If you’re considering switching to VoIP – or about to – then you might well assume that the process of setting up such a service requires little more than purchasing IP desk phones, hooking up old phones with adapters, or switching over to softphones and mobile apps. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth, as moving the phone system to the cloud is useless if the router can’t deal with VoIP traffic. Thankfully the market is full of devices that are equipped with everything required to make your network fully VoIP-compatible. Not only that, but when certain features are present it won’t take too much to ensure that the router can handle phone traffic over the internet in a quality that it was intended.
What Is a VoIP Router?
Theoretically, all routers are capable of handling VoIP calls but since most are optimized for internet traffic, they have a better tolerance for higher latency and jitter – which are the two very things that can ruin internet calls. A good VoIP router, however, not only prevents such issues but it also makes sure that VoIP traffic has priority at all times. As such, the only routers that should be considered compatible with internet telephony services are those that can handle multiple connections at once in addition to important features like quality of service settings (QoS), dual-band wireless support, and VLAN. In fact, these three features are integral to successful VoIP use as they are the only ways to ensure that VoIP traffic is always separated from and prioritized over every other data stream.
There are additional features that make a router suited to VoIP use, too, such as supporting the industry standard 802.11n Wi-Fi protocol or its successor 802.11ac, which is three times faster. The other feature, MU-MIMO – Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output – isn’t as common, but it’s quite useful as it allows each device on the network to engage the router with its own data stream, separating data traffic even further and more effectively.
Recommended VoIP Routers
TP-Link AC1200 (Archer C1200)
For starters, the device has three antennas to provide outstanding wireless coverage, but is also a dual-band router with 802.11ac technology and two wireless frequencies that allows users to broadcast data at both 2.4GHz and 5GHz at the same time. An extra advantage is the fact that the AC1200 sports four Gigabit LAN ports, meaning data traffic can be distributed between devices without any limitations.
This router also has a USB port so devices like printers, hard drives and the like can be shared with other users of the router, too. And if that’s not enough, setting up the AC1200 is ridiculously easy thanks to the innovative Tether mobile app.
TP-Link AC3200 (Archer C3200)
However, there are two key differences, one of which is the option to schedule the Wi-Fi broadcast – a feature that could be useful for SMBs when there is nobody in the office. The other difference is that the router is backwards compatible with devices that don’t support the 802.11ac wireless protocol. It’s also prepared to provide internet connections to devices supporting future protocols, too.
This NETGEAR router is approximately $55 on Amazon with free shipping, but used versions of the AC1000 can be found for less than $50.
VoIP Router for Small Businesses
Having a VoIP router is the optimal choice for home users, but for businesses such a move only has benefits. The most obvious is that a VoIP router provides various ways to prioritize phone traffic over other data packets, meaning that businesses can perform internet-related tasks while also being able to communicate with their clients without the fear of disruption.
With the improved dual-band wireless technology VoIP data can be broadcasted on the better 5GHz signal, so users who need to place and receive calls using the phone system’s dedicated softphone app can still enjoy the same call quality of desk phones. And since VoIP-compatible routers come with the VLAN feature as well, the concept of grouping users together can be taken to the next literal level by linking multiple devices together, even if those devices aren’t even close to one another.
Setting up a Router for VoIP
Even though it’d be simple to just plug in the new router and start using it right away, it’s always smart to confirm your network is VoIP-compatible to begin with by performing a ping test before tampering with the router’s settings. Once that’s out of the way the router can be configured to handle VoIP traffic – a process that, thankfully, doesn’t require too many adjustments to settings, especially if it’s explained in great detail by VoIP providers.
The first thing to do is to disable settings like SIP ALG (Session Initial Protocol Application Layer Gateway) and SPI (Stateful Packet Inspection), which could disrupt calls. Then you need to modify the QoS by enabling bandwidth control and creating new rules that determine and prioritize devices intended for VoIP use.
If you want to set up a VLAN, too, then this also has to be enabled first, followed by selecting how the device connects to the router – either through Ethernet ports or one of the wireless frequencies – and creating a VLAN rule to prioritize the VoIP device’s traffic. Note that certain domains, ports, and IP addresses may need to be whitelisted, unless a stateful firewall is present.