Abbey monitors VoIP call quality

High-street bank Abbey, a pioneer in IP telephony, has begun implementing service level monitoring to ensure that IP-based calls...

High-street bank Abbey, a pioneer in IP telephony, has begun implementing service level monitoring to ensure that IP-based calls are of the same quality as traditional analogue calls.

IP telephony is particularly susceptible to problems such as poor sound quality and failures, said analyst group Gartner, since it is a real-time application that relies on a shared network infrastructure,

Gartner said that although Multiprotocol Label Switching networks can prioritise time-sensitive data such as voice traffic, the technical measurements used to derive quality of service - such as packet loss, jitter and delay - are not sufficient to determine whether the quality of a voice call is acceptable to a user.

Instead Nigel Chisnall, technology strategist at Abbey National, has used a technique known as Mean Opinion Score to measure the quality of voice calls on the bank's IP network.

This is a benchmark for measuring quality of telephone calls, based on surveying samples of users on the quality of recorded phone conversations.

To set a benchmark on which to assess the quality of calls on the IP network, Chisnall checked call quality on a five-mile copper link across landlines in Ipswich. This gave a Mos score of 4.6.

Using voice quality assessment technology from Psytechnics, which specialises in monitoring technology, Abbey's VoIP provider, BT, implemented and maintained the Mos-based service-level agreement for voice quality at the bank.

Abbey's SLA will require VoIP voice quality to be comparable to landline quality across the entire network of 750 offices - a total of 9,000 IP handsets.

At a Burton Group conference earlier this month, Chisnall said he chose a Mos score of 3.7 and tested the network in Durham, central London and the Isle of Wight to check call quality on the IP network.

He said Psytechnics' non-intrusive technology supports continuous monitoring. "We have 400,000 calls a week and needed to check all of them," he said. "Psytechnics provides us with early diagnosis of a problem." This is used by the bank to predict where likely problems will occur.

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