Plain English Answers to Technical Telco Questions

englishThose of us who provide telecommunications related services have a bit of a challenge. We like to answer customer questions accurately, but going into too much detail can make the matter at hand sound a lot more complex than it is. SIP trunking services, for example, involve a lot of technical infrastructure and complex networking concepts. But users don’t need to be experts in all the arcane details. In fact, most organizations are able to easily deploy SIP trunks with help from a top-tier provider even if they have no networking experience on staff. I’m afraid that in an effort to be complete and to make sure customers know we understand this stuff, those of us in the industry tend to make the whole subject much more complicated than it needs to be.

I’m going to avoid that today and answer the most commonly asked questions in plain English.

What is “Cloud Communications?”

The term cloud communications simply refers to voice and other communications like video and messaging, that are delivered over the internet rather than traditional telephone lines. It is a broad term that covers everything from consumer grade services like Skype, to dedicated business solutions, like SIP trunking. A telephone system that is located at a customer’s business can leverage cloud communications, as can a solution that his hosted by a communications service provider.

What is VoIP?

While cloud communications encompasses all types of communications that happen over the internet, VoIP, which stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol, is specific to voice. There are a ton of other terms that are used interchangeably with VoIP, including, IP voice, voice over broadband, internet telephony, and broadband telephone service.

What is SIP?

SIP is a specific set of instructions that allow networks to communicate with each other. It is used to deliver voice and other types of communications over the internet.  Businesses use it as an alternative to expensive and inflexible traditional telephone lines. SIP is one way to achieve VoIP.

What’s a Voice Codec?

Codecs convert audio signal (voice) into compressed digital form for transmission. When the signal reaches its destination, the codec converts it to uncompressed audio signal for replay. It’s what makes VoIP possible. Different codecs have different levels of compression. The highly compressed signals require less internet bandwidth, while less compression is associated with better voice quality. The two most popular are G.711 and G.229. G.711 provides uncompressed high-quality voice, while G.729 is compressed so that it uses less bandwidth at the sacrifice of quality.

What’s QoS?

When using the internet for voice calls, the data and voice networks become one. QoS stands for Quality of Service. It is a router setting that tells the network to give priority to voice calls.  Minor delays in the signal reaching the network, or a small amount of data loss isn’t even noticeable to users consuming data, but it can create a terrible experience for voice calls. The QoS setting ensures that audio quality will remain fantastic even while activities that consume a lot of data, like streaming video or downloading large files are going on.

I hope these answers have helped clear things up. If they didn’t, or there are other questions you think we should explore, please drop me a note in the comments.