High-quality VoIP starts with a suitable router. Many businesses will implement a hosted VoIP solution and confirm with the VoIP provider that the router that already exists in their network, works with the VoIP service. Yet many businesses still end up frustrated with call quality, dropped connections and other problems associated with their VoIP service. And they may unfairly accuse the VoIP provider of subpar service. It’s not enough to just find out if your router will work with VoIP. Sure, it will work—VoIP is just another type of data traffic that a router passes in and out of your network. However, many routers, especially those designed for consumer networks, are not well optimized for VoIP, as a business may find out the hard way. When deploying mission-critical VoIP systems, consider a business-class router that is optimized for VoIP.
There are several features to look for in a router that will be used with a hosted VoIP solution. The most critical feature is robust QoS (Quality of Service). QoS allows for prioritizing VoIP traffic over other types of data traffic such as video, Instant Messaging, or FTP.
Mia Athawale, technical product manager for ABP Tech, provides an even more specific example of why QoS is critical, “A sync triggered for a Dropbox account could create a spike in bandwidth usage and cause existing VoIP calls to experience packet drop. Conventional QoS does not resolve the problem,” wrote Athawale in a blog post. Who would think that an application as innocuous as Dropbox could have such a negative impact on VoIP quality? Not many, which is why QoS is crucial.
If you take a look in the management interface of your router at home, there is a good chance you can find some settings related to VoIP. Consumer routers often have options for bandwidth prioritization or traffic shaping. You can enable these settings and specify that VoIP traffic takes priority over any other type of data traffic in the network. However, for VoIP in businesses, those consumer-level features may not be enough. In an email interview, Athawale also pointed out why many consumer routers simply aren’t sufficient for business applications. “A lot of routers claim to perform QoS, but most of them simply tag the packets, especially consumer routers,” said Athawale.
SMBs should take note of other important features a router should have when it comes to VoIP. VLAN support is one. With VLANs, you can have VoIP traffic isolated to specific devices or user groups and prioritized separately from other internal data traffic. WAN backup and load balancing are two other good features for VoIP but these feature are only available in devices with at last two WAN ports.
For VoIP use, you want a router that supports H.323 and SIP protocols as well. Finally, as with any tech device you may purchase, you want decent support options and warranties. Here are our picks of the current, top SMB routers for VoIP use:
|Router||Price||QoS||VoIP Support||Wi-Fi||LAN Ports||WAN Ports||WAN Backup/Load Balancing||VLANs||Killer VoIP Feature||Support Options||Warranty|
|DrayTek Vigor2925Vac||$450||Yes||H.323 Passthrough||Yes, 802.11ac||GB, 5||GB, 2||Yes||Yes||WAN route policies||online, email, phone||2 years from purchase|
|DrayTech Vigor2925Vn plus||$380||Yes||H.323 passthrough||Yes, 802.11n||GB, 5||GB, 2||Yes||Yes||VoIP QoS feature which ensures VoIP packets have highest priority and desired bandwidth to make crystal-clear calls||online, email, phone||2 years from purchase|
|SonicWall TZ300 Series||$645 (starting)||Yes||H.323, SIP||Yes, 802.11ac||GB, 5-10||GB, 2||Yes||Yes||VoIP enhanced security||online, email, phone||90 days software, 1 year hardware|
|Cisco Small Business RV320||$190||Yes||SIP ALG||No||GB, 4||GB, 2||Yes||Yes||Service-based QoS by rate control or priority||online, email, phone||limited lifetime hardware warranty|
|Adtran NetVanta 6355 IP Business Gateway||$2,875||Yes||SIP only||No||Fast Ethernet, 24 ports||Fast Ethernet with GB uplink, 2 ports||Yes||Yes||SIP router + switch + analog all in one||online, email, phone||5 years|
|Adtran NetVanta 3120||$343||Yes||SIP only||No||Fast Ethernet, 4 ports||Fast Ethernet, 1 port||No||Yes||Voice Quality Monitoring||online, email, phone||5 years|
|Linksys WRT1900AC||$212||Yes||H.323, SIP Passthrough||Yes, 802.11ac||GB, 4||GB, 1||No||Yes||Supports several open-souce SIP packages with OpenWRT firmware; native firmware supports ingress/egress voice traffic||online, email, phone||12 months from purchase|
DrayTek’s Vigor2925Vac is not only a top-choice for SMB VoIP routers, it’s the only such router to include 802.11ac Wi-Fi. DrayTek partnered with ABP Tech to develop very extensive QoS for VoIP. Among the many VoIP-tailored features, the Vigor2925Vac can detect VoIP traffic (SIP and RTP media) and automatically give it first priority over other traffic. QoS is also combined with proactive bandwidth management, so when DrayTek routers detect a VoIP call, they reserve bandwidth for two more VoIP calls than the current number of calls. So bandwidth is allocated to VoIP dynamically, and is still available for other applications when there are no VoIP calls. Dual Gigabit Ethernet ports provide connection failover and load balancing.
Configurations are performed though a Web-based management interface that is designed to be intuitive enough for non-IT people to get the Vigor2925Vac up and running.2. DrayTech Vigor2925Vn plus
The DrayTech Vigor2925Tn plus has all of the great features of the Vigor2925Vac, except it is also an 802.11n Wi-Fi router instead of an 11ac router. However, the Vigor2925Vn plus has even more enhanced feature for VoIP including the ability to connect to multiple SIP registrars with flexible configuration and call handling options, plus two FXS ports to connect analog telephones and an FXO port for a POTS line, A feature called Digit Map feature lets you set call rules for certain destinations to use either VoIP services or POTS lines (ideal for a Disaster Recovery strategy).3. SonicWall TZ300 Series
SonicWall is synonymous with security. So it’s no surprise that a highlight of the T300 is that it’s a secured firewall appliance that has VoIP features integrated such as advanced bandwidth management. This all-in-one device also is an 802.11ac access point, and a UTM with intrusion protection, content filtering, application control and more.4. Cisco Small Business RV320
Cisco’s Small Business RV320 router uses bandwidth efficiently with its baked-in bandwidth management QoS. The feature prioritizes network services including VoIP, by either rate controls or prioritization levels. This all-in-one device also offers content filtering, IPSec and SSL VPN, AES-256 encryption and an SPI firewall.5. Adtran NetVanta 6355 IP Business Gateway
At a price of a little over $2,000, the Adtran NetVanta 6355 IP Business gateway is pricey for a small business, but you are guaranteed you are purchasing a device that is engineered for VoIP. The NetVanta 6366 is an integral SIP gateway as well as a 24-port PoE switch. It helps with VoIP performance with its standardized G.729a voice compression feature which reduces bandwidth on calls.6. Adtran NetVanta 3120
For small businesses looking for a router that is built for VoIP but may not want to pay the price for the Adtran NetVanta 6355 IP Business Gateway, Adtran’s NetVnata 3120 is a good, affordable alternative. Designed for smaller network with DSL or cable broadband, the NetVanata 3120 offers advanced VoIP features. One, is QoS for VoIP delay-sensitive traffic. Another is Voice Quality Management (QVM). With QVM, you can capture jitter, delay, and packet loss statistics to troubleshoot VoIP calls.7. Linksys WRT1900AC
If you are looking for a VoIP-capable router for a very small business with a budget that does not allow for much more than a consumer router, then look to the Linksys WRT1900ac. This Linksys router can be flashed with OpenWRT firmware. This firmware supports a number of open-source SIP packages including Asterisk. It’s a low-cost way to get very granular control over VoIP in a network, if you don’t mind digging though some technical knowledge base articles and forums in the OpenWRT online community when you have questions or issues.