VoIP Problems – Why ‘Plug and Play’ VoIP systems often fail

By Alan
New to VoIP

Purchased a shiny new cloud hosted VoIP telephone system for your business?  What could possibly go wrong?

As VoIP becomes a more widely adopted technology, there are more and more VoIP vendors seeking to capitalise on the increasing wave of people turning to IP phone systems.

Choosing an IP phone network for your business should not be a choice you take lightly, and if you plan to self install the hardware, then there are potentially lots of pitfalls.

The Scenario

So you've ordered your IP phones, the sales person told you all about the great features and benefits that will revolutionise your business communications, and the handsets have arrived.

You plug the IP phones into your network and as promised the phones spring in to life. Call quality at first seems great so you arrange to port your telephone number to the supplier.

The problems then start to emerge-

  • Calls drop

  • Your phones don't ring when they should

  • Call quality is variable

  • Sometimes people can't hear you or you can't hear them

  • Phones lose registration and need to be regularly rebooted to bring them back to life.

So what do you do now?  Why is this happening?

The answer is simple, the retailer that sold you the system probably didn't ask you about your network or router, or the servers or switches and firewalls on your network.  Did they ask you about your internet speed?  Maybe they insisted on you having to have a dedicated line for your phones, maybe not.

With the correct setup you probably do not need a dedicated line for an IP phone system, just the right setup to manage the data on your network to make sure that your calls take priority.

The truth of the matter is that all networks are different.  IP phones need several things to be in place otherwise they will fail to deliver a reliable, high quality service.  This is what lots of suppliers overlook, or fail to tell customers, but if you don't take the time to get it right from the start then things can and do go wrong.

One answer – wifi IP phones

If you don't want to worry about the technicalities of networking and cables etc, then just look at our wifi phones.  Linked to a recommended router, these perform superbly and delivery fantastic voice quality along with a stable, hassle free installation.

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Network problems and routers

Firstly, if you put phones onto a cabled network which is shared by PC's, laptops, phones etc, and you use a standard router then you cannot expect the phones to perform properly.

This is because your handsets use data to carry the voice across the network, and that data gets mixed up along with the other network traffic and spewed out into the internet in no particular order by the router.

Call quality problems will become noticeable when someone on the network goes on to YouTube or IPlayer and suddenly the phones run out of bandwidth.

This is a problem where your router doesn't understand about traffic priority, and doesn't know or care about which pieces of data should go first.

These are all symptoms of packet misrouting on the network, and are common on domestic routers.

Standard free routers, even those dressed up to be "business hubs" etc are not built to accurately route lots of traffic through the network. and often start to fail when more than a few appliances start to use the network at once.  This causes a slowing of the network.

One way conversations, dropped calls, echo

One way conversations occur when the data travels one way across the network (so you can hear the caller for example) but the return packets misroute (so the caller cannot hear you).  This is usually an issue caused by the data not being routed correctly by the router, but can also be attributed to servers handling DHCP.

Call Drops. The problem here is that the data traffic from the handsets has to travel accurately to the router and the the router has to return data accurately back to the handset, and this exchange of data is very fast.  

If the data packets do not route back to the handset and route to another appliance on the network then this will cause problems with the call, possibly leading to a call drop.

Echo is where the outbound call packets are routed straight back to the handset in error, instead of being sent out of the network to the server.  In this scenario you hear your own voice coming straight back to you.

Phones Deregister

Handset deregistration issues are similar to packet misrouting when the router forgets where to send the data back to, but for an extended period of time.  This can also be a symptom of extended starvation of the internet connection, as the handset will regularly try and register with its cloud based server, but will give up after a period of time if there's no internet connectivity.

Phones don't ring when they should

This is a symptom of the router forgetting where the IP phone is, and forgetting where to send the data to.  A typical scenario is where you can always make a call out OK, but after about 5 minutes of no use, when someone calls you they hear the 'ring ring' but your phone stays silent.

This is because when you initiate a call, the phone forces the data to the router and the connection between the phone and the router stays alive for a short period, but after this period the router receives the data for an incoming call and forgets where to send it to, so the phone does not ring.

The Solution

The solution for this is a router that can manage and prioritise the data on the network, and put the voice packets at a higher priority than the data.  This means that when a call is placed, the rest of the data on the network slows to give this priority.

“If your PC slows down a little whilst downloading an email then you probably won’t notice, but if your call slows down you certainly will".

All of these issues are easily solved by investing into an appropriate Draytek router, and having it set up and programmed by a professional.

There are other things to consider that will make a difference to your IP phone system installation, such as multiple routers giving out DHCP network addresses, servers handling DHCP network addresses, managed network switches and firewalls.  All of these can make an IP handset fail.

Before considering a VoIP installation for your business it is important to understand the requirements for a healthy IP phone environment, and selecting a supplier with enough experience and knowledge to support your installation.

vivi® believe that its better to invest in the correct steup from the start. This might cost slightly more than you wnted to spend, and you might have to make some changes to your network, but following our advice or instructing one of our installers to do the job for you will lead to a hassle free, reliable IP phone system.

This is one of the reasons why customers stay with vivi® for years, not months.

Wifi Phones will help

vivi® now have a workable plug and play solution that has been designed using our years of experience of installing and supporting VoIP telephone systems.  This solution involves a Draytek router and our range of wifi enabled handsets.

This standalone, 'plug'n'play' solution is a great way to avoid all of your local network issues, and send the voice calls directly to the Draytek router securely and with high voice quality.  The Draytek router uses a firewall to protect the calls from the rest of the network.  It is like having dedicated network cables running from the handsets to the router, but without the hassle and cost of running lots of cable.

vivi® wifi handsets are high quality and deliver the same voice quality as our cabled versions, but offer not only a simpler installation but also a higher degree of flexibility as they only need to be in wifi range to work.  If you need to extend the range of the wifi then simply add a wifi extender.


About vivi®

vivi® own and operate a cloud based business VoIP network and have been delivering communications solutions since 1996.

Last updated Friday 28-8-2015 3:00pm

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