Satellite VoIP

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The market of VoIP has been expanding rapidly over the past few years.  VoIP allows the transmission of voice signals over the internet, giving the customers great savings in local and long distance fee.  

VoIP works well with broadband connection such as cable and DSL.  However, Satellite VoIP still faces many technical difficulties and its potential is not fully explored.  So why is satellite VoIP so difficult to accomplish?

For those who live in remote areas and cannot get access to cable or DSL internet service, satellite internet is their only choice to get high speed connection.  Although many satellite internet users would like to have VoIP installed, both the VoIP and satellite companies are still working to solve the technical problems associated with satellite connection.

The main problem with satellite VoIP is the latency issue.  Latency refers to the amount of time the data travel up to the satellite and back to earth (about 70,000 km).  The round trip will cause a signal delay up to 500 to 900 milliseconds.  For high quality VoIP service, the latency should not exceed 250 milliseconds.  A longer latency may cause disruption of VoIP signals. 

Two other factors that will affect VoIP quality are jitter and packet loss.  Jitter is a variation of packet delay arriving at the receiver.  Excessive jitter can make speech choppy and difficult to understand.  VoIP packet loss occurs when a large amount of traffic on the network causes dropped packets. This results in dropped conversations, signal delay, or extraneous noise on the call.  

Satellite internet providers also need to prioritize the voice packets in order to make VoIP work.  All packet switched networks are subject to congestion.  If the voice packets are not prioritized and placed in specific order, the voice signals will be scrambled, resulting in poor call quality.

In fact, many customers who have tried VoIP service with Satellite reported these problems:

  1. they hear the voice from the other end but they cannot talk back
  2. dropped calls
  3. calls not connecting at all
  4. static sound
  5. poor call quality as if they are hearing someone underwater
  6. choppy voice signals

Both HughesNet and Vonage, the largest Satellite and VoIP provider respectively, have warned customers of the latency issue of satellite VoIP and they do not recommend using VoIP service with satellite at this moment.  However, given the benefits of VoIP service for customers living in the rural areas, satellite VoIP is definitely an area worth further research and exploration. 

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