Saturday, March 3, 2012

MOS Results are Good but Customers Still Complain of Poor Speech Quality

When monitoring the speech packets of a VoIP network, i.e. the RTP stream, protocol analyzers or VoIP service monitoring systems may analyze the packets and calculate a Mean opinion score (MOS) which describes the quality of the speech. If customers call into your call center or NOC and complain about speech quality this is the first place you would go to analyze the problem. Finding the bad call the customer is referring to will take a few seconds with a good voice service assurance system Sometimes when you find the call, the MOS maybe 4.0 or greater indicating good speech quality.

How can we explain this discrepancy?

The method used to calculate MOS by a monitoring system which needs to monitor thousands of active calls and produce voice quality measurements or QoS of all of them is R-factor based on the E-model (ITU-T G.107). R-factor takes into account the codecs used by the endpoints (VoIP Phones) in the call. But most of the calculation is derived from what happens to the packet stream as it transits an IP packet network. So R-factor requires measurements for packet loss and jitter of the packets in the stream of VoIP (RTP) packets

How is packet loss and jitter detected in an RTP stream? The RTP packets contain a sequence number and a time stamp and from this packet loss and jitter can be calculated. It is however, important to understand that these measurements can only be made on the received RTP streams i.e. packet loss and jitter is only measured up to that point in the network where the monitoring system probe is connected.

RTP streams leaving your network going to your customer’s premises will not be measured unless you have a probe on the customer’s premises or their VoIP phones support RTCP. A sophisticated good voice service assurance system will also read the RTCP packets coming back from the customer’s probes and so that leg of the call can be included in the R factor measurement. Some monitoring systems will show you in which leg of the call the packet impairments are added.

If call quality is bad but MOS is good, perhaps you are not monitoring all legs of the call.

Another reason may account for this discrepancy. MOS or Perceptual Speech Quality does not include echo or overall end-to-end delay. So if the customer is experiencing echo, this will not degrade the MOS values. Similarly, if there is delay in the network (as opposed to jitter, which is short-term varying delay), this will not impact the MOS value. Network Delay in VoIP causes cold or stinted conversation, so this this could be a reason for your customer to call you.

If customers complain of poor speech quality but the MOS results are good, use your voice service assurance system to record the calls from this customers (with disclaimers and forwarding necessary of course) and listen to a sample for echo or delay.

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