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What is Jitter? Causes, Types, and How to Reduce It

what is jitter

If you work remotely and employ a VoIP communications system, jitter is the last thing you want to troubleshoot. Connectivity disruptions can lead to costly downtime and missed opportunities you may not have the pleasure of recovering. 

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce jitter and avoid frustration. By understanding what jitter is and what causes it, you can promise internal members, consumers, and stakeholders reliable and high-quality calls every time.

What is Jitter?

Internet jitter (network jitter) is the variation in the packet delivery delay within a network or internet connection. In other words, it is the fluctuation in the time it takes for data packets to travel from one point to another in a network that leads to inconsistent or uneven delays between those packets.

What Causes Jitter?

Jitter can occur due to various factors, including network congestion, routing issues, hardware limitations, and other external influences. It can harm real-time applications such as voice and video communication, online gaming, and streaming, as these applications require a consistent and predictable data delivery time to maintain smooth and seamless experiences.

What is an Acceptable Jitter?

The acceptable level of jitter depends on the specific application and use case. Lower jitter is generally preferred, especially for real-time applications where consistent and predictable data delivery times are crucial for a smooth user experience.

Other factors that may dictate the acceptable jitter level include the following:

  • Application type
  • Quality expectations and standards
  • Network use
  • Network design

As a rough guideline, jitter is acceptable for real-time applications below 30 milliseconds (ms). However, some applications, especially those involving high-definition video conferencing or competitive online gaming, may require even lower jitter levels, often aiming for less than 10 ms.

Types of Jitter

There are several types of jitter, each with specific characteristics and causes. These types can impact various aspects of network performance and real-time applications. Here are some common types of jitter:

  • Packet: This is the most common type of jitter and refers to the variation in packet arrival times at the destination. Packet jitter occurs due to network congestion, routing changes, varying path lengths, and other factors that lead to fluctuations in the time it takes for packets to traverse the network.
  • Clock: Clock jitter occurs when there are inconsistencies in the timing of data transmission and reception due to differences in the clocks of different devices or components in a network. This jitter leads to irregularities in the intervals between packets.
  • Interface: Interface jitter refers to variations in data transmission and reception timing at the interface level of networking equipment. It happens due to hardware limitations, buffer overflows, or other issues at the network interface.
  • Buffer: Buffer jitter occurs when data packets stay in buffers before being forwarded to their destination. If the buffers become full or experience delays in processing, it can cause fluctuations in packet delivery times.
  • Propagation: Propagation jitter occurs due to variations in the speed at which packets travel over different physical paths in a network. Impacting factors include different cable lengths, signal degradation, and interference.
  • Queueing: Queueing jitter arises when packets stay in queues at routers or switches before being forwarded. Variations in queue lengths and the packet processing order can lead to jitter as they experience different delays.
  • Wireless: In wireless networks, factors like signal interference, fading, and contention for the wireless medium can introduce additional jitter as packets travel through the air.
  • Network Load: This type of jitter occurs due to variations in network traffic load. The jitter increases when the network experiences high traffic as packets contend for limited resources.
  • Congestion: This jitter occurs when network devices become overloaded with traffic, leading to packet processing and transmission delays. Congestion can occur after insufficient bandwidth or improperly managed network resources.
  • Clock Skew: Clock skew refers to the difference in clock frequencies between different devices. Clock skew jitter occurs when these differences lead to timing inconsistencies in packet transmission and reception.

How Do You Test Jitter?

Testing jitter involves measuring the variations in packet delay within a network or internet connection. Below are some methods you can use.

Ping and Traceroute 

These utilities test network latency and identify routing issues. While they don’t provide direct jitter measurements, they can help identify potential sources of jitter by showing variations in packet round-trip times and the routes packets take through the network.

Jitter Test Tools

Dedicated tools designed to measure jitter directly include:

  • Iperf: This versatile network testing tool measures jitter and other performance metrics. It can generate and measure UDP traffic to simulate real-time data transmission.
  • PRTG Network Monitor: PRTG includes jitter monitoring capabilities as part of its network monitoring suite.
  • Wireshark: This powerful packet analyzer captures and analyzes network traffic, including jitter measurements. It requires more technical expertise to interpret the results.

Online Testing Tools

Online tools often provide easy-to-understand results without requiring complex setups. Examples include and PingPlotter.

Network Monitoring Solutions

Comprehensive network monitoring solutions, such as Nagios, SolarWinds, or Zabbix, can monitor and report on various aspects of network performance, including jitter.

When performing a jitter test, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the testing method: Select the tool you want to use based on your needs and expertise.
  2. Select test parameters: Set up the test parameters, including the target server or IP address, the packet size, and the testing duration.
  3. Perform the test: Run the jitter test. The tool or utility will send packets and measure the variations in packet delay.
  4. Analyze results: Examine the test results to identify the level of jitter experienced. Look for patterns, spikes, or consistent variations in packet delay.
  5. Repeat and compare: For accurate results, perform the test multiple times at different times of the day to account for varying network conditions. Compare the results to establish a baseline and identify trends.
  6. Mitigate jitter: If you identify excessive jitter, work to mitigate it by optimizing network resources, configuring Quality of Service (QoS) settings, or addressing other potential causes.

Problems Caused by High Jitter

High jitter in a network can lead to various problems, especially for real-time applications that require consistent and predictable data delivery. Here are some problems you may encounter: 

  • Distortion: High jitter can result in audio and video distortion in communication applications, causing choppy audio, delayed speech, and pixelation or freezing of video streams.
  • Lag and delay: Online gaming relies on low latency to provide a responsive and immersive experience. High jitter can lead to noticeable delays in actions and responses, causing players to experience lag, making it difficult to compete or enjoy the game.
  • Unstable video streaming: High jitter can disrupt streams, causing buffering, sudden quality drops, and interruptions in the video stream.
  • Inaccurate time synchronization: Jitter can impact data logging, network coordination, and distributed computing.
  • VoIP call quality: VoIP calls require consistent and low-latency data delivery to maintain clear and smooth communication. High jitter can lead to poor call quality, including dropped calls, garbled speech, and voice clipping.
  • Reduced network efficiency: High jitter may force network protocols and applications to resend lost or out-of-sequence packets, increasing network congestion and reducing overall efficiency.
  • Inconsistent data transfer rates: Applications that require steady data transfer rates, such as streaming and online conferencing, may experience fluctuations in performance due to high jitter. This inconsistency can negatively impact user experiences.
  • Performance variability: High jitter can lead to inconsistent and unpredictable application performance, making it difficult to anticipate how the application will respond.
  • Difficulty in real-time collaboration: Collaborative tasks that rely on real-time interaction, such as online collaborative document editing or virtual whiteboarding, can be hindered by high jitter. Delays in data transmission can disrupt the flow of collaboration.
  • Impaired Quality of Service (QoS): High jitter can challenge QoS mechanisms that prioritize certain types of network traffic, resulting in QoS degradation and affecting critical applications.

How to Troubleshoot and Reduce Jitter

Troubleshooting and reducing jitter involves identifying its underlying causes and implementing strategies to mitigate its effects. Here’s a guide to help you troubleshoot and reduce jitter in a network:

  1. 1. Identify the source of jitter: Use network monitoring tools to measure and analyze jitter levels, then check for network congestion, high utilization, or bottlenecks. Monitor the performance of routers, switches, and other network equipment.
  2. Check network hardware: Ensure network devices, including routers, switches, and cables, function correctly. Upgrade outdated hardware or replace those insufficient for the network’s demands.
  3. Optimize network configuration: Configure Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize real-time traffic over non-essential data. Then, implement traffic shaping and bandwidth management to prevent congestion. Ensure proper routing and minimize unnecessary hops in data transmission paths.
  4. Test and upgrade internet connection: Test your internet connection using online tools or dedicated testing software. Consider upgrading to a higher-speed connection or switching to a more reliable internet service provider if necessary.
  5. Address wireless issues: If using Wi-Fi, ensure you have a solid and stable wireless signal. Avoid interference from other devices, neighboring networks, and physical obstructions. Use wired connections whenever possible for critical applications.
  6. Update firmware and software: Keep network equipment firmware, drivers, and applications up to date to ensure optimal performance and bug fixes.
  7. Monitor and analyze traffic: Use network monitoring tools to track traffic patterns and identify high usage or congestion periods. Analyze the types of traffic contributing to jitter and consider traffic shaping or filtering if needed.
  8. Consider network redundancy: Implement redundancy and failover mechanisms to ensure continuous data flow even in the presence of network failures.
  9. Optimize buffer management: Adjust network device buffer sizes to balance the latency and jitter trade-offs, avoiding substantial buffers that can introduce latency.
  10. Minimize interference: Reduce electromagnetic interference by keeping network cables away from sources of interference, such as power cables and electronic devices.
  11. Test during off-peak hours: Perform jitter testing during periods of low network activity to obtain more accurate results.
  12. Seek professional assistance: If troubleshooting and optimization efforts do not yield satisfactory results, consider consulting with network specialists or engineers with expertise in jitter reduction.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between jitter and latency?

Latency is the delay between data transmission and reception, while jitter is the variation in that delay.

Does jitter affect internet speed?

Yes, high jitter can impact internet-based applications’ perceived speed and quality.

What is the difference between jitter and ping? 

Ping measures the round-trip time for a packet, while jitter measures the variation in these times and delays.


With a reliable Internet connection and VoIP provider, jitter doesn’t have to impact your connectivity negatively. By identifying network congestion, routing issues, and overall limitations, your business can begin troubleshooting common connectivity issues and guarantee fewer disruptions. 

Achieving a good jitter speed or avoiding network jitter can seem daunting and time-consuming, but it doesn’t have to be with ULTATEL. Our solutions have impressive uptime, and our team is available to help 24/7.

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