Phone.com VoIP Call Quality Problem - Solved
For my company I was looking for a small business phone system with a virtual PBX, an efax and a VoIP handset, all for a reasonable price. I've looked at Grasshopper, Ringcentral and 8x8, but Phone.com was the only provider that could offer the full functionality for a pretty low price. But unfortunately I ran into some call quality issues, which were actually not so hard to solve.
The complete small business phone system
I've set the phone system up as follows:
- toll-free number as the central phone line
- local alternative number
- local fax number (efax, send and receive)
- a Polycom VoIP handset
- Forward to my cell phone if I'm not at my desk
- 600 minutes per month, shared among all above
- Monthly cost of $35 plus taxes and fees
VoIP Quality Problems
I was pretty excited when the handset arrived, but I was only a minute into my first call when the person at the other end said: "do you have a VoIP phone, you're cutting out all the time". I called Phone.com support, but they couldn't really help me.
I have cable Internet, and a wireless router hooked up to the cable modem. The router is a Linksys WRT54G2, which has reasonably good reviews at Amazon.com. However, with the Phone.com VoIP test tool I could see that the line quality wasn't good enough: too much jitter and packet loss.
Router with Quality of Service (QoS) support
Through research on the Internet I found out that some of the more professional routers have Quality of Service support, which allows you to give higher priority to VoIP calls compared to other internet traffic (like watching a movie on your computer). I ordered the D-Link GamerLounge router (DGL-4100) for an amazingly low price of $74 (after mail-in rebate). It was pretty easy to set up and - while I haven't made a ton of calls yet - it seems that the quality problems have been solved!
I have Time Warner cable Internet, with 10+Mbps download speed and 500kbs upload speed. In the old setup I had only a cable modem and my Linksys wireless router: my computers were connected via wifi, and the VoIP phone was plugged into one of the router's Ethernet ports.
The old situation
In the new setup, the D-Link router is put in between the cable modem and the wireless router: the phone is now plugged into the D-Link, just like the wireless router, but the phone gets higher priority.
The new situation
The D-Link router worked out of the box: there were some minor setup tasks, but the only main configuration work was to add the QoS rule for VoIP (see screenshot).
The D-Link was now taking care of Network Address Translation (NAT) and DHCP, which was previously done by the Linksys wireless router. Therefore I had to reconfigure the Linksys router to function as 'Router' rather than 'Gateway' (in Setup > Advanced Routing, set Operating Mode to "Router").
In the D-Link configuration I had to assign a static IP address to the router, otherwise it would be really hard to access the Linksys configuration page (the IP address would change when the DHCP lease expires). This is done in Basic > Network Settings. In the Linksys Basic Setup I had to enter this IP address.
Even though I'm cheap and want to get a great phone system for a low price, it's good to invest in call quality. A $74 investment paid off really well. Phone.com should almost offer this router as part of the package.
Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.