VOIP

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VOIP

Postby GeoffSmith » Tue 07.11.2006, 01:10

Is anyone using VOIP (Skype in particular)? Any comments (particularly about hardware) would be greatly appreciated.

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Postby a5gcd » Tue 07.11.2006, 11:03

Yes Geoff

I am using Skype to make comference calls to Hong Kong. No special equipment, just the normal speakers and a headset microphone.
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Postby TheBard » Tue 07.11.2006, 14:55

Work's various offices are entirely VOIP using both softphones (headsets and the PC) and hardphones. Depending on the age of your PC and the quality of the components you might get some echoes and other setup related glitches with the softphones.

In addition, my wife uses AOL's VOIP offering from her laptop and our wireless network at home, and even using the built in speaker and microphone the call quality is better than most cordless phones I've used.

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Postby markv » Wed 08.11.2006, 00:02

I've used Skype for a couple of years on a number of PCs. It's extremely good (especially considering it's free) and I've used it to speak to friends and relatives in New Zealand, the USA and Europe, as well as all over the UK. You can also use webcams to have video as well as sound and this can also work very well.

Observations:

1. The newer and more powerful the computer, the better

Older and lower spec PCs will have trouble running (or even installing) Skype successfully. This is particularly true of older generation laptops, which are likely to have a slower CPU.

2. The faster the internet connection the better

You really need broadband - if you have a dialup connection, forget it. 512Kb/s CAN run, but if you are doing anything else in parallel the voice quality may be poor. Quality at 2Mb/s and above is noticeably better.

3. I use a Logitech Quickcam Communicate STX webcam, which has a built in microphone and superb quality video, all plugged in via one USB port. I use the PCs loudspeakers for sound output, and this works well with no feedback problems. Previously, I used a cheap (<£10) Labtec microphone which worked perfectly, plus an older, lower resolution webcam. I personally have shied away from using a headset/microphone on a boom combination, as this means you can only talk to one person at a time at the other end. Also, the pickup quality from the boom microphone can be variable. Use of the built in microphones and speakers on a laptop depends on the laptop, some are much too poor quality to use

4. Voice/Video Quality

As stated above, this does depend on the speed/quality of the bandwidth connection and the PC processor speed. Also, the way Skype works means that you may be connecting to your destination via a variety of routes and intermediary connections, and connection quality can be variable. This manifests itself with breakup of speech/video, or latency which can result in echo anywhere from mild to irritating to totally unusable. If this happens, it's worth ending the call and reconnecting.

5. Conference facilities

You can host conference calls of up to 4 parties + host. This works surprisingly well provided you have enough bandwidth (don't expect it to work well at 512Kb/s). I've had successful 3/4 way conversations spanning the USA, Holland and UK

6. Supporting applications

I use another free applicatin called Pamela, which allows your callers to divert to Voicemail on your PC if you don't answer the call. In practice, I've found ths to be less useful than it sounds as people tend not to leave voicemails.

7. Other VOIP applications

I believe MSN and Yahoo now offer similar functionality, but Skype appears to be the most popular

8 Summary

With the above provisos, I'd recommend Skype to almost anyone. My 70+ year old parents use it all the time to speak to family and friends all over the world. Bear in mind if your broadband tariff gives you a fixed amount of data to upload/download, you may incur additional charges if you are an extremely heavy and constant VOIP user, although in practice I've never had any issues even when I've made a lot of use in a month. If you need someone to Skype with to test it out, PM me.
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Postby jimp357 » Sat 11.11.2006, 01:11

:agree:

I use it for New Zealand, USA & Germany. Works fine 98% of the time. Slow to transfer files.

Sometimes though, there are just too many people using skype. I then use eyeballchat (www.eyeballchat.com) A little finiky to set up, but is fine when going. Not too many people and therefore relatively quick and free.
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Postby TStevens » Sat 11.11.2006, 19:53

2. The faster the internet connection the better

You really need broadband - if you have a dialup connection, forget it. 512Kb/s CAN run, but if you are doing anything else in parallel the voice quality may be poor. Quality at 2Mb/s and above is noticeably better.


I beg to differ on this part, Dialup is a no-go, however as VOIP is all about your upstream, all UK ADSL based connections have a maximum of 256kb/s upstream, ADSLMAX has a maximum of 446. So in any country using ADSL/RADSL to deliver their broadband the theoretical maxiumum is 886kb/s. A 512k connection can handle true VOIP just fine.

So for VOIP purposes a connection above 1mb/s will see no increase in quality of calls. Most VOIP codecs will not use more than this amount of bandwidth anyway, even if it is spare. The only time a faster connection comes into play is when you share it with other computers in a household and then the more you have the better it will handle it.

Most messenger type applications have a Voice Communications theme built in. MSN/Yahoo/AOL/Google Talk/Jabber/ICQ the list goes on. However these are not using VOIP codecs in a true VOIP sense and are also routing through the messenger services own server then out to the person you're talking to.

True VOIP is where you use companies such as SIPGate to allocate a real phone number to your computer so that you can receive calls from landlines.

I have a number of friends who use VOIP when they are away from home, using companies such as SIPGate to allocate a German phone number to their PC in the UK, so when in Germany they call a local German number but get to speak to the UK for a fraction of the call cost. Can also be used in the reverse order, if you get bundled free calls to UK landlines, you can get a UK geographical number allocated to your PC in a second home in Spain and enjoy free calls.

It all comes down to what you want to use VOIP for, if its just to chat to a friend using the internet in a different country, just use something like MSN messenger, but if you want to replace your home phone with VOIP or us it for a lot of international fixed line dialling
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Postby markv » Sat 11.11.2006, 20:33

TStevens wrote:
2. The faster the internet connection the better

You really need broadband - if you have a dialup connection, forget it. 512Kb/s CAN run, but if you are doing anything else in parallel the voice quality may be poor. Quality at 2Mb/s and above is noticeably better.


I beg to differ on this part, Dialup is a no-go, however as VOIP is all about your upstream, all UK ADSL based connections have a maximum of 256kb/s upstream, ADSLMAX has a maximum of 446. So in any country using ADSL/RADSL to deliver their broadband the theoretical maxiumum is 886kb/s. A 512k connection can handle true VOIP just fine.

So for VOIP purposes a connection above 1mb/s will see no increase in quality of calls. Most VOIP codecs will not use more than this amount of bandwidth anyway, even if it is spare. The only time a faster connection comes into play is when you share it with other computers in a household and then the more you have the better it will handle it.


I'm often browsing and sometimes downloading or receiving mail at the same time as receiving a Skype call, so download conection speed IS important. It's also important for conference calls, as you are receiving multiple VOIP streams. Many ISPs are actually sharing their published bandwidth between multiple customers, and they generally make the capacity calculation based on the total bandwidth they have sold to their customers. If you buy a faster connection you will generally get a better overall performance as the overall capacity will be shared between fewer users. I noticed an immediate and sustained improvement in quality of Skype calls when I went from 512k to 1M and from 1M to 2M. Interestingly, I didn't see much difference going from 2M to ADSL Max.


TStevens wrote:True VOIP is where you use companies such as SIPGate to allocate a real phone number to your computer so that you can receive calls from landlines.


VOIP=Voice Over IP. Skype and the others are VOIP services as well. The main difference compared with most commercial services is that they don't have any dedicated bandwidth, but rely on that supplied by the user's ISP. Skype also offers dedicated phone numbers routed to your computer ("SkypeIn"), and the ability to call landlines at low cost ("SkypeOut")
Regards

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Postby TStevens » Sat 11.11.2006, 20:44

Yes, Skype does a bit of both, the skype to skype uses a different method (which uses a lower amount of bandwidth)

For conference calls more downstream will be needed, but most users usually stick to 1to1's, the bandwidth requirement is still generally not as high as some would think.

Your choice of ISP can have a large impact as many of them are going down the line of Packet Shaping, and Prioritisation, thankfully many of them see VOIP as a good thing to give prioritisation to those packets.

Your move from 2mb -> Max not showing as much difference will be partially attributed to the comments I made above about the size of files used for the VOIP calls, also the speed of Max greatly depends on how busy your local exchange is and how short your phone line is as well as it's quality.

VOIP is great thing and has many good uses for different people, at the same time can greatly reduce costs.
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Postby markv » Sat 11.11.2006, 21:02

TStevens wrote:.....many of them see VOIP as a good thing to give prioritisation to those packets.


I've worked in the ISP industry for c. 10 years and in my experience it depends on the ISP - those which are part of a telco often see VOIP as a potential threat!

TStevens wrote:Your move from 2mb -> Max not showing as much difference will be partially attributed to the comments I made above about the size of files used for the VOIP calls, also the speed of Max greatly depends on how busy your local exchange is and how short your phone line is as well as it's quality.


I generally get 3.5M to 5M on my ADSL Max service (these are usually sold as "up to 8M"). I think the general message is "the faster the better, especially when using VOIP and/or if you run a home network". These days, 2M is so cheap and ubiquitous, I wouldn't recommend less to anybody.
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Postby GeoffSmith » Sat 11.11.2006, 22:45

Thanks for the feedback everyone.

I only require it to get cheaper calls to the brother/sister-in-law in Sydney. They have only recently signed up to Skype, so I was interested in any advice/experiences. Unfortunately, living in the sticks as we do, the maximum speed we can get at the moment is 1M (no cable or gas either), but it sounds like it will be adequate for family calls.

Thanks again for the useful and interesting information.

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Postby GeoffSmith » Sat 11.11.2006, 23:07

For those that are interested, this is a useful broadband speed test.

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Postby GeoffSmith » Sun 12.11.2006, 16:39

I set up Skype last night on the laptop and spoke to Australia via the built-in microphone and speakers. I must say I was very impressed with the quality and the lack of echo & time delay. I consider the clarity to be better than the phone and as for the cost...... :lol:

Thanks again for the comments.

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Postby TStevens » Mon 13.11.2006, 18:01

This article has some good information on VOIP hardware (so you can plug a phone into your PC to use, which is much nicer than talking at a PC)

Was recommended by my ISP's monthly newsletter.

http://news.zdnet.co.uk/communications/ ... 663,00.htm
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Re: VOIP

Postby RayD » Sat 01.12.2012, 13:39

Six years later ...

I have a HTC Sensation which I use on WiFi for everything bar phoning ... for that I have a normal Nokia phone.

Neither of the phones has a data package. (if that's the correct term)

I recently downloaded the Viber application and as far as I can see works perfectly well for making free phone calls using WiFi.

It turned out there were only 3 people in my phone book who were on Viber ... an icon shows up at the side of their name.

Today I downloaded Skype onto the HTC and was expecting it would work in a similar way ... that other Skype users in my phone book would be highlighted ... but no-one is, including my son who had applied it to his iPhone this morning.

Am I missing something?

Ray
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Re: VOIP

Postby rip » Mon 03.12.2012, 13:38

I've just checked my contacts. Facebook & Whatsapp both show up, but Skype does not. I guess Android OS/Google contacts is simply not Skype aware?
This may change now Microsoft have bought the product.

As an aside, call quality is great with VOIP. I have a Thai friend & it is difficult for us to understand each other with a traditional phone call. With VOIP (we usually use an app called LINE), audio is so much clearer. I guess this is because the call is not processed as many times?
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Re: VOIP

Postby dapinky » Mon 03.12.2012, 18:57

rip wrote: I have a Thai friend & it is difficult for us to understand each other with a traditional phone call. With VOIP (we usually use an app called LINE), audio is so much clearer. I guess this is because Tooting isn't an international call........
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