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Call Quality

I'm a light VoIP user and, truth be told, use Skype for most of my long-distance calls. So my impression of BroadVoice call quality is based on a relatively low number of calls. That said, my experience with BroadVoice had its ups and downs. The good news is that once things settled down, call completion was generally quick and reliable. Receive voice quality (what I hear) was generally good, too, but my experience with transmit voice quality (what the other party hears) was not as good.

For example, as I was writing this, I decided to make a quick call to get a bit more data under my belt. The call went through very quickly and I could hear the other party just fine. But, noticing some hesitation by my called party, I asked if they could hear me ok. The response was that they were having difficulty understanding me, so I called back on my PSTN line and the problem was solved. On the other hand, other calls made and received went without incident - or at least no complaints from the other end of the call.

The "once things settled down" comment above also bears some explanation. As luck would have it, a day or so after I finally got my BroadVoice line working, everything seemed to stop working. I was back to long pauses and fast busies when attempting to make calls, and callers told me they had trouble reaching me, usually getting just a busy signal. These experiences caused me to avoid using the service for the small amount of business-related calling that I do.

I later found while researching this article that BroadVoice was having major problems with one of its carriers during that time. When I asked BroadVoice for comment, their response was: "We don't comment on issues with our carrier partners - telecom is a complex business and there are plenty of opportunities to point fingers - we find it's just best to fix the problem and move on." Whatever they did has seemed to work, because I have not had problems making or receiving calls recently (June 2005).

I also used Brix Networks' "Golden Phone" to get some quantitative data on call quality. Figure 10 shows the worst case of three calls made within minutes of each other to Brix' Boston-based phone and Figure 11 shows the worst of similarly-timed calls to its LA phone.

Boston "Golden Phone" test results

Figure 10: Boston "Golden Phone" test results
(click image to enlarge)

Note that these tests are one-way only and represent only the perceived quality of my voice as "heard" at the "Golden Phone". The main difference between the two is round-trip latency, which is higher for the L.A. call given the longer route from my location on the U.S. East coast.

Los Angeles "Golden Phone" test results

Figure 11: Los Angeles "Golden Phone" test results
(click image to enlarge)

In both cases, however, these results represent excellent call quality.

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