A Lesson In Solving VOIP Problems

Aid From Comcast Via Twitter

I got a message from Melinda via Twitter, who’s a Comcast person offering to help.  I referred her to last week’s blog entry and shared the following via email:

“Here’s some other factors to note:”

“I have both Vonage and Skype numbers.  Whenever there is a serious degrade in Vonage voice quality it also shows up on Skype.  They have two different VOIP protocols.”

“Whenever I have issues with the VOIP solutions and run a speed test at http://www.voipreview.org/, it indicates via their tests that the network wouldn’t sustain a quality connection, and indicates a significant packet loss.  I understand from querying experts that a 5% packet lost is normal.  I’ve seen as high as 21% with this site’s speed tests.”

When these things occur, I have also run tests with http://www.pingplotter.com/, using their freeware version; I see significant packet loss.  I have utilized the websites http://www.boa.com and http://www.comcast.com.

“I’ve also done tests by doing ‘ping http://www.boa.com -n 100 -l 600’ and ‘ping http://www.comcast.com -n 100 -l 600′.”

“Keep in mind that the data doesn’t show a ’cause and effect’ relationship but more one of ‘statistical correlation’.  I used to be a software engineer at Motorola, within their cell phone division, for 7 years.  I’m also a Motorola Six Sigma black belt.  It should give me some knowledge and expertise for looking at both network and software issues.”

“As I related in the blog, the changes that a connection to Computer A, Computer B, and a Vonage device showing software issues, vs. the Modem being at fault, is very remote.  It’s not necessarily a modem issue, but could be an issue how the Modem interfaces with the computer.  Whenever I had modem issues under ATT Internet, they have me type in internal ATT IP addresses, within the browser.  Sometimes they found duplicate entries in some Windows files.”

“ATT is in the process of setting up a basic phone service for me, which I plan on running Google Voice on.  I’ll let you know when that’s available.  In case of issues on my main number, I can provide a cell phone number also.”

Let me add a footnote to this.  Pure speed tests at http://www.speedtest.net/ show an acceptable rate but voice simulation tests at http://www.voipreview.org do not.  It shows significant packet loss and jitter issues.   If I do a test at http://www.pingtest.net/, I’ve seen packet losses well over 40%.  This occurs when I have sound quality issues on both Vonage and Skype (I.E – Skype to Skype).  Strange, isn’t it?

A Comcast Email Inquiry

Here’s part of a context from attempting to use the email support system:

Comcast:

“Upon review of your e-mail and your account, I can see that you are  using your own personal router. Unfortunately you have requested  assistance on something Comcast does not support.  In order to provide you with the highest level of technical assistance,  Comcast must limit its support to the Comcast High-Speed Internet  service. This means we will support your connection to the Comcast  High-Speed Internet network and the software included on your Comcast High-Speed Internet CD-ROM. “

My response:

“I don’t own a router.  I only own a Modem rented to me by Comcast.  Unless you consider the Vonage device a router.  Am I to understand that you consider the Vonage device a router?”

“If I were to experience issues – given what I have told you – would Comcast provide support if I couldn’t connect any computer directly to their modem?”

Comcast (partial extraction):

“ We do consider the Vonage box a router…In the event we cannot resolve your … issue, we can either escalate it to the network technicians or schedule  a service call.”

My response (partial extraction):

“I will gladly work with support, in case of an issue.”

What is the root cause?

It reminds me of Middle Eastern  stories regarding Mullah Nasruddin.  My favorite story’s found at stories-shortst….  Basically, he lost a key in a dark area.  But he looks for it within a lighted area – the light’s better.

Where do I go from here?  The data I provided is just one of statistical correlation.  It doesn’t indicate a root cause.  Perhaps if I spoke with Vonage technicians?  With my new measured rate ATT land line phone, a call to Vonage support was a breeze.  It took a few minutes to relate my story.  I included all the test websites and voice applications I used.  The technician and I ran a few tests.

  1. First we disconnected the Vonage device and hooked up the Comcast modem directly to the computer.  Next we ran some trace route and ping tests.
  2. Next we connected the Vonage device and hooked up the Comcast modem directly to the computer.  Then we ran some trace route and ping tests.

Wallah!  The root cause was outdated firmware (the stuff that runs the hardware) on my Vonage device.  A definition is found at en.wikipedia.or…: “In electronics and computing, firmware is a term often used to denote the fixed, usually rather small, programs and data structures that internally control various electronic devices.”

My Current Phone Situation

  1. Here’s a cool article: “Make Free VoIP Calls from Google Voice with a Gizmo5 Hookup” lifehacker.com/….  I now have Gizmo5 configured to make calls over Google Voice.
  2. There’s also a cool service at  http://www.sipgate.com/.  I applied for a number but they couldn’t send my TracFone a promotional code.  A email to Sipgate tech support indicated a temporary issue with sending Tracfone SMS messages.
  3. Google Voice is live and well.  It’s a joy to test it.  It works well both over Vonage VOIP and ATT land line networks.
  4. Vonage currently sounds like their commercial, with the upside down phone conversations.
  5. Comcast speed is really exceptional.
  6. Tools like Skype are working well.
  • Comcast: The only disappointment’s that I never heard back from Melissa and Comcast management.
  • Vonage:  I plan to explore other options after a year is up.  I have strong ethical business objections to locking people into a year’s worth of service.  You do this by imposing a stiff cancellation fee, costing about half a year’s service with you.   This is probably more than twice what both ATT and Comcast charge for cancellation.  How many Vonage technicians did I engage, before one finally diagnosed the root cause as outdated firmware?  You should pay me for the spotty service for 1.5 months, along with all the wasted  time, trying to find a root cause.  I’m still seeing packet loss over 5%.  One technician said I have an old device – exactly how old are the “refurbished” devices you provide?
  • Google Voice:  I love your service so far.  I’m very pleased at the quality, both over an ATT land line and a VOIP line.  It’s a pleasure to know I can configure it with the Gizmo5 soft phone.

Randy Kemp
Blog: http://b2b-techcopy.net
Business: http://b2b-techcopy.com

 

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One Response

  1. Let me leave an update to my blog article. I did reach another good technician at Vonage (it’s the luck of the draw – same as Comcast). We conducted some tests and I replaced the cable, between the modem and V-portal. Pack loss is now minimal, with the testing tools at http://www.voipreview.org and http://www.pingtest.net. The voice quality is good. Let’s see if things remain this way.
    Randy

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