Let me guess; you’re here because you’ve had an issue with Voice over IP (VoIP) or video conference calls. You’re not alone!
This post will help you configure your existing router to get the best possible experience in real-time online communication, or Netflix streaming, or any other things you do online, for that matter. It’s all about QoS.
QoS explained: What is it?
QoS stands for Quality of Service. It’s a routing feature that allows users to prioritize the Internet connection for specific programs, clients, or services.
In a nutshell, the way it works, QoS takes the existing broadband connection and designates a specific amount of bandwidth to your desired target before the rest of the network.
For example, if you prioritize VoIP, your Internet-based calls will get all the bandwidth it needs before any other applications. Or, if you prioritize your Xbox (or a particular game), then the game console will get the first dibs on the Internet before any other devices.
And you can do that with anything you want, like Netflix streaming, online surfing, or even file downloading — though, well, you shouldn’t.
Downloading almost never requires prioritizing. Rather, it’s the reason why you need QoS in the first place. When left alone, a single file download job will hog all the bandwidth, no matter how fast the Internet connection is, until it’s complete.
What you need to use QoS
You generally need two things to take advantage of QoS.
First and foremost is a router that supports this feature. Most, if not all, home Wi-Fi routers have QoS, but the way they do it varies from one vendor to another. In my experience, Asus routers support this feature well and allow for easy configuration. Those from Linksys and Netgear are also quite great.
The second is you need to know your Internet connection’s true speed and quality. It’s quite easy to find out — I wrote a long piece on speed testing if you need to know the exact numbers and the role each plays. But generally, you can do a quick speed test right now to find out your ballpark figures.
Done? Hope you got good numbers.
Now, remember them and form the right expectations on what you can get out of your Internet.
Set the right expectations with QoS
For QoS to be effective, your Internet has to be at least fast enough, or better yet, faster than what’s needed by the prioritized party. So, say, if your application needs 25Mbps of download speed and your broadband caps at 20Mbps, well, no QoS can help you in this case.
I picked 25Mbps for a reason. That’s the download speed required for streaming 4K content on one device, from Netflix or any other services.
So if you’re suffering from buffering and wait time while streaming over a modest Internet connection, don’t immediately blame your Wi-Fi for it — they are two different things.
Also, QoS can not improve the quality of your Internet connection. For example, if your broadband has high latency (lag), which is terrible for real-time communication, QoS won’t improve that. All it can do is give a particular application, service, or client within your network the best possible experience given what you have.
Lastly, QoS is generally not necessary when you have a high-speed broadband connection that has enough bandwidth for all of your applications at once. But even then, if you know that somebody in your home regularly downloads stuff, like using a BitTorrent client, then it’s still a good idea to turn this feature on.
VoIP’s broadband requirements
Generally, a broadband connection of 50Mbps download / 5Mbps upload or faster is enough for almost any online application. That’s one instance of the app.
If you have multiple applications, keep in mind that each requires some bandwidth of its own. For example, that most video conferencing apps require at least 2Mbps per screen. In reality, it likely uses more if you do that in Full HD or 4K. So, to be sure, give each screen an allotment of 25Mbps.
Internet-based voice/video communication’s requirement on latency is rather lenient. Specifically, your connection should have less than 150 ms (millisecond) and 30 ms in Ping and Jitter values, respectively, for VoIP to work.
A typical residential broadband connection generally has those at less than 20 ms. The lower the values, the better the call quality you’ll get.
By the way, it’s important to note that you should remain relatively at one spot (or one room) while doing a voice or video call. If you have the habit of moving around your (large) house, no router or system can make that work well. So no QoS can help, either.
How to configure your router’s QoS
The way you work with QoS varies depending on the routers. Generally, routers from the same vendor share the same interface or mobile app, and therefore the same way for users to customize their settings.
The web interface is always the best way to manage a router since it gives you in-depth access to a router’s features and settings. And QoS is one of those advanced features. But some vendors, like Linksys, also allow for configuring this feature via the mobile app.
But I always prefer the web interface, and here are the general steps on how to configure your QoS:
1. Log into your router’s interface
To do this, you just need to navigate your browser (Chrome, Firefox, or Edge) to the router’s default IP address (or friendly URL). If you don’t know what yours is, check the table below, or here’s how you and find out about your IP addresses. And log in with your router’s admin account.
2. Customize the router’s QoS feature.
This feature is almost always in the Advanced area of the interface. It generally has “QoS” or “Prioritization” in its name.
Traditionally, you’ll need to enter the download and upload speeds of your broadband connection. In this case, enter the exact numbers, or slightly lower ones. Definitely don’t enter higher numbers than your actual download and upload speeds. Some routers can figure out these numbers by themselves.
Now, make sure you prioritize the QoS according to your needs. For this article, pick VoIP and video calls as your top priorities.
If there’s no option to prioritize a service or application, you can choose to prioritize the particular client on which you’ll use the service. So if you use your iPad for conference calls, make your iPad the one with the highest priority.
Note that if you choose to prioritize a particular device, it’s a good idea to have that device’s IP address reserved within the router so that it will not change.
Extra: Disable SIP ALG (or SIP Passthrough)
This setting applies only to when you need your router to work well for Voice over IP. It only applies to certain situations, so consider this when you have Wi-Fi calling issues, like breaking up or crazy delays.
SIP ALG stands for Application Layer Gateway, a setting available in most home routers and is turned on by default. Initially, this setting intends to help VoIP packages travel through the router’s firewall better. In reality, it rarely works out as expected and often causes issues.
So, you might need to turn SIP ALG (also known as SIP Passthrough or SIP) to off (or disabled ) to have better VoIP experience. The location of the SIP setting varies, but generally, you can find it in the WAN (Internet) or Firewall area of a router’s interface.
3. Apply the changes
Once you’ve made a change to the setting, make sure you apply it. In some instances, the router might restart. Even if yours doesn’t, it’s a good idea to manually repower it, then check again to make sure the new settings are correctly set. Now, your QoS is in effect.
Extra: Steps to optimize Asus’s QoS for voice and video communications
If you happen to have an Asus router, the following are specific steps on how to customize its QoS for voice and video conferencing. While they are not the same as how you’ll find in a router from another vendor, they will give you some ideas.
Update: In late March 2020, Asus released a firmware update — for most, if not all, of its routers — that adds additional categories to the Adaptive QoS feature. One of these is Video Conferencing (or Work-From-Home), which prioritizes the Internet for real-time video communication apps, including Microsoft Teams, ZOOM, Skype, Google Hangouts, and BlueJeans.
1. Log in to your router’s web interface.
From a connected computer, point your browser to router.asus.com, you’ll reach the interface. Enter your username and password and click on Sign In.
2. Update to the router to the latest firmware
- Click on Administration menu item
- Click on Firmware Upgrade tab
- Click on the Check button for new Firmware Verison. Alternatively, you can also download the firmware directly from Asus. In this case, use the Upload button to upload the firmware to the router manually.
- Follow the rest of the process to upgrade the router to the latest firmware. Note: Don’t turn the router off during the process which will take no longer than 5 minutes. Afterward, it’s a good idea to manually restart the router.
3. Turn on the AdaptiveQoS features
- Click on the Adaptive QoS menu item and then on the QoS tab.
- Slide the Enable QoS to On
- Click on the Video Conferencing button. Note: In certain router models, real-time communication as part of the Work-From-Home category.
- Optional: Click on Customize and drag the blocks of other categories according to your needs –you can hover the mouse on each block to see what type of applications/services that category includes. Then click on Save.
- Click on Apply.
The router will take a few seconds to apply the changes.
4. Disable SIP Passthrough (when need be)
- Click on the WAN menu (under Advanced Settings), and then on the NAT Passthrough tab
- Change the value of SIP Passthrough to Disable
- Click on Apply, and wait for the router to apply changes.
Manually restart the router and check to make sure all is good. And that’s it! Your Asus router should work better for your online communication application now.