A guide to setting up your wireless router for Skype

Every router comes with management software which has configuration options for the device. If you take the time to get familiar with those settings, you can maximise performance – whether it's a £50 router or a £200 router. Of course, different routers have different capabilities, but most routers share the same main configuration options. A networking task that often requires a lot of tweaking in a router's settings page is Voice over IP, whether your VoIP service is Skype or some other solution.

QoS

The main feature in most routers that can be used to optimise VoIP is Quality of Service, or QoS. If VoIP traffic is crucial in your network, and you're experiencing dropped calls and latency, you should take a look at your QoS settings.

Typical QoS settings will have an "upstream bandwidth" setting that lets you specify the maximum outgoing bandwidth for your voice application, and this is usually set to "auto."

If you are experiencing issues with VoIP, try defining a number. The general rule of thumb among router vendors and VoIP gurus is to set the figure from 80 to 90 per cent of your upload speed.

For example, you go to speedtest.net, and find out that your upload speed is rated at .48 Mbps – that's 480 Kbps. 80 per cent of that of that would be about 385 Kbps. Therefore 385 Kbps should be the level at which you set your upstream bandwidth and check if that helps quality. If not, test settings within that 80 to 90 per cent range.

Next, most routers will let you enter the name of the VoIP device, its MAC address, and the priority level you want to assign VoIP traffic, which should be "High."

Below is a VoIP QoS configuration page from a Linksys router as an example:

Of course, QoS can be used to optimise other applications like gaming and Instant Messaging. However, it is especially pertinent in optimising VoIP traffic due to sensitivity of VoIP to connectivity.

Remember, these QoS settings affect outbound traffic. So if you use QoS to improve the quality of Skype, H323, or SIP devices you are improving outgoing data and won't necessarily improve inbound calls and data. There are many factors that can affect your incoming traffic, not the least of them being your Internet connection. Still, if the VoIP you are receiving is of poor or laggy quality, you might ask the caller to adjust his or her QoS settings, and that may help.

Skype for business

There are a few best practices pertaining to improving Skype communications especially for small businesses. One tip is to ensure that the router you select is a SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) QoS-based router. Cisco and Draytek are examples of two vendors that provide this capability.

Also, when using SIP and Skype for business purposes, you don't want to go the wireless route. Better performance is achieved using at minimum Cat5 Ethernet cable running to your hardware.

Finally if using Skype for business in conjunction with a PBX system, check with that system's manufacturer to find out how best to configure the PBX for Skype.

For more tips on wireless networking, check out our guide to buying the best wireless router, and our 10 tips for boosting your wireless router signal.