Bandwidth Expansion for VoIP
and Data Network Convergence
By: John Shepler
Introducing voice over IP telephony onto
an enterprise data network offers an opportunity to dramatically
reduce business telecommunications costs. The converged network,
though, needs enough bandwidth to accommodate all the services
it is expected to carry.
What's All The Buzz About "Convergence"?
Most everyone now has both a telephone and computer on their
desk. The phone system has it own network of wiring through a
PBX or key telephone system. The computer network is likely an
Ethernet based LAN (local area network) with its own hubs, switches
and routers. The computer network uses the IP or Internet Protocol
and probably connects to an Internet service provider. If the
phones used the same IP format, then only one set of network
wiring would feed both telephone and computer. That's called
voice and data convergence. Greater levels of convergence include
audio and video conferencing on the same network.
How Do Converged Networks Save Money?
First through reduction in wiring costs, especially for new construction.
VoIP, which is telephones designed to operate on the IP network
(Voice over IP), also have the advantage of connecting phone
calls within the enterprise at no per minute cost. Many organizations
have multiple plant sites and branch offices that are already
connected by a data network. No need to pay a telephone company
to connect these locations if the telephone signals can travel
on the existing data lines. The same is true for audio and video
conferencing that can be formatted to connect using Internet
How Does Adding Voice Affect a Data
VoIP telephones convert the voice calls to a digital data stream
that is typically 8 to 64 K bits per second for each call that
is in progress. Adding a couple of VoIP telephones to a network
that already has ample data capacity would probably not affect
anything. But, what happens when you have dozens or hundreds
of calls going on simultaneously. It is likely that at some point
the network becomes congested and both voice and data transmission
is delayed. Voice suffers most from this congestion, as it is
a real time data stream. If the digital packets can't get through,
the phone conversations get choppy and may even disconnect. Data
users will notice a slowing of uploads and downloads.
How Can Network Congestion Be Avoided?
Network performance for converged voice and data can be improved
by implementing QoS or quality of service techniques which give
time critical applications, like VoIP and video conferencing,
a priority over Internet access and data transfers. This can
help improve call quality to an acceptable level. However, once
the network is running at capacity, the only relief comes from
adding bandwidth to the segments that are suffering the overload.
That may require upgrading to higher LAN speeds within the office
or going to higher bandwidth circuits for WAN (wide area network)
connections between locations.
What About Networks Other Than IP?
IP isn't just limited to the Internet. Companies have been using
private IP networks for performance and security. They may also
use other protocols for data transmission such as ATM and Frame
Relay. Voice signals can be formatted to run on these networks
too. The technologies are call VoATM for ATM and VoFR for Frame
Relay networks. An enterprise may even use multiple networks
when it makes sense from a cost, performance and security standpoint.
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