If You’re Having VOIP Or Skype Problems, This May Be Why

I’ve noticed this problem for the past 10 years now, that a VOIP or Skype call will work fine.. and then start to have problems..

Static will show up on the call..  Or it will get incredibly choppy.. Or even disconnect.

What is most likely happening is that your local internet provider (whether wired or wireless) is intentionally scrambling your call.  Carriers have the ability to detect certain types of traffic and do things to it when it is in their interests.  So while your internet connection may be being used for 8 things simultaneously  they can detect the skype traffic and start discarding some of those packets, or introduce static into the line.

You can test this by signing up for a VPN like witopia and make a call.   A VPN will encrypt the call so your carrier can no longer detect what is happening.  More often than not, the problem will go away.  This is a sign you need to change your internet provider. There is no other option. (you should also complain).

One example of when this happened to me was when I was at LAX (LA Airport) and was using my tmobile 4g wireless card to call my brother in Australia. For the first 3 calls the call quality was terrible.  Then finally I tried turning on the VPN on my laptop and calling back.  The line quality was perfect.  The difference was startling.

The carriers will make excuses about this but the reality is – they scramble VOIP/Skype calls so you will use more of their services.

  • Your proposed explanation is plausible, but a more likely explanation is that a VPN provides a different packetization strategy for the content you’re sending. Additionally, for VOIP (say SIP/RTP) calls, those are transmitted largely via UDP, which provides far less reliability end-to-end than TCP does, which is how a VPN would be implemented. Combine this with the possibility that providers along the way have different QoS settings in place for VOIP/Skype and VPN, and you simply get an improved performance profile. However, using a VPN will introduce more hops and encryption overhead; but because of the ubiquity of fiber long-haul capacity and fast CPUs, VPNs impose less overhead than they ever have.

    So while I wouldn’t discount the possibility that the evilest major providers are interfering with traffic on specific ports, the differences created with a VPN connection are significant and are another likely explanation.

  • Adrian Bye

    A different packetization strategy is exactly what i’m talking about. but it is one which is designed for the business benefit of the carrier.

    I’ve seen this occur about 20 different times now. Distorted VOIP or Skype calls (but plenty of bandwidth) on a regular line. Add VPN and things are perfect. It happens periodically with people I interview for meetinnovators, too.

    I’m actually surprised this isn’t publicly known. Another example of how the telcos interfere in the US is how difficult it is to get MVNO’s working properly with MMS.

    The american public is surprisingly patient. I was even thinking of making a blog to document all these issues because i think there is enough to trigger an antitrust case.

    • rich hoffman

      Yep, I dropped my tv portion of service and Poof! the VOIP “which has worked flawlessly” for 7 years goes out with no reconnect. New equipment and plausible deniability from the service provider “Charter” are forcing me to drop them altogether . The nightmare of choice is AT$T, certainly not a cakewalk but untill these warlords regain some manners many will cut and go commando “Cell” . Them dirty sumanaviches.