Woman in a call with headphones experiencing jitter

What Is Jitter: A Comprehensive Guide

AircallLast updated on January 2, 2024
10 min

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Maintaining a reliable and uninterrupted network connection in today's interconnected world is crucial for business productivity. However, issues such as jitter can hinder the quality of your communication. In this comprehensive guide, we will look into what exactly it is, its different types, and what is considered a normal level of jitter for the internet. 

We will also explore the consequences of bad network, the various causes, and effective solutions to minimize its impact. You can ensure crystal-clear audio and video communication when you understand and address jitter for what it is. Let's dive into it.

What is jitter? 

In the world of interconnected networks, data packets travel from your computer to their destination, facilitating seamless communication across the internet. These packets are typically transmitted with consistent timing and arrive promptly. However, when a delay occurs in the transmission of these data packets over your network connection, we encounter a phenomenon known as jitter. Factors such as network congestion and occasional route changes often contribute to this disruption.

Jitter also refers to the variation in the time it takes for data packets to travel across a network. It can cause disruptions and inconsistencies in audio and video streams, resulting in poor call quality. It manifests as irregular delays between packets, leading to a choppy or distorted communication experience. Understanding different types and their impacts on the network will help you take proactive steps to mitigate their effects.

Imagine this: You're in the middle of an important conversation with a valued client, and when things are going smoothly, the dreaded happens—the call drops or their voice begins to crackle and distort. The frustration sets in, accompanied by a hint of embarrassment, especially if this isn't the first time it has occurred. The incidence described above is called jitter.

Different Types of Jitter

When it comes to the world of jitter, there's more than meets the eye. It manifests in various forms, each with its own distinct characteristics. Let's take a closer look at the different types that can disrupt the smooth flow of data packets:

1. Network jitter: It occurs during data transmission across the network infrastructure.

2. Constant jitter: Imagine a steady drumbeat of delay variations between packets. That's constant jitter for you. It exhibits a consistent level of delay variation from packet to packet, making it a persistent challenge to overcome.

3. Transient jitter: Prepare for the unexpected! It introduces a sudden spike in delay for a single packet. It's like a temporary hiccup in the system, causing a significant incremental delay that can catch you off guard.

4. Short-term Delay Variation: Here's where things get a bit more complicated. Short-term delay variation involves an increase in delay that extends over multiple packets. An uptick in packet-to-packet delay variation often accompanies this type of Jitter. It typically arises from network congestion and route changes, injecting temporary disturbances into your network connection.

What Is Jitter vs. Latency vs. Ping?

While jitter, latency, and ping are interconnected, they represent distinct aspects of network performance. 

  • Latency refers to the delay caused by jitter in the network, resulting in the uneven delivery of data packets. It is the delay between sending and receiving data packets. 

  • Ping, on the other hand, measures the round-trip time for a packet to reach its destination and return. 

  • Jitter, as mentioned earlier, focuses on the variation in packet arrival times.  A jitter buffer is a mechanism used to manage and smooth out variations in packet arrival times.

Understanding these differences is essential for troubleshooting network issues effectively. It will also help to know what areas of the communication process need improvement to increase efficiency and productivity.

Metrics for Measuring Jitter

To truly understand the impact of this on your network, it's crucial to have accurate metrics for measuring the deviation in the signal pulses of a high-frequency digital signal. Let's see the various methods used to conduct a jitter test and determine the average packet-to-packet delay time:

  • Maximum Jitter: The highest variation in packet arrival times observed during a specific period.

  • Mean Jitter: The average variation in packet arrival times over a given duration.

  • Peak-to-Peak Jitter: The difference between the maximum and minimum jitter values.

  • Frame Delay Variation: The difference in delay between consecutive frames in a video stream.

To evaluate and quantify the deviation in the network signal pulses, you can also use these common metrics:

Voice Traffic Measurement

  • Single Endpoint: In this scenario, where you have control over one endpoint, you can calculate the mean round-trip time (RTT) and the minimum RTT of a series of voice packets. This method, known as a ping jitter test, provides insights into the delay variations experienced during the transmission.

  • Double Endpoint: If you have control over both endpoints, you can utilize the instantaneous jitter measurement. This measurement compares the transmitting and receiving intervals for a single packet, revealing the variation between them.

Bandwidth Testing

Evaluating your internet speed can also shed light on the level of Jitter. By performing a bandwidth test, you can assess the overall capacity of your network and identify potential bottlenecks. This test considers factors such as jitter times, data transfer speeds, and network capacity.

Performing a speed test or bandwidth test is often the simplest and most accessible method for testing Jitter. You can determine the theoretical data speed between two points by sending files over the network and measuring the time it takes for them to download at the destination. This speed is typically measured in kilobits per second (Kbps) or megabits per second (Mbps).

Bandwidth tests can be affected by several factors like internet traffic, file sizes, noise on data lines, and server load. Run several tests and find the average speed to get a better idea of how well your network performs. This gives you more reliable results.

What Is a Normal Jitter? 

Jitter is typically measured in milliseconds (ms). Generally, a delay of around 30 ms or more can result in distortion and disruptions during a call. For smooth video streaming, keeping it below 30 ms is recommended. If the receiving jitter exceeds this threshold, it can lead to packet loss and audio quality issues. 

Packet loss should also be kept below 1%, and network latency should not exceed 150 ms in one direction. Higher levels of internet jitter can give rise to various connectivity problems, including delayed or dropped calls, static and echoing sounds, and distorted or choppy audio.

Since higher jitter levels lead to poor audio and video quality, resulting in a less satisfying user experience. , it's generally advisable to aim for lower levels to ensure optimal connectivity and enhance the overall quality of communication. Therefore, the acceptable level depends on the nature of the communication and the technology used. Lower jitter values lead to better call quality

Here is a quick breakdown of what is considered normal jitter for the internet:

  • Very good: Less than 10 ms

  • Good: 10 ms to 20 ms

  • Normal: 20 ms to 50 ms

  • Bad: 50 ms to 100 ms

  • Very bad: More than 100 ms

Understanding these thresholds helps gauge the quality of your network connection and take appropriate measures to improve it. You can perform a ping jitter test to evaluate your VoIP jitter and average latency. This involves calculating the mean and minimum round-trip times for multiple data packets. An instantaneous jitter measurement compares the variation between transmitting and receiving intervals for one packet and helps gauge the average jitter across multiple data packets.

What Does Bad Network Jitter Do? 

This significantly impacts various professional use cases, such as:

  • Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls: It causes disruptions, leading to distorted audio and difficulty understanding conversations.

  • Video conferencing: It results in choppy video playback, making following discussions and nonverbal cues challenging.

  • Online gaming: In gaming, even small delays caused by jitter can affect the responsiveness of controls, leading to a frustrating and laggy experience.

  • Real-time data transmission: Applications relying on real-time data, such as financial trading or remote monitoring, can experience inconsistencies due to the deviation in the network signal pulses, potentially leading to costly errors.

What Can Cause Network Jitter? 

Several factors can contribute to network jitter. Here are some common causes to be aware of:

Network Congestion

High levels of network traffic and congestion can significantly impact the performance of your network, leading to increased jitter. When the network becomes congested, the available bandwidth is limited, causing packets to contend for resources. This competition for bandwidth can result in delays and fluctuations in packet delivery times, leading to jitter.

Insufficient Bandwidth

Inadequate allocation of bandwidth can also contribute to network jitter. If the available bandwidth is insufficient to handle the volume of transmitted data, it can lead to congestion and increased packet delays. It's important to ensure that your network has enough bandwidth to accommodate the demands of your applications and users to minimize the risk of jitter.

Packet Loss

Packet loss occurs when data packets are lost during transmission. This can happen due to various factors, such as network congestion, faulty network equipment, or transmission errors. When packets are lost, they need to be retransmitted, introducing additional delays and potentially increasing jitter. Minimizing packet loss through robust network infrastructure and error correction mechanisms can help reduce it.

Network Equipment Issues

Faulty or malfunctioning network equipment, such as routers, switches, or network interface cards (NICs), can disrupt the smooth delivery of packets and contribute to it. Issues like hardware failures, firmware bugs, or misconfigurations can result in packet delays or even packet loss. Regular maintenance, monitoring, and ensuring the reliability of network equipment are crucial to mitigate potential jitter caused by equipment issues.

Wireless Interference

In wireless networks, interference from other devices operating on the same frequency range, neighboring networks, or physical obstacles like walls can introduce jitter. Interference disrupts the wireless signal, causing variations in packet delivery times and degrading overall network performance. Optimizing wireless network settings, using proper channel selection, and minimizing sources of interference can help reduce it in wireless connections.

Network Configuration

Improper network configuration, particularly in relation to Quality of Service (QoS) settings, can contribute to deviation in the signal pulses in a high-frequency digital signal. QoS settings prioritize certain types of network traffic over others, ensuring that critical applications receive sufficient bandwidth and minimal latency. Incorrectly configured QoS settings or lack of prioritization can lead to uneven distribution of network resources, resulting in increased jitter for time-sensitive applications like VoIP or video conferencing.

With a proper understanding of common causes of network jitter, businesses can take proactive measures to optimize their network infrastructure, ensure adequate bandwidth, minimize packet loss, maintain reliable network equipment, mitigate wireless interference, and implement proper network configurations. These steps can help reduce it and improve network communications' overall quality and reliability.

How Do I Fix Jitter on the Internet? 

Reducing it requires a combination of troubleshooting and implementing appropriate solutions. Here are some steps to address this issue:

1. Check Your Internet Connection 

Verify that your internet connection meets the recommended bandwidth requirements for your communication needs. A stable internet connection is needed to enjoy quality VoIP calls.

2. Use Quality Network Equipment 

Invest in reliable routers, switches, and network devices that can handle traffic effectively and minimize latency and jitter.

3. Optimize Network Configuration

Configure Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize real-time traffic, such as VoIP or video conferencing, over non-essential applications.

4. Minimize Network Congestion

Avoid overloading your network by limiting bandwidth-intensive activities and prioritizing critical communication applications.

5. Employ Buffers

Implement buffer mechanisms to temporarily store and reorganize out-of-order packets, reducing the impact of this incident on audio and video streams.

6. Upgrade Your Internet Service

If your current internet service is consistently experiencing high jitter, consider upgrading to a higher-speed plan or switching to a more reliable provider.

Enhance the quality of your network connection and reduce the negative effects of it on your communication by following the six steps highlighted above. You can also contact Aircall support to help you troubleshoot jitter issues and recommend appropriate solutions.

It can disrupt the seamless flow of audio and video communication, affecting the overall quality of your network connection. Knowing its impact on latency and ping will help you to diagnose and address network issues more effectively. Knowing what is considered normal jitter for the internet allows you to assess the quality of your connection. 

When you implement the suggested solutions, such as optimizing network configuration and employing buffers, you can minimize it and enjoy high-quality audio and video communication.

Don't let it compromise your communication— try Aircall for free today and experience crystal-clear connections.

Published on August 6, 2023.

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