What is Jitter and How to Test, Measure and Reduce It?

What is Jitter? with a big Question mark and a person on a phone call

Today’s business world heavily relies on the Internet for communication. Internet-based communication systems have made connecting with people around the world simple and cost-effective. But this great tool comes with its own challenges. One of the most common issues we face is jitter.       
 

Jitter is all about the timing of the information we send or receive over the Internet. Sometimes, it doesn’t arrive when it’s supposed to. It causes problems in our calls and meetings. Fixing jitter is crucial in a business where clear communication is vital.


What is Jitter?

When we exchange information over the internet, it breaks down into small pieces, known as data packets. These packets are then sent through the network to reach the intended destination. Once they arrive, they are reassembled back into the original information. Jitter is the variability or delay in the time these data packets travel across the network. Instead of arriving a regular intervals, they can get delayed. It can significantly impact the communication quality during voice calls, video chatting, or even simple text messaging.

How Does Jitter Impact Your Internet Experience?

Jitter can cause slow-loading web pages, choppy phone calls, interrupted video streams, and lag in online gaming. These problems, resulting from the irregular delivery of data packets, become more noticeable during peak internet usage.

Slow Loading Speed of Web Pages

One of the most common and clear signs of jitter is when web pages don’t load smoothly. You might click on a link and find that the page is slow to appear or some parts don’t start. Such an issue occurs when the data packets that make up a webpage arrive inconsistently.

Video Buffering

Jitter causes buffering, reduces quality, or desynchronizes audio and video, affecting your video streaming. You’ll see frequent pauses or blur videos. It’s more common when your network is congested. Video buffering makes it hard to enjoy movies or shows smoothly.

Online Gaming

Jitter leads to lag or response delays in online games - there might be a delay between your actions in the game and what happens on the screen. It can significantly impact your gaming experience, leaving you frustrated.

What Causes Jitter on the Internet?

Various factors, including high traffic, outdated infrastructure, hardware malfunctions, and improper network configurations, can cause jitter. They collectively disrupt data flow and impact the internet stability

Network Congestion

Network congestion occurs when too many devices or applications use the network simultaneously. This high traffic volume can lead to delays in data packet delivery. During peak usage times, it’s likely to experience network congestion. It can slow down the data transmission and result in jitter. Network congestion mainly impacts the activities that require real-time data transmission, such as video conferencing or streaming.

Poor Network System

A poor network system can refer to outdated infrastructure or incorrect network configurations. Such a system struggles to handle the data flow efficiently, leading to delays and packet loss. It can arise in networks lacking regular maintenance or using older technology. A jitter due to a poor network system results in frequent disconnections and slow internet speeds, particularly during data-heavy tasks.

Hardware Malfunction

Hardware malfunction refers to issues with physical devices like routers, modems, or cables. 
When these devices don’t work correctly, they can cause delays in data transmission. It disrupts the smooth flow of data packets and ultimately leads to a jitter. This can occur unexpectedly, and you can often notice it through sudden network issues.

Misconfigured Packet Prioritization

Misconfigured packet prioritization happens when you don’t configure the network settings correctly to handle different types of data packets. As you don’t prioritize the bandwidth-sensitive application, it reduces the bandwidth and increases the packet travel time. It can delay or even drop packets during the transmission, causing the jitters.

How to Measure Jitter?

Measuring the jitter level is crucial in diagnosing and addressing network performance issues. There are different approaches to measuring jitter, each suited for specific scenarios and levels of analysis.

Single or Double Endpoint Measurement

The Single Endpoint Measurement method analyzes a network connection’s jitter at one end (single endpoint). You can use network monitoring tools like Wireshark or SolarWinds for single endpoint measurement of jitter. These apps track the arrival times of data packets and calculate their time variations. It is helpful for checking the jitter affecting an individual device or connection point.
 

Double Endpoint Measurement is similar but involves two points – a network connection’s starting and ending points. You’ll use the same network monitoring tools at each end. After running the tool, it compares their data to measure the jitter between these two points.

Bandwidth Test

Testing Bandwidth with an online speed testing tool is the most popular and probably simplest approach to measure jitters.  It’s used when you want a general idea of the network’s performance, including its download/upload speeds. These tests send data packets from your device to a server and back. It measures the time for these packets to travel. The variation in these times determines your jitter.
 

Be mindful that various factors such as file size, number of internet users, and server peak times can impact the bandwidth test result. Running several tests is ideal to find the average performance of your network.

What is an Acceptable Jitter for the Internet?

The jitter tolerance varies based on the type of your online activity. Generally, a jitter of 30 milliseconds (ms) or less is acceptable for most internet-based activities, including streaming, browsing, and general usage.
 

The acceptable jitter level is much lower for cloud-based phone systems, including a VoIP platform, typically around 15-20 ms. It is because these applications require real-time data transmission, and higher jitter can significantly impact audio and video quality.

Ways to Fix Network Jitter Issues

When jitter exceeds what’s considered acceptable, it’s essential to take steps to fix the issue. There are various ways to address and reduce network jitter. Implementing the following methods can significantly improve your online experience.

Use a Powerful Router

Upgrading to a powerful router can greatly reduce network jitter. A high-quality router manages data packets more efficiently and handles higher traffic volumes without causing delays. Consider routers with advanced QoS (Quality of Service) features that prioritize bandwidth for critical applications. The advanced routers often come with better signal strength and coverage, ensuring a more stable connection.

Use a Wired Connection

While Wi-Fi is convenient, a wired Ethernet connection can offer greater stability and reduced jitter. Ethernet cables provide a direct, uninterrupted path for data transmission. Thus, it has less risk of facing interference and fluctuations compared to the wireless network.

Perform a Bandwidth Test

Conducting regular bandwidth tests is crucial in monitoring your network’s performance. These tests can help you determine if your internet speed matches your subscribed plan. If you consistently notice lower speeds than expected, it could contribute to your jitter issues. In such cases, communicate with your internet service provider to solve the issue. You can also consider upgrading to a higher bandwidth plan to reduce jitter.

Prioritize Packets

Adjusting your network to prioritize certain types of traffic can also mitigate jitter. Go through the Quality of Service (QoS) settings in your router and ensure that data packets for high-priority tasks are sent first. It is crucial to prevent the disruption of sensitive applications by other less critical data traffic on your network.

Restart Your Device and Router

Sometimes, resolving jitter can be as simple as restarting your devices and router. Regularly rebooting your router can ensure optimal performance. It can help clear temporary software glitches or network congestion causing increased jitter. This approach is a good first step in troubleshooting any network issues, not only the jitters.

Install Jitter Buffers

Jitter buffers are an effective tool to counter jitter in a router’s network or a computer itself. These devices temporarily store incoming packets and control their time before delivering them to the end user. Jitter buffers align the timing of packet delivery and help to smooth out the data flow. As a result, you’ll experience reduced interruptions and improved speed during your internet activities.

Conclusion

Jitter can be more than just an annoyance in your internet experience; it can significantly impact your internet activities, particularly in business communication. Measuring jitter allows you to determine if its level is within an acceptable range or if it requires action. While a small amount of jitter might go unnoticed and be acceptable, higher levels need to be addressed promptly.
 

Calilio has a robust infrastructure and advanced technologies to reduce jitter. Our business phone system allows you to experience clearer and more reliable connectivity with minimal jitter. Sign up today and begin your journey towards seamless communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

What jitter means?

Jitter refers to the variability in the delay of data packets traveling over a network. It’s the inconsistency in the time it takes for these packets to reach their destination.

What does it mean when you jitter?

When you experience jitter, it means there’s a fluctuation or inconsistency in the network’s data flow, causing disruptions in internet activities.

What is the jitter speed?

Jitter speed refers to the rate of change in the delay of data packet delivery over a network. It’s not a speed by itself but rather a measure of variability in transmission time.

What is jitter in signal?

Jitter in signal pertains to the variation in latency or timing irregularities in the transmission of digital signals, impacting the quality of data transfer.

Is 30 ms jitter bad?

A jitter of 30 milliseconds (ms) is generally acceptable for most internet activities, but for sensitive applications, including cloud phone systems, a lower jitter (15-20 ms) is preferable.

What is jitter vs ping?

Jitter is the variation in delay between data packets, while ping refers to the round-trip time it takes for a data packet to travel from source to destination and back.

Why is jitter so high?

Network congestion, poor network infrastructure, hardware issues, or misconfigured network settings can cause high jitter.

How do you fix jitter?

Fixing jitter can involve using a more powerful router, switching to a wired connection, prioritizing packets in your network, restarting your devices and router, and installing jitter buffers.