Most public spaces offer free Wi-Fi—so much so that we rely on it for our mobile devices. Even at home, most networks support wireless connectivity. It lets us roam with our laptops or stream from devices in different rooms and on separate floors.
For over a decade, we’ve enjoyed cordless landline phones. While many VOIP phones now come cordless, the base still plugs in via Ethernet. Wireless (Wi-Fi) phones lift this limitation, but they come with a few caveats.
Note that alternatives exist to improve phone portability. Softphones are available for tablets, laptops, and smartphones. When not connected to public hotspots, they consume cellular data. Most services come with at least 1 GB, which more than covers phone calls. Furthermore, smartphones seamlessly integrate with other communication methods like SMS and MMS.
Potential Problems with Wireless VoIP Phones
Wi-Fi phones promise ease of connectivity and convenience. Unfortunately, problems with the network can adversely affect performance. In particular, Wi-Fi phones face proximity, security, and priority challenges.
Local area networks span only so far. As signal strength lessens, the quality of a phone call might deteriorate. This means devices outside of specific zones might experience inferior quality. Small networks will likely not face this problem. Proximity is more so an issue on public networks, where you might connect far from its center.
Of course, solutions exist for proximity problems. Wi-Fi extenders and secondary routers can help push a signal to greater lengths. Investing in better network equipment, too, can enhance performance. Regardless, a phone that supports both wired and wireless connectivity can avoid such problems.
VoIP is susceptible to packet loss like other real-time applications. Factors like range and interference can increase its rate of failure. Similarly, packet interception is a threat in public Wi-Fi spaces.
Home and business wireless networks can protect against security risks through encryption and authentication. Unfortunately, this adds delay to the process of sending and receiving calls. Using Ethernet bypasses this. Phones encrypt through audio codecs anyway, as covered in a recent blog post.
Everyone on public Wi-Fi receives equal access to bandwidth. This means your phone call competes with other activities like music streaming and email. This is a prioritization issue. Most routers offer Quality of Service (QoS) to allocate data for specific devices. On small home or business networks, this prevents packet loss and congestion.
Arguably, Ethernet setups provide faster connections and more efficient QoS. They also circumvent wireless problems like interference and interception. That said, a strong Wi-Fi network does offer a wealth of benefits not just for wireless VoIP devices. Consider your current network and telephony needs to decide which approach best suits you.