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VoIP Bandwidth Requirements

by Kevin Malcolm

If you're considering the switch to a cloud phone system, you'll want to ensure that your internet plan meets your VoIP bandwidth requirements.

If your business is considering switching from an analog phone system to a hosted VoIP system, there are a few things you'll need in order to ensure usability and call quality. One of these requirements is sufficient bandwidth.

What is Internet Bandwidth?

If you're not entirely familiar with the concept of Internet bandwidth, it's easy to think of it like water running through a pipe. Your internet connection is the pipe and your data is the water running through it. In this analogy, your bandwidth would dictate the size of the pipe. In order for things to run smoothly, the pipe has to be large enough to handle the water feeding into it.

Your internet bandwidth is likely going to be measured in megabits per second (Mbps or Mb/s). Megabits are different from megabytes, with which you may be more familiar, but there's no need to convert between the two.

How Much Bandwidth is Necessary?

Just like any other type of file, the size/throughput of phone calls can vary from one call to another. For the purpose of estimating your business's hosted VoIP bandwidth requirement, you can use the safe estimate of 0.2 Mbps per call.

For something like a pricing estimate, we'd suggest you look at your average call volume. However, for a bandwidth requirement estimate, you'll want to look at your peak call volume to ensure that your internet can handle your busiest hours.

What's the maximum number of calls your business could have at the same time? If you're not sure, try asking a few managers for an estimate of their respective departments and add them all up. When you have that number, multiply it by 0.2 Mbps and you'll have an idea of the bandwidth you should have to ensure reliable VoIP service and good call quality.

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What About Video Calls and Other Data Transfers?

Video calls can require anywhere from 3x to 20x the amount of bandwidth as an audio call, depending on the quality. You'll again need to know how many of these might be occurring at once in order to estimate its impact on your bandwidth.

Video call in the OnSIP app

The same applies for other types of data transfers. Your phone system will share the same internet bandwidth as your computing needs, and while web browsing and email won't have much of an impact, activities like streaming video and transferring large files will need to be taken into account for your estimate.

How to Check Your Bandwidth

Your business should already have an internet plan with a local Internet Service Provider. ISPs price their plans according to bandwidth, which should make it easy to see if your current plan meets your estimate. Take a look at the upload/download speeds of your plan or give them a call to see if your current plan meets your VoIP bandwidth requirements. If it doesn't, you should consider upgrading your plan.

It's possible, for whatever reason, that the advertised speeds and the speeds you're actually getting don't match up. To make sure, you can use our free VoIP Network Test to see what speeds you're currently getting.

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