Skype Conference Call and Echo Problem

While I remain a fan of Skype, especially for coordinating calls in widely divergent timezones, after a four way session on Skype today I have to admit it has limitations as a conferencing tool, and even sometimes for one-to-one calls.

We did a call today on the book I’m co-authoring on Linkedin for Recruiting, between Southern California, Texas and the east coast of Australia, with four participants in all – two in the US and two in Australia. After a couple of false starts with the sign-in we were able to cover the ground we needed to cover and get agreements where needed, usual meeting stuff, but none of us found it an easy experience.

There was a lot of echo and when you are getting echo from three out of four participants in a call, it’s like being in an echo chamber and rather challenging for concentration.

I’d previously had a problem with doing a one-on-one Skype call with one of the participants, co-author Bill Vick in Dallas, Texas, where the call was breaking up so much I couldn’t hear him and we had to switch to that old-fashioned device, the fixed line telephone. But generally Skype works well for me on one-on-one calls – even if there is some echo you can stand it when there are only two people on the call.

This is not about intercontinental connections per se: I’ve had perfectly good Skype sessions with people in China, the US and  Australia, and I’ve had bad connections with people in Australia as well as occasionally with the US.

Like a lot of people in small and large businesses, I’m very keen to understand what’s practical, as distinct from what’s feasible (and therefore marketable!) with VoIP/internet telephony, given the significant cost-reductions it makes possible. By the same token, I don’t want to be in the middle of a coaching session or other important call and have it break up into unintelligible bits of sound.

So we’re not about to cancel our telephone service just yet in favour of Skype or any other VoIP offering. But we have switched our internet service account to one that provides VoIP, so that should be interesting. 

Once I’ve met my main deadline for the book, only a few days away now, I’ll make time to look at what else is on offer in the VoIP space.

Comments

  1. I recently learned that bluetooth peripherals can cause problems with VoIP connections. Things like wireless mouse and keyboards could be the culprits when you’re having break ups in the sound. I don’t know if this also causes echo problems, but it might be worth a shoot to disconnected any bluetooth equipment and trying the call.

  2. Guy

    Thanks for the excellent tutorial on using VoIP! I will get to try aveComm once I’ve finished the book I’m working on. As you did not leave your url, I’ll put it here for anyone who wants to try aveComm.

  3. People will often misunderstand some of the issues with VoIP ( Skype, aveComm, or others ). Echoing occurs when you have a scenario when someone has in open mike and speakers. Voice comes out of the speakers and is picked up by the microphone. This also happens with bad headsets. Some standard PC headset will allow voice to travel out of the headset and vibrate to the mike through the boom causing a faint echo. This can be minimized by adjustment of speaker and mike volumes.

    When buying a headset look for one the does eliminates background noise. The easiest solution plug in your Ipod headset, and use what ever mike you want. It isolates the voice from echo nicely

    The loss of voice, known as packet clipping, is due to upload speed. Most everyones’ download speed is fine. But in VoIP applications you need enough upload to carry your voice. echoing actually increases the upload and can adversely effect the call even more.

    There are products out there that can do more than 4 people in call. aveComm is one. In fact aveComm can do much more. I invite you to give it a try.

  4. I’ve found that 4 on a Skype conference call can sometimes be impossible but 3 usually works well. You’ll find with poor quality that its usually someone with a bad or slow net connection (eg Dialup). Having said this though it is getting better than it use to be. Your other alternative is to setup a phyiscal number for people to call you on from their landlines in the states to Skype, because if its not your connection causing problems its makes it cheaper for the calls, alternatively use Skype out.