Telecoms carriers underpin the entire global telecoms network. If you are a carrier, you are the trusted provider of voice services for millions of people. You own highly valuable networks of infrastructure and employ teams of engineers that help you deliver those services. So, you’d be forgiven for thinking you have complete control and knowledge of what is going on in your own network.
Unfortunately, with vast, complicated networks and – often – high volumes of traffic, one thing you may be blind to is the voice quality of calls on your network.
If you aren’t conducting regular voice quality testing across your network, there are a number of key reasons why you should be. But first, we’ll give a brief explainer of how a voice quality test is conducted, and what it can uncover.
How do you conduct a voice quality test?
Voice quality testing could be as simple as asking someone to make a call across your network and rate various aspects of the quality of the call. But this isn’t terribly scientific – a person’s experience of voice quality can be somewhat subjective, and they won’t be able to provide you with an accurate measurement of characteristics. On top of this, if you manage a global network (or even a large national network), this process will quickly get out of hand.
A more scientific method of conducting a voice quality test is to use a pre-recorded voice sample. The test compares the audio output (at the phone line’s ‘listener’ end), to the original voice file (played on the ‘talker’ side), to create a fully unbiased and objective indicator of the actual voice quality of the listener experiences.
A brief outline of how Spearline conducts this type of voice quality test:
- An in-country server, connected to standard phone lines with ISDN signaling, dials your contact number.
- The server sends a DTMF tone that your IVR is configured to recognize (eg ‘9-8-7-5-7’)
- IVR connects the test call to a pre-loaded audio (WAV) file. The WAV file is played back over the line, recorded on the Spearline server, and then analyzed to generate an audio quality score.
What can voice quality testing uncover?
Using the type of voice quality test outlined above, analysis of the voice recording can be completed using an objective, recognized industry-standard audio quality measure called PESQ (Perceptual Evaluation of Speech Quality). PESQ is an ITU (International Telecommunication Union) standard for measuring audio quality and it takes into consideration characteristics such as:
- Audio sharpness
- Call volume
- Background noise
- Variable latency or lag in audio
- Audio interference
This allows you to test voice quality on any type of call – mobile or fixed-lines; toll and toll-free services, VoIP or PSTN – using an agreed international standard. There’s no ambiguity, so you know exactly the voice quality your phone services are delivering.
Why test your voice quality?
So, now we’ve covered the how, what are some of the key reasons why carriers should test voice quality using this method, or similar?
1. Get ahead of voice quality issues before customers complain
Proactive voice quality testing means being alerted to issues on your network at the earliest possible moment. When a customer complains about poor service, this early alert is the difference between your response being “OK, we’ll look into that” and “Yes, we’re aware of that issue and we’re already implementing a fix”.
And, let’s face it, your business customers, in particular, will complain if there is a sudden drop in voice quality that affects voice calls coming in and out of their own networks. Indeed, many of those business customers, that are committed to high levels of customer experience for their own customers, will be conducting their own voice quality tests. In this case, a lack of adequate voice quality testing will be leaving you in a position where customers have more knowledge of issues on your network than you do.
Conversely, frequent proactive voice quality tests across all potential routes – with the option to weight testing to priority areas – provide early warning where issues are occurring, and the intelligence to fix issues before they become a problem. Voice quality tests conducted by Spearline, for example, come with full call detail records that allow you to pinpoint issues, investigate more quickly and reduce your mean time to resolution (MTTR).
2. Test voice quality being provided by your downstream carriers
Global telecoms networks include a complex web of connections. Partnerships between different carriers, globally, can be equally complex. The call path for a customer making an international call may have a variety of potential routes that it could follow, with connections and handovers made to downstream carrier partners along the way.
Yet, despite contracts and service level agreements (SLAs), a carrier can be blind to what’s happening on their partners’ networks. Downstream carriers may be transcoding (compressing audio files) at busy times to save on data. This may not mean that calls are being dropped or failing to connect, but it will result in a loss of voice quality. And, because this may only be happening at particular times, it can be even more difficult to spot.
With proactive voice quality testing, it’s possible to test all the potential routes on your network and spot where these issues may be occurring, as well as rank the voice quality performance of your downstream carriers. Armed with this information, the simple voice quality test allows you to:
- Make informed choices when selecting partners – where alternatives exist across routes, voice quality testing and ranking of partners allow you to select the routes and partners that provide the best voice quality
- Hold your carrier partners to account – where downstream carrier partners are transcoding, or otherwise not performing to SLAs, the evidence from voice quality tests can allow you to tackle performance issues.
3. Gain evidence of the voice quality you’re delivering
In a competitive world, many carriers are competing on quality. And marketing needs to be more than empty promises and unsupported statements on quality.
Voice quality testing provides independent, objective verification of the levels of voice quality you are providing, allowing you to back up your claims and differentiate from competitors.
New to Spearline?
Spearline allows organizations to provide uninterrupted, quality services to customers around the world. The Spearline platform, in particular, tests inbound telecommunications services, as well as dial-out. If you would like to find out more, we would love to speak with you! Please send us a brief message, and we will be in contact with you shortly.
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