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And on lighter news… there is a 100% chance that your VoIP will fail tomorrow between 12:00 est and 3:00 est

By February 21, 2014 Broadband, Voip


Today was a good day for Canada at the The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The Women’s Hockey team won Women – Final CAN 3 : 2 USA. Most people watched it while at work… on a computer…. connected to the Internet…. which is provided by an Internet provider….. where many, many other people watched it to.

For customers on VoIP using the public internet… this means that there was a tremendous amount of traffic and contention between the path used for all our Voice over IP (Internet Protocol) calls vs.  your normal traffic. Noting full well that watching the Olympics was not a normal day.

Tomorrow is the Men’s game between USA and Canada (Semi-finals).

I think there is going to be a problem with not just VoIP, but the VoIP providers who depend solely on the Internet for connectivity to their customer phone systems.

This pretty much sums it up:


I have personally witnessed many discussions this week about VoIP quality with a few of our day-to-day prospects. Seems something is going on.

Well, consider the following:

  • We have the Olympics going on
  • There are a few ‘new’ router vulnerabilities that are clearly impacting people with non-enterprise grade routers (See article here)
  • Most VoIP providers provide their SIP and VoIP services haphazardly over the Internet

By now you know our view on this. Run VoIP over a private network, not the public Internet.

A few past favorites can be viewed here:

I spent the better part of yesterday and a quick meeting today reviewing a friend of ours who approached us to review their requirements. We thought the existing design was not that great, but we have a bit of a bias towards our way of doing things.

My first though, way to many vendors. Second thought, way too much finger pointing. Seems no one really wanted to address the most obvious. YOUR TRUNKS ARE RUNNING FREE BIRD OVER THE PUBLIC INTERNET – WHICH SUCKS !

I would have thought that five (5) vendors deep would have thought about the obvious issue.

  1. You have the person who sold the bandwidth and the SIP trunks. All over the Internet. Because a private network is not ‘cool’ I guess.
  2. The SIP trunk provider is in the United States (so you know who they are going to cheer for on Friday). The connection point is over the Internet in some city… somewhere (and now you know why vendors use a ‘cloud’ as a depiction…. it is perfectly mysterious).
  3. A wireless link… ok, sure why not…. more public Internet.
  4. A phone system / PBX provider, who is ready and willing to take your call, create a billable MAC to talk about the problem.
  5. Some box that does ‘mysterious’ load-balancing and possibly asymmetric routing in its spare time (one way audio anyone?).
  6. And an IT group, I actually feel bad for these guys. They really should become project managers, or think about running a kennel.

A quick fix?

I say ‘test’ and ‘assess’.

I thought, hey, this is easy, lets look at the following:

  1. Load-balancer, does not seem to work anyway, take it down for now.
  2. Since the entire network is hyper-dependent on internet lets look at making it Private, for the same or less money
  3. M.O.S. testing if any is available between sites
  4. M.O.S. or any test between the on-site PBX and the SIP trunk provider
  5. Review of tickets with said SIP trunk provider (are tickets actually being opened?)
  6. Review SIP trunk provider – where are the proxies located? Canada, USA i.e. Florida, east/west coast? Mars?
  7. A quick review of the upstream routes for Internet (latency, good routes, cheap routes etc.) Who are the providers
  8. Is there any congestion in the service provider network on any of the access interfaces that they care to admin to?
  9. Have any tickets with Service provider links been created for diagnostics

Seems easy. But I had to explain to the vendors what MOS was. Scary. I realize not everyone knows what this is, but for those who sell it, MOS is pretty standard.

What is MOS or Mean Opinion Score?

In voice and video communication, quality usually dictates whether the experience is a good or bad one. Besides the qualitative description we hear, like ‘quite good’ or ‘very bad’, there is a numerical method of expressing voice and video quality. It is called Mean Opinion Score (MOS). MOS gives a numerical indication of the perceived quality of the media received after being transmitted and eventually compressed using codecs.

MOS is expressed in one number, from 1 to 5, 1 being the worst and 5 the best. MOS is quite subjective, as it is based figures that result from what is perceived by people during tests. However, there are software applications that measure MOS on networks, as we see below.

The Mean Opinion Score Values

Taken in whole numbers, the numbers are quite easy to grade.

5 – Perfect. Like face-to-face conversation or radio reception.

4 – Fair. Imperfections can be perceived, but sound still clear. This is (supposedly) the range for cell phones.

3 – Annoying.

2 – Very annoying. Nearly impossible to communicate.

1 – Impossible to communicate

My suggestion?

For less money, replace the Internet links with Private links. Have Internet as a ‘controlled’ commodity. Plan a funeral for the existing PBX and provider (eliminate a fail-point, vendor and expense in maintenance agreements).

In all, better, faster and reduced finger pointing.

I also thought that we should keep the IT guys, they are helpful. And together we can rip up the business plan for the kennel.


Good luck to Canada tomorrow. And to my American friends, I remind you that your entire Country stole our cup, and we are going to take it back. Someday. Likely not Toronto. Perhaps Winnipeg.