5 Questions for a VoIP Expert

This post was written by Abi Chandra, a Cloud Technology Evangelist at longtime Empirix partner Genesys. It was originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

A few months ago, I received a direct message on LinkedIn from a member organization. They were interested in knowing if I was still in the VoIP troubleshooting business? If so, they wanted to know if I could help and provide any best practice recommendations. 

In the middle part of the previous decade, I used to teach Cisco Voice Engineering evening courses. As a side project, my students and I created this audio file to explain VoIP audio quality issues. I used to enjoy playing Detective VoIP for my customers and helping them troubleshoot VoIP audio issues on their network. 

I was surprised by this request because we are almost two months away from entering the third decade of this century. I had assumed that with all the new network technologies, like SDNs (software defined networks) and new adaptive voice codecs like OPUS, voice issues no longer existed. Therefore, I updated that old audio file. I included newer adaptive codecs like OPUS which is used by Genesys PureCloud, so that even everyday users like us can help diagnose audio issues beyond stating that the ‘voice sounds crappy’.

Since I don’t consider myself a VoIP and internet voice expert anymore, I enlisted the help of Erik Delorey, Product Manager for Empirix and a network troubleshooting expert. Empirix is a Genesys partner that provides tools and services for testing and monitoring customer experiences. Here are the five questions I asked Erik on this topic.  

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It is 2019, almost two decades since VoIP was first introduced. Do you still see a lot of customers still reporting audio quality issues for VoIP and internet voice? With the advent of the newer network technologies, aren’t the days of troubleshooting audio issues over?

Erik: Voice it is still a real time application. Most users will be patient with a slow app or a slow loading web page on their mobile devices but the moment there is a voice issue, people are vocal about it. As organizations move into Software Defined Networking (SDN) and as carriers move on to Network Function Virtualization (NFV), they must scale horizontally and vertically to meet consumer demand. It really comes down to designing networks to respond to massive burstable traffic and therefore voice quality will always be an issue.

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How has troubleshooting audio issues changed over the past decade?

Erik: In the good old days when someone reported a voice quality problem, you would typically have to troubleshoot by going to a telephony closet. Now, with Cloud, everyone is on a shared network. You no longer see the yellow cables used for voice and the blue cables used for network because it’s all one network now. End users have headsets and may even bring their own devices. Because the range of issues are now so diverse, one is no longer limited to a telephony closet when troubleshooting. There are now a whole host of variables to consider in order to fix an internal network problem.

 You also must be aware of what’s happening in your neighborhood. You used the Lady Gaga and Beyonce song “Telephone” in your video. What if instead of a video, the song was being played live in concert next to your office location? Then you would have seventy thousand people showing up with their mobile phones live streaming the event and carriers and providers need to take that into consideration. There are now additional external variables that go into play. 

Can you show us an example of Empirix tools that you use to analyze voice traffic?

Erik: Here you are. You are looking at a comprehensive diagram of real time voice traffic from a carrier into an organization. At a high level, this is a good place to start. Without going into too many boring details, you can see the various voice (RTP) streams involved and all the devices that encounter them. It is easy to quickly identify whether we are experiencing any equipment impairment issues, and if so, quickly target mitigation. 

Trace Viewer Details Screenshot

What is your view of newer voice codecs like OPUS which we also use in PureCloud?

Erik: OPUS is a good adaptive voice codec, especially for internet voice. Two different codecs, SILK and CELT, make the OPUS specification. It can scale up and down very well based on bit rate, sampling rates, network bandwidth saturation and a host of other factors.   However, as it crosses border elements, it could stop becoming OPUS and transcode to maybe G.711. At the end of the day, OPUS can only provide so much flexibility. Nothing can substitute for good network design that takes traffic engineering into consideration.

My last question to you Erik: can you talk about how Empirix helps customers, especially with VoIP and internet voice troubleshooting?

Erik: Empirix provides network visibility tools, not just to enterprises, but also to carrier space. Our tools give providers that end-to-end view that we looked at earlier.  We also provide the ability to look at how their networks are performing across the nation, including across different cell towers. We provide the same level of service and data aggregation inside of enterprise networks with either passive analysis or active call generation. With VoIP and web services, we can generate and test traffic from our cloud instances. We can also provide hybrid cloud capabilities where we put edge devices deep inside the environment. You can find more about our products and test cases at www.empirix.com

That is the gist of my fascinating conversation with Erik before we started getting into the geeky bits and bytes stuff. Feel free to pose your questions and comments. If you would like more information on other customer experience topics, please direct message me on LinkedIn. My next post will tackle the ever-changing world of Knowledge Management and how AI is making a difference there. 

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