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Tele-Voice: Improving the Quality of IP Telephony

Telepresence shook up the video conferencing market by offering very high quality video and audio. Why not offer Tele-voice--high quality audio? The technology and products are available, so this sounds like a marketing/education challenge.Most IP Telephony deployments are sold as cost reductions projects. The goal is to replace the traditional voice system with one that is almost as good, but at a lower cost. Cost savings come in the form of lower long distance and support costs. But going to IP usually results in voice quality suffering, in part due to:

* Added Delay--Converting analog voice to IP packets adds delay (about 75ms), which when compounded with transmission delay can lead to callers "stepping" on each other.

* Compression--To save network bandwidth, the call is compressed, which adds more delay and lowers voice quality. Compressing a call multiple times really aggravates the problem.

* Phone Quality--The end phone may be composed of cheap components. When you put the caller on speaker phone, the quality is just not there.

In the global economy where a lot of calls are overseas and there are cultural, language, and accent barriers, is adding a voice quality barrier worth it? Communication is hindered when callers have to repeat themselves, start and stop to keep from "stepping" on each other, and mentally strain themselves to understand the other person. If we assume that in the course of an hour conversation, that we had 5 minutes of wasted time, what is the cost of this vs. the savings for cheaper telephony? What image does it portray about the caller and the company?

Tele-voice would be high quality audio that would have very stringent network requirements just like Tele-presence. G.722 for example is a wideband (7Khz) standard for transmitting quality audio. Cutting the network delay by optimizing the transmission route (private IP network to specify exact fiber route and roundtrip delay), having quick codecs, and requiring network jitter to be less than 10ms.

If we took a group of 100 offshore contact center agents and tracked their average handle time, ran speech analytics for repeats and start/stops, and measured customer satisfaction for a month, then gave them Tele-voice, what would be the difference? Assume today, the round trip delay on the network is 325 ms and they use G.729 voice compression. With Tele-voice, round trip delay would be 250 ms, 7KHz wide-band audio, and a high quality phone/head set. Also assume, that it is internal employees or customers using a company phone/kiosk to contact these agents.

Should IP Telephony's slogan be "can you understand me now?"