Understanding Packet Loss

Packet loss occurs when one or more packets of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination.
On Thursday 08 April 2021 by Josh O'Farrell

Today’s users have very high expectations regarding the quality of phone calls, and there are many issues that can occur with a voice connection, including packet loss. When problems occur we often tend to ‘drop the call’ and quickly try to reconnect, hoping for a clearer connection. Businesses depend on clear communication channels in their customer interactions and more and more are taking a truly proactive approach to audio quality management. Packet loss occurs when one or more packets of data traveling across a computer network fail to reach their destination. The end result of these packets failing to reach the opposite end of the network communication leads to missing data, in a VoIP call it would lead to missing pieces of the conversation. 

Multiple participants may leave a phone call due to packet loss and try to re-establish a connection or switch to another mode of communication. When complications arise, we often ‘drop the call' and attempt to reconnect as soon as possible. While dropping one or two minor packets won’t trigger too much of an issue for the standard VoIP call, callers will find whole sentences missing and awkward delays in the middle of a conversation if packet loss exceeds a constant, substantial amount of 5% to 10% packet loss. This can be an infuriating experience, something you would wish your customers could avoid.
 

Common Causes of Packet Loss
 

Because packet loss means the data was dropped somewhere in the network, it is generally caused by an issue within the network. Of course, the challenge would be understanding and locating the exact weak point. Between both lost and discarded packets, there are a wide number of causes for packet loss. Some of which are:

  • Relying on WiFi: While convenient, wireless network connections are simply less robust and reliable compared to a wired connection. Signals can be blocked by walls or furniture, and interference can get in the way creating delays in the delivery of data packets.
     
  • Bad Hardware: Internet network connections are made through a number of distinct hardware pieces, including modems, routers, and switches. Bad hardware, including an outdated firmware/software, a damaged ethernet cable, or a malfunctioning router, will quickly contribute to issues with call quality.
     
  • Software Issues: Improper hardware configuration on the software side can lead to packet loss as well. This could range from interoperability bugs in the network to the improper software configuration of your devices.
     
  • Network Congestion: The most obvious, and easiest cause would simply be network congestion. Having too many devices hooked up to the same system, all being used at the same time, will run out of bandwidth, slowing your connection to a crawl. Insufficient bandwidth/ the bandwidth cap to handle a VoIP call will lead to packets being dropped or delivered out of order.

 

Identifying Packet Loss
 

Some general network monitoring tools do measure a selection of audio quality factors including packet loss; however, Spearline provides a comprehensive view, and critically, an end-to-end perspective that crosses international carrier networks, going beyond the private network edge into the wider public network that carries genuine customer calls. Our toolsets help businesses to manage and improve telecommunications service quality and improve customer experience. 

Spearline’s number testing will provide latency measurement of real audio across the whole path of the audio, including through the PSTN/mobile telephone network. Our test will be helpful in providing insight as to how to improve quality, reduce jitter and packet loss, and more. 

Network monitoring will focus on the internal network. Spearline helps verify paths from the customer’s vantage point into the private LAN/WAN network space. 

Providing an accurate end-to-end measure of audio quality using PESQ, Spearline proactively monitors by dialing your contact numbers from in-country.

Be sure to read our whitepaper 'Beyond Network Monitoring' today for a better in-depth understanding of network monitoring and number testing. At Spearline, we have expertise in measuring and monitoring customer experience and have the tools which you can use to ensure your network is supporting high-quality customer conversations that grow your business.
 

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Spearline's platform proactively tests inbound telecommunications services, as well as dial-out. Connectivity and audio quality are monitored on fixed-line, SIP, or mobile networks, globally. Spearline enables organizations to provide uninterrupted services to customers around the world. For further information, or if you have any further questions please get in touch with us.

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