Do routers cause echo?

This tip addresses the role that routers play in producing echo.

Do routers cause echo?

by Jonathan Davidson

In Deploying Cisco Voice over IP Solutions, author Jonathan Davidson discusses basic concepts applicable to echo analysis and locating and eliminating echoes. This tip addresses the role that routers play in producing echo.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The belief that adding routers to a voice network creates echoes is a common misconception. Digital segments of the network do not cause leaks; so technically, routers cannot be the source of echoes. Adding routers to the network, though, adds delays to the network -- delays that can make a previously imperceptible echo perceptible. The gateway itself doesn?t add echo unless you are using an analog interface to the PSTN and the output impedance is incorrectly provisioned with respect to the PBX. It is more likely that the echo was already in the analog tail circuit but was imperceptible because the round-trip delay was less than 20 ms.

For example, suppose that you are visiting London and you want to call a friend who lives on the other side of town. This call is echo free. But when you call the same friend (whose telephone is on the same tail circuit) from the U.S. over a satellite link with a round-trip delay of several hundred milliseconds, the echo is obvious and annoying. The only change has been the insertion of delay.

VoIP technologies impose a fundamental transmission delay due to packetization and the buffering of received packets before playout at the receiving endpoint. This delay is generally much smaller than the delay associated with satellite links, but it is usually sufficient to make a previously unnoticeable echo objectionable.

You could increase the packet transmission rate to reduce the end-to-end delay, but this would increase the bandwidth necessary for the call because it would increase the ratio of header size (which is a constant) to payload size (which you would reduce).

As a general rule, the end-to-end latency for a packet transmission link has a fundamental minimum of about two to three packet sizes (in milliseconds). Even if the packet transit time was instantaneous, it still takes one packet size of time to fill the first packet. Even an unrealistically ideal, "fast-as-light" gateway and network face this fundamental, minimum delay.
This was first published in November 2001

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