Quality of service (QoS) refers to the ability of a network--whether the network is a complex network, small corporate network, Internet service provider (ISP), or enterprise network--to provide better service to selected network traffic over various technologies, including Frame Relay, ATM, Ethernet and 802.1 networks, and SONET, as well as IP-routed networks that may use any or all of these underlying technologies.
The primary goals of QoS are to provide better and more predictable network service by providing dedicated bandwidth, controlled jitter and latency, and improved loss characteristics. QoS achieves these goals by providing tools for managing network congestion, shaping network traffic, using expensive wide-area links more efficiently, and setting traffic policies across the network.
QoS for fax transmissions means assuring that echo cancellation (EC) and voice activity detection (VAD), which are normally enabled for voice calls, are turned off as soon as a call is identified as a fax call. If EC and VAD are enabled, they can interfere with the successful reception of fax traffic.
The advantages of carrying fax over packet networks are reduced cost and saved bandwidth and are associated with QoS issues that are unique to packet networks. A major issue in the implementation of fax over IP networks is the problem of inaccurate timing of messages caused by delay through the network.
The delay of fax packets through a packet network causes the precise timing that is required for many portions of the fax protocol to be skewed and can result in the loss of the call. The fax-over-packet protocol in the interworking function must compensate for the loss of a fixed timing of messages over the packet network so that the T.30 protocol operates without error. Error Correction Mode (ECM) is enabled in the T.30 protocol.
An end-to-end fax over IP call is susceptible to the following sources of delay:
- Network delay--Network delay is caused by the physical medium and protocols that are used to send fax data and by buffers that are used to remove packet jitter on the receiving end. This delay is a function of the capacity of the links in the network and the processing that occurs as the packets transit the network. The jitter buffers add delay when they remove the packet delay variation of each packet as it transits the packet network. This delay can be a significant part of the overall delay because packet delay variations can be as high as 70 to 100 milliseconds in some Frame Relay networks, and even higher in IP networks.
- Processing delay--Processing delay is caused by the process of demodulating and collecting digital fax information into a packet for transmission over the packet network. Encoding delay, which is one type of processing delay, is a function of both the processor execution time and the amount of data collected before a packet is sent to the network.
Delay issues are compounded by the need to remove jitter, which is the variable interpacket arrival time that is caused by conditions in the network that a packet traverses. An approach to removing the jitter is to collect packets and hold them long enough so that even the slowest packets arrive in time to be played in the correct sequence. This approach, however, causes additional delay. In most fax over IP methods, a time stamp is incorporated in the packet to ensure that packet data is played out at the proper instant.
The T.30 standard provides for ECM that allows a fax page to be broken into HDLC-like frames that allow transmission errors to be detected. ECM works by sending a fax page in a series of blocks. After receiving the complete page data, the receiving fax identifies any frames with errors. The sending fax then retransmits those frames. This process is repeated until all frames have been received without errors.
If a receiving fax machine is not able to receive an error-free page, the fax transmission may fail, and one of the fax machines may disconnect. If a network has packet-loss levels greater than 3 to 5 percent, fax transmissions consistently fail when ECM is enabled. Fax relay packet loss concealment disables ECM so that fax calls with up to 9 percent packet loss succeed and calls with packet loss of 5 to 7 percent succeed with acceptable quality.
For more information, see the following documents:
- QoS: Quality of Service for Voice.
- Fax relay packet loss concealment: Chapter 1, "Configuring Cisco Fax Relay" or Chapter 1, "Configuring T.38 Fax Relay."