What is ‘bandwidth’ and does it affect my answering service?

As the TAS (telephone answering service) industry dives headfirst into cloud technology, the requirements of our internet connections grow ever-steeper.

If you’re deploying a hosted telephone system (cloud-based PBX) or using VoIP in some capacity, you will be completely reliant on your internet connection to deliver high-quality audio to your callers and clients. This isn’t to disregard the handset or headset you’re using, but if you don’t have enough bandwidth, the quality of audio that is delivered to the other end of the conversation will be compromised.

First question: what is bandwidth?

It is the rate at which data can be transferred – measured in bits per second (e.g. 50mbps). Bandwidth is the maximum capacity of your connection to your premises – not the exact speed each device connected to your internet router will actually receive.

You can freely check your internet speeds at any time using Speedtest by Ookla:

Next question: how much do I need?

There are a few commonly used equations to calculate how much you need, but there is a difference between how much you ‘need’ and how much you should have. A safe measure for a typical office is 2 megabits per person. This accounts for general file and update downloads, the occasional streaming of a video, and general web-browsing and email. However, you (the answering service) need to account for all of this PLUS several VoIP calls happening simultaneously.

VoIP calls are not very demanding on your bandwidth (unless you’re having a video conversation, e.g. Skype), but your internet router probably doesn’t know to prioritise one use of bandwidth over another. So if you have a couple of employees on their lunch break streaming videos, and another deciding to update Windows 10, your calls may well end up sounding choppy!

You also need to contend with certain high-traffic times of day, when you won’t get the most out of your bandwidth. Peak traffic typically occurs between 7pm and midnight, so if you are operating a 24/7 telephone answering service you might notice a dip in internet speed (and call quality!) between these times.

Final question: how do I ensure all calls have excellent audio quality?

  1. Instruct your staff not to download excessively large video files (or even mobile apps/games) during office hours. Mobile apps such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix allow users to download TV series and films to their phones/tablets – this can smother your bandwidth!
  2. Enable QoS (Quality of Service) on your router to prioritise certain devices or applications over others – this can prevent certain actions that are not affected by inconsistent bandwidth (e.g. downloading files or refreshing email inboxes) dominating important actions such as phone calls.
  3. Upgrade your bandwidth with your internet provider. More is always better, and be sure to pick a provider that does not cap your usage!
  4. Choose a provider that is incredibly reliable, with the highest possible up-time.

With the rapid advancements and availability of fibre-optic broadband, bandwidth probably won’t be an issue in the near future. But for now, make sure you’re doing everything you can to maximise the quality of your calls.


The nCall Answering Service software suite is compatible with a fully cloud hosted phone system setup.