There's no dancing around it - we practically live in a science fiction film these days. We might not have the flying cars from Back to the Future (yet!) but on almost every other scale, what we've seen in the movies and on TV has now come true. So those handheld information devices in Star Trek: The Next Generation are pretty much smartphones in all but name; the videophones envisioned by Fritz Lang in the epic 1927 film Metropolis and used by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey aren't fantasy any longer.
With the rise of the Internet, regular phone calls are fast becoming as obsolete as Betamax and 8-Track. But communication is stronger and easier than at any point in history. So maybe it's time for us all to consider VoIP as a serious replacement for the (almost) vintage telephone. For the best results with VoIP - or Voice over Internet Protocol - you'll want a decent broadband speed. But how do you find out your speed, and make sense of all those numbers you'll see on your screen? Let's find out.
Who to Choose
There are lots of different platforms on which to check your broadband speed. Two of the most popular are Speed Test and Broadband Speed Checker, but they're by no means the only options. Often your ISP will offer a similar service too, and you may notice slight variations in results, depending on which server is chosen - if you're in the UK, for instance, you don't want to test your speed with a server in the States, you'll want a local one.
How to Test
The interface for most broadband speed tests is pretty simple. Often it's just a case of pressing the 'Start Test' or 'Check My Speed' button. The test will then check your download speed, upload speed, and your ping rate. Your download and upload speed is measured in Mbps. The higher the number, the faster it is. The ping rate tells you how long it takes for data to get from you to the relevant server and back again. Unlike your Mbps, the lower the ping rate the better it is, since lower equals quicker.
What You Need
So you've done the speed test, and you have the results in front of you. But how do you know if they're optimal speeds for VoIP? Well, as we've said, the faster the internet the better it will be, but the most important factor is your ping. Generally, your typical broadband suppliers deliver a ping of under 100ms - and the best ones will be around 50ms. More than 100ms and you might experience lag, where the voices drop out or the picture blurs as your internet can't keep up. Some, like Speed Test's Ping Test, will give you more detailed information and let you know precisely how good your ping, packet loss and latency is for VoIP amongst other things.
Should I Use VoIP
VoIP has a ton of advantages over the traditional telephone. If your internet speeds - and your ping rate - are good to go, then there's no reason to wait! VoIP calls are great for domestic users and businesses alike, since they're generally free - you're communicating over the internet which you're already paying for with your ISP. Also companies like Skype allow for video conferencing, so from calling mother to interviewing potential candidates, you can really communicate effectively face-to-face, even whilst being on opposite sides of the world.
Think you're ready to embrace the future? Well, there's no time like the present. After all, if it's good enough for Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it's good enough for us!
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