What Is: Telephone Echo

telephone echo

What is Telephone Echo? 

Telephone echo is a headache. Actually, it’s a frustration that often invades communications. Echo is the phenomenon wherein speakers hear their own voice echoed back after a brief delay.

Although some technologies mitigate many causes, echo is still a problem. Indeed, even with the advent of VoIP. Uniquely, sidetone is echo where sound effectively loops back between the speaker and microphone at one end of a phone call.   

Every telephone call has some echo. The question is whether that echo is apparent to the callers.  

What causes Telephone Echo?

Echo is experienced in normal PSTN connections and also in VoIP connections. But, due to the inherent delay in VoIP, it can actually be more noticeable.

Telephone echo that a caller hears is probably the result of the far-end. Here, an impedance mismatch bounces signals back from where they came. In today’s global telecoms networks calls can transit a mixture of IP and PSTN network, on copper, fiber-optic, and wireless transmission legs. Due to notable delays, there are echoes of one’s own words audibly discernable. 

Research indicates that when there is a delay of 35ms or less in one-way transmission (round-trip delay of <70ms), the speaker cannot distinguish the echo from an acceptable level of sidetone. However, as one-way delay increases beyond 35ms, the echo grows more problematic. The longer the delay, the more dramatic and invasive the echo becomes.  

What is Echo Cancellation?

Telephone systems and network infrastructure use echo suppression and echo cancellation techniques to maintain voice quality. Ideally, these operate to prevent echo from being created. Alternatively, they remove it once detected. Echo suppression has been around since the 1950s. It has evolved into echo cancellation, while also moving from largely hardware-based techniques to software-based techniques.  

Much of the network equipment in the path between any two callers will have settings that can help manage and minimize echo. However, most phone calls involve multiple networks and each network will be managed by teams making different configuration choices. Echo remains an ever-present phenomenon. 

Today’s users have very high expectations regarding the quality of phone calls. But, there are many issues that can occur with a voice connection, including echo. Businesses depend on clear communication channels in their customer interactions. More and more are taking a truly proactive approach to audio quality management.

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Spearline is the leading network intelligence company in the telecommunications industry. Our platform enables enterprises and telecommunications service providers to test connectivity and quality on global telecoms networks, testing automatically at volume. Interested in benefiting from our platform? Please get in touch with us.

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