Voice hiccups but big data boost for VoIP in North

The only hitches with Northland Health's nine-month-old integrated voice and data system have been the occasional loss of call quality.

The only hitches with Northland Health’s nine-month-old integrated voice and data system have been the occasional loss of call quality.

The health board’s voice over IP system has been a great success in terms of cost savings and increased data speeds, says infrastructure team leader Brett Matthews. It’s just a small minority of voice calls where problems such as echo and jitters occur.

“On some calls, less than 10% of the total, users have experienced problems and we’ve had comments such as ‘it sounded like the person was underwater’.”

The system, installed in October, was embraced as a way of combining WANs and large dedicated data links. “We were still using primary-rate-to-primary-rate megalinks between sites and running five or six voice calls on a 30-channel pipe.” Northland Health was also running a frame relay data link of 256kbit/s and Matthews says the situation begged the question: “What if we could use the 2Mbit/s megalinks’ voice link for data and voice?”

The implementation — which involved Nortel gear installed and maintained by Telecom — went well, he says. After hearing anecdotally of below-par voice quality on some calls, Matthews polled users by email and gave the results to Telecom, which administers the system. “After some tweaking, the percentage of dud calls is diminishing — either that or people aren’t complaining any more.”

While some calls may be below par, the project has, overall, greatly benefitted Northland Health, he says. “I’d recommend it — there are substantial cost savings in combining frame relay and megalinks into one. It’s enabled us to go from 256kbit/s frame relay to 2Mbit/s minus whatever voice calls there are at the time, and that’s almost a 20-fold increase in data speeds.”

Getting VoIP has solved a number of performance issues on the computer side, he says. There have been two software upgrades since the installation and more will follow, Matthews says. Northland Health has sites in Whangarei, Kaitaia, Kaikohe and Dargaville.

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