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What Is Silence Suppression?

By Ken Black
Updated May 16, 2024
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Silence suppression is a way to save bandwidth when conducting voice communications, or at least audio communications, over the Internet. The method is advantageous for businesses, especially companies specializing in Internet voice applications and service providers, because it means networks and capacity are not being clogged with useless data. The silence suppression technology requires asynchronous movement of data, a very easy task for the Internet to handle. The result is a clear communication between two parties, but without nearly the amount of bandwidth that would otherwise be taken up.

Traditional phone lines cannot take advantage of any type of suppression technology, so this technology has developed along with Internet voice communications. In the past, the entire channel through which the telecommunication was taking place was devoted to the conversation. That was not a problem because at that time the only function of the telecommunications system was to transmit voice data. The Internet transmits a wide variety of data, and with the greater demand for data transfer, the transmission speed can suffer.

Slowing down a network of computers, essentially what the Internet is, is problematic for voice communication. It can lead to voice distortions, breaks and jumps between words, which could make effective communication all but impossible for the individuals trying to use it. Silence suppression can help that situation by effectively reducing the amount of bandwidth needed for voice calls to almost half of what would otherwise be required.

This is possible because during a telephone conversation only one side is generally speaking at a time. Therefore, half of the time, the other party is listening. With traditional equipment, that silence was information still transmitted, and could not be eliminated. Now, silence suppression technology can eliminate that information by sending descriptions of the background noise, instead of sending the noise itself, a strategy that can certainly save money and equipment in the long run.

Even with active silence suppression, there is still data being sent, and some sound can be heard by the user at the other end of the line. That sound, however, will only approximate the sounds a microphone is picking up at the other end of the conversation. The suppression technique would stop once the individual on the other line begins talking. If the system and software are set up properly, there is very little chance of someone misunderstanding something being said.

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