Grey Routes VoIPCall quality is important. We’ve all been on phone calls where we’ve had to ask the other person to repeat themselves because we couldn’t hear them.  It’s frustrating when you pay for a service and don’t get what you expect.  Sometimes, this just happens due to internet traffic, but other times, your quality is intentionally compromised and someone makes money off of doing so!  That’s just infuriating!

What I’m talking about are calls sent over “grey routes”

Before I explain, keep in mind that when your call goes over grey routes, it is the telephone equivalent of paying full price for a diluted product (ex: paying for premium gasoline and receiving regular).


In a normal international phone call, you have something like this:

1. A VoIP Call is placed from a US number.

2. The call travels over the internet and ends up at a gateway in the destination country.

3. From the gateway, the call gets transferred to the local telephone network.

4. The call is received and the caller ID indicates an International Number.


In an international phone call, over grey routes, you have something more like this:

1. A VoIP Call is placed from a US number.

2. The call travels over the internet and is directed to an illegal gateway.

3. From this gateway, the call is then routed to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), and the call appears to be a local call.



Grey routes are designed to make the destination telephone company think that the call is a local one, and not an international one. This is done to avoid higher taxes and so that the interconnect partner only pays the destination telephone company for a local call, which costs less money. All of this yields a higher profit margin for them.


Sometimes, grey routes are used with the consumer’s knowledge and savings are passed on to them. The consumer will occasionally be made aware that, in exchange for the lower rate, the quality of the call is not guaranteed.


Most times, the consumer is unaware that grey routes are being used. They still pay the same rate for the call, but end up with much lower quality phone calls or other issues, such as: dropped calls, one-sided audio, low volume, or inability to connect at all.

It’s pretty much always illegal in the destination country to operate grey routes.  I’ve painted using grey routes as something bad, but occasionally, they do take a more benevolent form.  Take for example a country that blocks calls from the United States. Using grey routes, calls from the United States can now reach the destination country because the destination carrier thinks that the call is of local origin.

If this is done without your knowledge, you’ll certainly want to avoid it.  Why would you willingly pay the same amount to end up getting low quality phone calls, as you would be paying for calls with a higher quality of service?



First off, if your provider makes any mention of grey routes, or says that they only use “white routes,” that’s a red flag.  If the provider is doing something legally, and ethically, they won’t need to try and convince customers that they are doing so.

Second, if your international recipient sees a local number on their caller ID, or a false caller ID, when you call them, that’s a sign that your call has been sent over a grey route.

In reality, you can’t always avoid it.  But do know that telecom providers take this seriously and are constantly cracking down on these clandestine operations. There are also companies that specialize in detecting this kind of fraud.



What do you think?

What are some other possible consequences of Grey Routes?

Were you aware of  Grey Routes before reading this?