By Alok Saboo on January 6th, 2010
Over the past few days, I have spent fair amount of time assisting readers in troubleshooting their VoIP service setup. Over the period, I realized that most of the steps required are generic and hence I decided to put together this VoIP troubleshooting guide. If you are having problems with your VoIP calls, SIP phone, or mobile VoIP, follow this guide. It should help you address most of the problems. But if it does not help you, feel free to leave a comment and I will try to help you on a case by case basis.
The philosophy behind this guide is very simple – identify the culprit or find out what exactly is causing the problem and then address the problem. There are fundamentally 3 elements that enable you to make VoIP calls (and the problem could be with any of these):
- Network – Since the voice is transmitted over the Internet, this could be one of the primary reasons behind several VoIP issues. Although a fast connection usually means better call quality, it does not have to be so. Your ISP may be blocking your VoIP traffic or you may be behind a firewall (making VoIP calls difficult). You should first test your VoIP connection quality and see if it can support a quality voice connection. If you see problems at this stage, contact your ISP for possible resolutions. Some countries require their ISPs to block VoIP traffic, in that case you may consider bypassing your ISP. If this test does not throw any surprises then move forward. To confirm that the network is the culprit, you can try using your VoIP setup on some other network, i.e., you can take your laptop to your friend’s place who is using VoIP and try your settings at his/her place.
- SIP hardware or software – The other element that could be causing problems is the SIP device that you are using (although this is very rare). This may be due to incorrect settings or corrupt installation. Since softphones are easy to play with, I will recommend that you trouble shoot your connection using a SIP soft phone such as x-lite. Uninstall, restart, and then reinstall the SIP softphone. You can follow the step by step tutorial to setup SIP account on softphones to ensure that you are following the right steps. Ensure that you are using the right settings for your VoIP provider. You can find the SIP settings of all Betamax providers here. If you are using mobile VoIP (mVoIP), you can follow the tutorials to correctly set up SIP accounts in Fring or Nimbuzz. If this does not help, try using some other SIP client, e.g., if you have been trying with Nimbuzz, try using Fring and so on.
- VoIP Service Provider (VSP) – Finally the problem may be with your VoIP provider. Your VSP may not be providing a good call quality (may be using a low band codec). See if changing the codec helps. You can create a free SIP account with Voxalot and try their echo test to make sure that your other settings are correct. If the echo test provides satisfactory results, then there may be problems with your VoIP provider. Try switching to a good quality provider.
I hope this should get you a feel of what needs to be done if you are not happy with your VoIP call quality and want to dig deeper in to the issue. As always, feel free to drop a line if you have any specific question or suggestion – remember it is a collective learning process.