Chris Kranky

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Voice quality on international calls

Chris KoehnckeChris Koehncke

Whether you like it or not, most long distance calls today are carried on a VoIP network and practically all international calls are. Your international call may ride thru various wholesalers on it's way to your end destination. Your telephone company may send it to 'X' who decides to send it to 'Y' and may send it to 'Z' before it hits the telephone you're calling.

Along this path, XY and Z may often decide to compress your phone call using any number of known CODECS, most notable G.729a to save on bandwidth costs (cheap being a winning factor). Your phone call may actually be compressed and decompressed before it actually gets anywhere.

The result is terrible voice quality. It seems sort of logical, I'm calling the other side of the earth, it's a long way, anything can happen, it's not going to sound as good as calling next door. If we get a really terrible call, we hang up and call again. It's not until you use Skype to call half way around the world and get crystal clear "in the room with me" quality do you start to realize how awful the telephone network is.

God help you if you make an international call from your mobile, which starts it's journey from your handset being compressed and less than toll quality.

But who do you complain to? Most folks simply shrug, what can you do? Many have never experienced the pristine quality of a Skype call so they simply don't know that a better solution exists. The telephone companies tell me it's too hard to change and no one really wants 'better' voice quality – it's not a marketable 'feature'.

Or is it? AT&T is disconnecting about 33,000 residential telephone lines each day, people are downloading Skype about 95,000 times a day. Do you see a trend here?

I've long advocated that VoIP needs to be both cheaper and better, something Skype (which is non-standard) has clearly done and is winning doing it.