Megapath’s New Speed Test Plus Is a Valuable Free Tool for VoIP Users

Every serious VoIP user has at one time or another tested his or her downstream and upstream bandwidth to see if there’s a problem. Sometimes (though rarely at today’s typical broadband speeds), a bottleneck large enough to affect voice conversations is pinpointed through such a test.

But several other internet connectivity factors can have an impact on VoIP quality. Megapath, one of the major independent internet service providers in the U.S., has updated its popular internet speed Speed Test applet (which it acquired when it acquired internet service provider Speakeasy from Best Buy two years ago) to measure them.

For VoIPsters, Megapath’s Speed Test Plus is a very useful web tool to bookmark.

The free service utilizes one of Megapath’s eight U.S. network centers, and automatically attempts to route the tester to the closest (this can be overridden by the user). The centers are in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

The user begins the test by choosing whether from a business or residential end point, though after several tests it does not appear that the end result is affected by this choice.

Besides basic download and upload speeds, Megapath’s expanded Speed Test Plus measures three other factors that can affect the quality of a VoIP call. These are:

Packet Loss – The percentage of data packets that do not reach their destination, which causes voice calls to sound choppy;

Latency – The time, in milliseconds, it takes for a data packet to make its way to and from a remote end point. Latency causes periods of silence on VoIP calls, often resulting in the parties talking over one another.

Jitter – Variations, in milliseconds, of latency over time between two end points. When high jitter values exist, voice packets may be transmitted out of order, resulting in echoes and talk-over.

At the end of the tests, which can take a couple of minutes, the user is provided a “Mean Opinion Score (MOS)” that predicts the typical quality of a VoIP call over the tested connection.

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  • Dsmith

    You can also test upload speed, download speed, firewall, SIP, jitter and packet loss at:

    http://voipqualitytest.com/

  • Felix Rabinovich

    The deficiency of all these tests is that you need to run them from a computer. Unless I am using a softphone, I am *not* making calls from the computer. I might have some QoS rules that prioritize voice traffic. In fact, I probably want to measure voice quality in an environment where some upload activity goes on.

    In short, unless I can run it from command line on a router or PBX box, it will give only a very coarse approximation of MOS.

  • Ole Juul

    I just tried in three different browsers on two machines. Perhaps this is only for MS-Windows users, but otherwise it looks like they’ve got a bit to go yet.

  • henry

    Another deficiency is that you’re only testing your voice quality at one point in time. It’s much better to run tests continually so you can get a sense of how your voice quality changes throughout the day/week.

    There are some tools that do this for you. AppNeta has a very good solution although it’s pretty expensive. VoIP Spear is cheaper and offers a simple solution. It’s not quite as accurate because it uses ICMP rather than UDP, however it’s pretty reliable in practice.