What Bandwidth Requirements Do I Need for Business VoIP?

Posted on Tue, Sep 1, 2015 @ 08:00 AM by Carlos Lahrssen

VoIP takes up less bandwidth than you might think.For those new to Voice-over IP phones systems and other cloud communication technologies, it may sound like these types of systems would demand much in terms of bandwidth. They’re entirely cloud-based… so naturally, they must take up a lot of bandwidth, right? In the VoIP industry, bandwidth is directly tied to how many individual phone lines a business can use.

However, business VoIP phone systems take up much less bandwidth than you might expect. The average business VoIP phone call will require 85 kbps of bandwidth, or 0.085 Mbps. Internet connections with a 10 Mbps upload speed, in this case, can efficiently transmit information from well over 100 compressed phone lines. This is why many small and growing businesses equip their facilities with 10 Mbps Internet: its affordability meets performance.

Bandwidth only becomes tricky when other wireless devices, such as laptops or tablets, are used concurrently in regular operations. VoIP phone lines themselves do not occupy much bandwidth; what’s more important for professional purposes is determining if many concurrent calls (or use of other wireless devices) affect call quality.

As more devices pull for bandwidth space, connections become strained; a virtual bottleneck forms which can greatly reduce VoIP call quality. Fortunately, these are all problems you can avoid by speaking with your VoIP provider and determining what Internet/VoIP configurations best suit your business needs.

Bandwidth Tips for Your Business

The following are helpful tips you should keep in mind about bandwidth and data use, which can help you make the right VoIP and Internet choices for your business:

  • Bandwidth is essentially the maximum speed an Internet connection can transmit information, and can be interpreted by the download/upload speed of your Internet service. Often, Internet connections will have different download/upload speeds (upload speed often being lower); in these cases, the lower number will be the maximum transmission speed your connection supports (as both will meet that minimum speed).

  • VoIP phone systems aren’t limited in the way analog phone systems are; the only thing restricting you from supporting limitless phone calls is your bandwidth.

  • With compression codecs, a single VoIP phone call could occupy less than 25 kbps of bandwidth, or 0.025 Mbps. Thus, a 10 Mpbs bandwidth could (in theory) handle 400 compressed VoIP phone calls at once.

  • Streaming and downloading media on a wireless device consumes far more bandwidth than VoIP phone system calls; the same is true for uploading files from your computer or other devices.

Determining Your Business’s Required Bandwidth

Generally, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) will provide an “up to” speed number, such as “up to 5 Mbps” or “up to 20 Mbps.” As the average VoIP phone call occupies 0.085 Mbps of bandwidth, it’s quite simple to calculate your business’s needs. Take, for example, the 5 Mbps Internet speed previously mentioned: divide 5 by 0.085 (the bandwidth in Mbps required by an individual - uncompressed - VoIP phone call), and the result is 58. A 5 Mbps Internet speed can handle roughly 58 VoIP phone calls.

Note that this applies to connections dedicated solely to VoIP phone systems! A single Internet user will take up well over 200 Kbps of bandwidth at a given time. This also goes without anticipating for bandwidth fluctuation, which can be as much as 2 Mbps for 10 Mbps connections.

You should always give your bandwidth some breathing room, especially if you use other wireless devices or online services heavily. Uploading documents or streaming files occupy far more bandwidth than a single VoIP call. If you push your Internet’s bandwidth limits, expect some call latency and sudden drops in quality.

Use a Speed Test to Determine Your Limits

The actual bandwidth of your business’s Internet connection will likely be less than the advertised number - it is, after all, an “up to” amount. Various speed testing services can be used to gauge how your Internet speed matches up to advertised amounts, as well as Ping speeds, which can be used to measure VoIP phone delay. Any Ping speed below 100ms is ideal for VoIP; any higher than that, and call latency may become an issue.

As South Florida’s leader in VoIP, we recommend taking a quick Internet speed test to see how your upload and download speeds match up to advertised numbers. With the raw data (plus your Ping speed), you can make a rational estimate on the bandwidth your business will require for VoIP phone systems. The best way to determine what bandwidth can support your business’s VoIP phone system, don’t hesitate to contact your VoIP provider first. 

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Topics: business phone systems, voip, call center software, business voip

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About the Author

Carlos Lahrssen
Carlos Lahrssen
Carlos Lahrssen is president and CEO of nexogy, as well as founder, president and CEO of LD Telecommunications, Inc., nexogy’s parent company. Lahrssen is an industry fan, follower and advocate — stay...read more