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Understanding internet jitters

Reliable internet access is not just about convenience; it’s the backbone of modern communication, productivity, work and often, social interaction. Whether for business or individual use, a stable internet connection is crucial for staying connected, completing tasks, and accessing essential resources efficiently.

From online shopping to supporting remote work to enabling emergency communication and providing entertainment, the internet shapes various aspects of our lives. Connectivity problems can disrupt workflows, hinder communication, and impact economic activities. By resolving such issues, we ensure that people can remain productive, connected, and informed, contributing to overall well-being and the smooth functioning of society in an increasingly digital age.

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What is internet jitter and why does it happen?

Internet jitter refers to the variation in the latency of data packet arrival at the destination. In simpler terms, it is the fluctuation in the delay of data packets as they travel from one point to another over the internet network. 

Jitter, typically measured in milliseconds, can affect the quality of real-time communication, such as voice calls, video conferencing, and online gaming. High jitter can also result in packet loss and poor overall performance in real-time applications. Lower jitter values indicate a more stable and predictable network and therefore better user experience.

What causes jitter?

Internet jitter is often caused by network congestion, varying route lengths for packets, and fluctuations in network traffic. Jitter can be minimised through various network optimization techniques such as quality of service (QoS) implementations, traffic shaping, and prioritisation of critical data packets.

Old hardware can significantly contribute to internet jitter, causing disruptions in data transmission and degrading overall network performance. Outdated routers, switches, and network equipment often struggle to handle the demands of high-speed internet connections and large volumes of data traffic due to slower processing speeds and limited buffering capacity. Additionally, old hardware may run outdated firmware or lack support for modern routing protocols, leading to inefficient routing and increased variability in latency. Hardware failures and degradation further exacerbate the problem, resulting in intermittent connectivity issues and packet loss.

Wireless internet jitter, characterised by fluctuations in data packet transmission, can be attributed to several key factors. Interference from electronic devices and neighbouring networks, along with network congestion, weak signal strength, and coverage issues, are common culprits. For instance, Wi-Fi routers operate on specific channels within the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequency bands. Overlapping channels or interference from neighbouring networks operating on the same channels can lead to collisions and degraded performance, contributing to jitter.

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted over a network connection in a given period and so shortages can indirectly lead to internet jitter by causing network congestion, packet queuing, buffer-bloat, and shared bandwidth issues. Congested networks cause data packets to contend for limited bandwidth during peak usage times which lead to delays in transmission and increased jitter. Excessive buffering within network devices exacerbates latency fluctuations, further contributing to jitter. In shared environments, multiple users vying for the same bandwidth resources can compound these challenges.

How to prevent internet jitter

Internet jitter can be minimised by implementing strategies and solutions that reduce and minimise latency fluctuations and facilitate smoother data transmission.

A jitter buffer is a temporary storage area within a network device, such as a router, designed to mitigate the effects of jitter. When data packets arrive at irregular intervals due to network congestion or latency fluctuations, the jitter buffer holds these packets before delivering them to the destination application in a more consistent stream. By buffering packets and smoothing out variations in packet arrival times, the jitter buffer helps prevent disruptions such as audio or video distortion in calls or video conferencing sessions. 

Wired connections are a reliable solution to improve internet jitter. Unlike wireless connections, Ethernet cables offer consistent data transmission, minimising latency fluctuations and reducing the likelihood of jitter. Directly connecting devices to the router via Ethernet eliminates wireless interference and signal degradation, providing higher bandwidth and lower latency for real-time applications like video conferencing. It may also be a case of upgrading the hardware you currently have in place as, over time, ageing hardware components may degrade or malfunction, leading to intermittent connectivity issues, packet loss, or increased latency.

Upgrading or adding Ethernet cables can also alleviate internet jitter by providing a stable and reliable connection compared to Wi-Fi. Connect devices securely to the router and ensure cables are long enough to reach devices without stretching. 

To reduce internet jitter, ensure that the appropriate ports and protocols for your hardware are open. This involves configuring your router or firewall to allow traffic through specific ports and protocols that your applications or services require. By doing so, you facilitate smoother communication between devices and servers, minimising the likelihood of data packet delays and interruptions that can cause jitter. Regularly review and adjust these settings as needed to maintain optimal network performance and mitigate jitter-related issues.

Staying jitter-free

While there are many options for resolving internet jitters, it can be difficult to troubleshoot, especially if you are not familiar with the relevant solutions. The various solutions mentioned above are generic and may not necessarily always be the best solution for you and your specific needs. If you are unsure or would like some further advice, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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