Today, unless a business buys a dedicated or managed SIP service, the voice packets are traversing the internet where quality of service is non-existent. Buying a managed service is more expensive, and it is one more network to manage. The whole movement to a converged network was for ease of management and cost savings.
Luckily, many service providers are adding software-defined networking to the product mix. SD-WAN has the ability to improve VoIP. One way is through the packet shaping and QoS features built into an SD-WAN appliance. If that fails to improve the call quality, SD-WAN allows for best path routing. In other words, on a network with two or more internet connections (for example, DSL, cable, and 4G), SD-WAN can not only bond these circuits into one bigger pipe, SD-WAN can analyze which connection has the best path for VoIP (or real-time communications like video) and route VoIP packets that way.
Over-the-top VoIP suffers from poor quality largely due to the internet. Many ISPs don’t measure throughput or latency. That broadband speed test just measures last mile. Latency and jitter have always been a factor in VoIP success. If the service provider can deliver no jitter and low latency, the call quality is usually good. (Luckily for VoIP, cell phone call quality is still largely awful, which makes mediocre VoIP sound fine.)
Cable voice doesn’t suffer from this because it isn’t OTT. It rides their network (often on a separate path). However, most VoIP for small business does ride on the internet. The VoIP providers could get closer to the edge – meaning adding POPs or by interconnecting with the top ISPs, but both of those moves are expensive monthly.
SD-WAN is going to solve a bunch of problems for small business. Foremost it will add disaster recovery in the form of redundancy. Circuit bonding or load balancing or failover functionality was the primary function of several current providers that entered the SD-WAN space. This will have a big benefit for small business as it is better to limp along on one smaller pipe than no internet when the broadband goes out. It will increase VoIP call quality (unless all internet connections suck at the location, which I wouldn’t discount.) It will also add performance to some cloud applications via the same packet shaping technology – and even from direct connections to cloud platforms like AWS by the SD-WAN providers.
In a world of shrinking network operators, SD-WAN will be a boon to the commissions of channel partners and a boost to their small business customers.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi