth. Only a select number of vehicles fit on the highway at any given time.
During low traffic hours, cars move freely. At the peak of an early morning commute, you stand still in a traffic jam. Your bandwidth works in the same way. Your internet connection handles a certain amount of data. During times of high data use, your connection gets packed, reducing your call quality.
Each online activity, from web conferencing to emailing, uses data. Your devices transfer data packets across your network. Packets range in size, from 1,000-1,500 bytes. Bandwidth equals how many seconds it takes to send or receive data.
VoIP bandwidth requirements use three common measurements:
- Megabits per second (Mbps)
- Gigabits per second (Gbps)
- Terabits per second (Tbps)
Your internet service provider (ISP) may use bytes per second. One byte equals eight bits. For instance, you’ll see internet speeds listed as megabytes per second (MB or Mbps) or kilobytes per second (KB or Kbps).
What Is Internet Speed?
Bandwidth and internet speed are not the same thing. Internet speed is the rate that your data transfers from one place to another. You may meet VoIP bandwidth requirements. But it’s still possible to have a low data transfer rate. Internet speed affects your call quality. Potential reasons for slow internet speed include:
- Your connection source: Wired connections boost speeds, whereas Wi-Fi may result in slower speeds
- Older equipment or wiring: Outdated devices, like your router, may cause your internet speed to slow
- Connection type: A digital subscriber line (DSL) is slower than cable internet. Fiber optic internet is the fastest
- Traffic: High-volume times reduce your internet speed
How to Test Your Internet and VoIP Speed
An online bandwidth speed test is an easy way to test your VoIP bandwidth. A variety of tools are available online. 8x8 provides this one-click internet speed test. After a test, see how many phones your internet bandwidth supports. Do this using an easy math formula (more on this below).
What an Internet Bandwidth Speed Test Shows
A bandwidth test shows your upload and download speeds along with jitter and latency. Let’s go through the definitions of these terms.
ISPs use this figure in their service descriptions. You may buy a package for 10 Mbps or 100 Mbps. This number indicates how fast you can download something from the web. For example, when you stream a video, your download rate affects how fast you see the video.
This number may be equal to your upload speed. But in most cases, it’s lower. Your upload speed is how fast you can send a data packet in a second. So upload speed affects how fast your video gets uploaded to the internet.
Milliseconds (ms) is the unit of measurement for latency. This term shows how long your data takes during a round trip. It's the number of milliseconds it takes from you sending data to receiving it back.
All transferred data face some delays. This is because each item you send across the internet heads out in different packets. Instead of a bus full of students, it’s five separate cars. Internet connections with high jitter rates do not deliver all the info packets at once. This can be a problem if you’re using VoIP telephone services. But as long as you stay under 30 ms of jitter, you won’t face any serious issues.
Ping is how long it takes for the IP address to respond to your initial data packet. The lower the number, the quicker your speed.
Measuring Your Bandwidth Speeds
The easiest way to measure your bandwidth is by using an online speed test. You may also get a bandwidth measurement on various office devices.
For instance, go to Windows Task Manager. Click on Performance then on the network interface like Wi-Fi. You’ll see the bandwidth from that single device. Larger organizations may use a monitoring program to check bandwidth.
To figure out how much bandwidth you have or need, use this simple formula:
Upload speed x 1,000 = X Kbps
X Kbps / 445 = number of phone lines your bandwidth can support
So if your internet upload speed is 80 Mbps, then here’s how the formula looks:
80 x 1,000 = 8,000
8,000 / 445 = 17.97
An internet upload speed of 80 Mbps may support up to 17 VoIP telephones.
Testing Your Bandwidth
Your download and upload speeds differ for many reasons. File sizes, the number of devices in use or time of day impact your speed. Offices that rely on VoIP services and cloud applications may need extra bandwidth. It’s a good idea to use a few different testing sites to benchmark your bandwidth. Use each site 5-6 times. Then, average the figures to get a benchmark of your internet speed.
VoIP Bandwidth Requirements
Each device lists minimum VoIP bandwidth requirements. This is the amount of bandwidth that your device or activity needs for the top performance. Ensure clear faxes and call quality by reviewing equipment guidelines.
Consider how many devices your office uses at one time. Add up the bandwidth each online activity uses. Then talk to your ISP if you need to upgrade your internet.
Average Bandwidth Speeds
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides guidelines on average bandwidth speeds. You’ll also find estimates of how much bandwidth different devices and tasks use. Here are a few examples from the FCC activity list:
- Email and web browsing need 1 Mbps of download speed
- VoIP telephone calls need 5-25 Mbps of download speed
- File downloading takes 10 Mbps of download speed
- HD video teleconferencing uses 6 Mbps of download speed
Globally, the average download speed is 46.25 Mbps, and in the United States, it’s 93.98 Mbps.
Consistency of Service for VoIP
Consistency of service relates to the stability of services. You need a reliable and consistent connection. Some factors are in your control. Others rely on your ISP.
For example, choosing a cloud-based phone provider with a proven track record is in your control. Yet if your ISP uses old wiring and your upload times are slow, then this is out of your control. Learn about the top factors of VoIP service consistency. Then improve those factors for reliable VoIP service.
Factors Impacting VoIP Service Consistency
If you’re having problems with call quality, then go through each of these issues. Your VoIP provider may provide extra support for ensuring clear calls.
- VoIP service provider: A reputable provider reports minimal downtime. They offer software updates and hardware upgrades. Plus, your VoIP provider should provide ongoing support
- Equipment: Your Wi-Fi signal contributes to low-quality calls. Use a Wi-Fi booster for areas where the signal is bad. You’ll also want to check your softphone bandwidth requirements. All equipment, like routers, modems and headsets need replacing after years of use
- Internet connection: Your download and upload speeds impact your VoIP service consistency. Also, a shared ISP means more people are using the connection at once. Talk to your internet service provider about upgrades to your service
- Software: Updates may affect how your devices connect to your internet. Check for updates if experiencing a slow connection
- Caller connection: The problem may not be on your end. If you call someone with a poor connection or slow internet speeds, then you’ll notice a loss of call quality
- User error: With a new VoIP system, it’s essential to train staff on how to set up and use new equipment. For example, people should avoid downloading large files while on a video call
- Distance to server: Most small businesses use their ISP’s servers. Servers located far from your business address may decrease call quality
How to Improve Consistency of Service
Meet VoIP bandwidth requirements by reviewing your internet service and software. Improve consistency of service for VoIP by:
- Updating software and equipment
- Choosing the best VoIP provider
- Using fast internet services
Start with your internet connection. Ask your ISP about upgrade options. Your internet speed must fit your required number of office devices. Discuss your options for extra bandwidth support if needed.
Next, sign up with a reputable cloud-based telephone system provider. Great VoIP service gives you access to quality calls and integrates with your systems. Plus, you'll have support for training or quality concerns.
Update your equipment and software. If you notice poor call quality, consider upgrading your softphone, modem or router. Doing so gives you access to the latest technology and provides better call quality.
For those who use Wi-Fi, you may want to add a Wi-Fi booster for specific areas of your office. Concrete and metal elements affect your call quality and internet speed.
Lastly, train your staff on VoIP call best practices. Your VoIP provider may provide tutorials and other training tools.
How to Get Reliable VoIP Service
To ensure high-quality VoIP calls, start with a reliable provider. Three key areas to account for include:
- Uptime: VoIP uptime is a percentage of time that the system is operable. This number is calculated over the length of a year. Lower uptimes result in disruptions or service outages
- Uptime guarantee: Some VoIP providers offer a service level agreement (SLA). This agreement sets standards for uptime and call quality
- Redundant service: Call continuity is essential in business communications. Redundant service means having backup systems in place in case of emergencies. These systems reduce your VoIP downtime
Testing Your New VoIP Phones
When you receive new headsets, softphones or other VoIP equipment, give them a test. Plug your VoIP phone into the router. Next, plug the power cable into your outlet. Ask mobile device users to check connections in various office locations.
Once you plug in your phones, you’re ready to go. But it’s a good idea to test out a phone call to a co-worker. Make sure that:
- Your staff understands how to use new equipment like softphones
- You’ve updated any applications or software on your devices
If you notice problems, then review the list of potential causes. A weak Wi-Fi signal causes issues for mobile users. Once you identify the problem, then take steps to improve your call quality.
How Bandwidth Affects Your Business
In an always-connected world, your business cannot afford downtime. A problem with your bandwidth leads to:
- Low-quality VoIP calls
- Inefficient processes
- A drop in staff productivity
- Customer dissatisfaction
- Poor customer experience
Know the VoIP bandwidth requirements for your equipment. Then consider other online activities that use your office bandwidth. All connected devices use bandwidth. But the amount varies by device and activity.
Keep Your Service Consistent With VoIP
Maintaining the quality of service is vital to your business. Both a stable internet connection and quality VoIP service affect your reputation. Compare your options, and do not settle for less than optimal results.
Fortunately, with 8x8, you’ll find plans for businesses of all sizes. From call centers to sales and marketing teams, there’s a service built for your needs. Plus, our team is available to answer your calls and help with training and VoIP installation.
Learn how to improve consistency of service for VoIP. Then secure service with a reliable provider. Contact 8x8 for a no-obligation quote from a specialist.