Voice Over the Grand Canyon: A Switchvox Case Study

Grand Canyon Resort Corp (GCR) is the company that oversees Grand Canyon West. Grand Canyon West comprises the Western part of the Grand Canyon in Arizona and is contained within the Hualapai Nation. GCR chose Chromis Technology to install Digium’s Turnkey Asterisk PBX, Switchvox SMB, to create a VoIP solution to connect to remote locations that do not have traditional telephone facilities.

Grand Canyon West is an amazing canyon land that is very close to Laughlin, NV; Kingman, AZ; and Flagstaff, AZ. It is also a reasonably short drive from Las Vegas, NV; Sedona, AZ; and Phoenix, AZ. GCR has multiple attractions in Grand Canyon West including the increasingly famous Skywalk that takes you 70 feet from the rim of the Canyon and suspends you 4,000 feet above the Canyon floor! (Click on any of the images below for the high resolution version in a new window.)

Grand Canyon West Skywalk.

GCR has one Digium AA350 server at their headquarters in Peach Springs, AZ and three AA60 servers at three remote locations. The AA350 has a TE122 card that connects to a local PRI circuit. A satellite connection to each of the remote locations connects each site back to headquarters via IAX trunks and provides a connection to the public telephone network. The G.729 compression codec is used for calls between the servers and G.722 (HD Voice) and G.711 is used for calls internal to each server. In addition to the Digium Switchvox servers, GCR chose Polycom SoundPoint IP telephones.

A big challenge for GCR was connecting those remote facilities. A recently installed a satellite data network from HughesNet is serving up data and voice services to the remote locations. As is common with Satellite data links, excessive latency can wreak havoc on VoIP and make it difficult to have a normal, duplex conversation. GCR appreciates this fact and primarily focuses on providing telephone service to the edge of the Grand Canyon where there is no terrestrial connection to the rest of the world.

View of the Guano Cafe at Guano Point.

Indeed, latency proved to be high, but was often as low as 600ms. Unfortunately the latency results still cause over-talking (when one caller talks before the other caller is finished). The greater problem with the satellite link is jitter, or variation in the delay. During one test the latency varied from 600ms to 1100ms. GCR installed accelerators from Expand Networks to improve the performance over the satellite links.

Helicopter preparing to fly over Grand Canyon West

A beautiful view of Grand Canyon West

The latency and jitter fall just outside the range of acceptable, and the delivery of calls is certainly not what we’re used to back in civilization, but by using Digium’s VoIP technology, calls are now being made in and out of Grand Canyon West like they never have before. For more information on how Chromis Technology can help your business leap canyons, give us a call at 602.357.8070 or email us at info@chromis.com.

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