Optimizing Your VOIP Phone

My firm uses Nextiva VOIP for our office phones. The monthly charges are half of what Verizon wants for standard POTS lines, so the price is definitely right. Nextiva also offers advanced features such as an auto-attendant that connects callers to the person they seek. I initially had some problems with VOIP but they were easily be fixed by tinkering with my router.

The setup I have is pretty standard. I have a Westell 6100 DSL modem from Verizon connected to a Linksys WRT54GS router. VOIP is provided through a Linksys PAP2T-NA ATA adapter.

There are three things to set up to optimize your VOIP. First, you need to make sure that you only have one NAT router in the way. Secondly, the router has to be set up to forward the correct ports to the VOIP adapter. Lastly, the router's Quality of Service (QoS) settings have to prioritize the VOIP data over other data.

You need to make sure you do not have a "double NAT" situation. The Westell 6100 DSL has a built-in router. If you plug in another router onto that, you'll end up with a double NAT situation. To fix this, you need to need to get rid of one of the routers. With the Westell 6100, you need to disable the routing function so that it's only a DSL modem. You can do this by putting the Westell into transparent bridge. If you do this successfully, you should only have a single NAT layer between the ATA and the Internet.

Once you only have a single NAT layer, you should set up the port forwarding to your ATA adapter. First, you have to set your adapter's IP address to stay the same when it's restarted. For the PAP2T, hit "****" to enter the interactive voice response menu. Hit 110 to check your IP address, and write it down. It should look like "192.168.x.yyy". Then hit "101" to get to the DHCP settings, and hit "0" to disable DHCP. Hit "111" to set your static IP address, and enter the IP address you got last time. Then hang up.

The next step is to tell your router to send incoming data on certain data ports to your adapter's IP address. Log into your router by opening your browser and entering "192.168.x.1", where x was the number you got from the ATA above. This should get you into your router. The default login is "admin" and default password is "admin". Click on "Applications & Gaming" then "Port Range Forward." Make sure that ports 5060-5061 (UDP), 53-53 (UDP), 69-69 (UDP), and 10000-20000 (UDP) are all forwarded to the IP address of your ATA adapter. Enable these services, and then save the settings. 

The last step is to set up QoS. The first step is to find your ATA adapter's MAC address. Pick up your ATA adapter and find its MAC address, which should be written on a sticker somewhere. Then log into the router again. Click on "Applications & Gaming" and then "Qos." Click on "Enable." For "Upstream Bandwidth", choose "Auto." For "Device Name", type in "VOIP". Set "Priority" to "Highest". Enter your adapter's MAC address. Save settings and reboot.

After all these steps, your VOIP quality should be improved. You made sure that you did not have a double NAT problem, you set up the port forwarding, and then got the QoS going. The net effect is that all communications is going quickly to the internet, any incoming data is sent directly to your ATA adapter, and VOIP data is prioritized. If your VOIP quality doesn't improve, it's time to call Nextiva.

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