July 24, 2006 5:10 PM PDT

Study: Net telephony quality worsening

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While it's no secret that Net phone services don't offer the same call quality as traditional phones, a new study suggests that the quality of voice over Internet Protocol is actually getting worse.

Brix Networks, a company that develops monitoring tools for service providers, analyzed data it gathered from a free Web site it created two years ago called TestYourVoip.com. The site allows consumers to test the quality of their VoIP services. In its study, published Monday, the company discovered that call quality has declined by about 5 percent in the past 18 months.

With almost 1 million VoIP connections tested through its Web site, Brix said that about 20 percent of all calls had unacceptable quality. This is up from about 15 percent of calls made about a year ago.

Kaynam Hedayat, chief technology officer for Brix, said the decline in voice quality is happening because voice services are increasingly competing for resources on the same IP network as other services such as video, music downloads and interactive gaming. IP telephony calls ride over the same network that is also delivering Internet access and in some cases IP-based video. While the speed of broadband networks has increased, consumers are doing more on the Net, which affects call quality, he said.

"The network is ready for VoIP," he said. "But now that there are more services running over the same pipe, carriers need to differentiate packets and prioritize service."

Many Internet companies offering voice services, such as EarthLink, Vonage, Google and Yahoo, are opposed to allowing phone companies or cable operators, which own the underlying broadband networks, to prioritize traffic in order to improve call quality. They fear that network operators will abuse their power by charging unreasonably high fees and eventually squeeze out competing traffic. These companies have been calling for Congress to pass laws restricting such practices.

But some analysts say the time is quickly approaching when network operators will have to prioritize delay-sensitive traffic such as voice or video.

"Prioritizing traffic is going to have to happen," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at the Yankee Group. "The vision for many service providers is to offer video, Internet access and voice on one pipe. And the addition of video is going to be a huge hit on the network. I think consumers will be less tolerant with jittery TV than they have been with voice, so service providers better get the prioritization mechanisms in place today before they try to sell the public on Internet-based video."

See more CNET content tagged:
Brix Networks, IP telephony, voice service, telephony, VoIP

11 comments

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$10 Says the Company is on AT&T's Payroll
I can't speak for everyone, but my VoIP via Skype has improved substantially in the last year to the point I use it daily ... so that is one data point that is falsification for the guys study.

I'll bet someone $10 that the company is on AT&T's payroll trying to kill Net Neutrality and this is little more than FUD.

If anything, I've seen VoIP and network response times increase at a surprising extent.

But not as much as I'd like. We gave the telcos $200 billion worth of our tax money and deregulation in late 90s in exchange for their promise to run fiber to every house.

They contracted to it and failed to deliver.

What the hell did they do with all that money we ALREADY gave them anyway?
Posted by JoeCrow (83 comments )
Reply Link Flag
VOIP
Hey Joe, Skype uses tech that is shared, sooner than later, it will catch up with them and your quality will deminish. They don't have dedicated bandwidth. Your arguement is kind of all wet, you got snookered.
Posted by heritagejd (8 comments )
Link Flag
Call Quality Varies A Lot
Within the past few months of using Skype I have found that call quality from Skype to a regular telephone (SkypeOut) is quite good -- at least as good as a cell phone and frequently better. On the other hand, when I use Skype to call a friend who is also on Skype (computer to computer) the quality is not so good. This may be due to problems on my friend's side, but there is nothing I can do about that. I have given up trying to use Yahoo Messenger voice chat, the quality is just too poor. As a point of reference, I just ran a TestYourVoIP to San Jose and got a score of 4 over a 2.5 Mbps AT&T DSL line.
Posted by maxwis (141 comments )
Link Flag
The Internet is a series of tubes...
And...ah..uh..ah..all these...uhh..internets...are there for the consumer. And if...uh...anyone wants to...uh...use it for MASSIVE commercial purposes..uh...you have to charge extra money ahh...for services over the internets...and so you can order 10 movies delivered free...streaming over the internet...but then your personal internet..uhh..gets tangled up with all those..uhh..commercial needs...and...uh...I didn't get my internet till this morning.

THE INTERNET IS NOT A DUMP TRUCK!
Posted by uncjigga (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I got to agree...
This sounds like a lot of FUD. My Vonage service works fine and sounds great. The only people who I've heard of having problems are those trying to get Vonage over a Comcast line. Apparently Comcast degrades the signal, hoping that customers will switch to their own service looking for improvement.
Posted by ogman (150 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The source of the problem.
Clogged pipes :)
Posted by Mallardd (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Source
Mallardd-

Exactumundo, it's all in the last mile:-)
Posted by heritagejd (8 comments )
Link Flag
YouTube, Bittorrent, and more
Make the Internet eat all you can, and there will be those who will do so. Blame the reduced quality of net telephony on those shoving gigabyte files through the system.
Posted by Maccess (610 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Don't restrict, build more lanes!
The answer is that the telco's and ISP need to increase their bandwidth capacity. Data "prioritization" is bad, and unfair. How would you feel if, instead of car-pool (HOV) lanes, they had lanes that only rich people could drive in? Would you consider that a reasonable cure for your bumper-to-bumper commute?

No, the answer is that they need to add more lanes to the "information super-highway", not dictate who can and can't drive in the lanes that already exist. Elsewhere in the world, bandwidth is not a problem. Only here in the US, where we let the duopolized "free market" screw us. If there was legitimate competition, like in Europe, this wouldn't be a problem. If the government would view the internet as something beneficial to all citizens and help build better infrastructure, this wouldn't be a problem.
Posted by MikeCerm (16 comments )
Link Flag
Don't restrict, build more lanes!
The answer is that the telco's and ISP need to increase their bandwidth capacity. Data "prioritization" is bad, and unfair. How would you feel if, instead of car-pool (HOV) lanes, they had lanes that only rich people could drive in? Would you consider that a reasonable cure for your bumper-to-bumper commute?

No, the answer is that they need to add more lanes to the "information super-highway", not dictate who can and can't drive in the lanes that already exist. Elsewhere in the world, bandwidth is not a problem. Only here in the US, where we let the duopolized "free market" screw us. If there was legitimate competition, like in Europe, this wouldn't be a problem. If the government would view the internet as something beneficial to all citizens and help build better infrastructure, rather than let a few private companies set limits on supply (so they can charge more for the scarcity), this wouldn't be a problem.
Posted by MikeCerm (16 comments )
Link Flag
Prioritizing Traffic
Is fine and it can be done already, but will be made easier with IPV6. There is no need for additional services to pay for.
Posted by kieranmullen (1070 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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