What is Jitter? Common Causes and Best Solutions
Jitters are ubiquitous across all networks. Sometimes, they’re imperceptible. But when they’re seriously impacting your internet experience, you need to do something about it. Intolerable degrees can cause disruptions like choppy audio, delayed calls, or dropped calls.
To manage jitters, you need a good grasp of some key concepts. This guide will lay down clear definitions of concepts like what a jitter is and how much jitter is bad. For further clarity, we’ll compare jitters to another similar and equally notorious network problem – latency.
We’ll also point out the main culprits behind jitters and what to do when they take on disturbing intensities.
Our troubleshooting measures are easy to follow and can serve as a handy reference whenever the issue raises its ugly head.
Enough ado! Let’s have it!
What is Jitter?
Jitter is an interruption in signal reception due to irregularities in arrival times of packet data in transit. To understand what is jitter on a network, first, you need to grasp the mechanisms behind network connectivity in VoIP and other applications. Voice inputs are encoded and transmitted in the form of data packets. When these data packets arrive at irregular intervals, they create jitters.
The interval irregularity stems from network issues on the sender’s end. Their network is either congested, delaying the transmission of some packets, or packets are routed differently resulting in varying arrival times. Also, some packet data may be lost in the transmission irregularities, further amplifying the jarring effects of jitters.
Basically, the greater the transmission irregularities, the more jarring the jitters are. Shorter interval gaps are barely noticeable. But longer delays can be quite frustrating, wreaking havoc on audio quality in online meetings and marring online gaming experiences.
What is Acceptable Jitter for the Internet?
While the impact of Jitter varies based on different factors, there’s a universal threshold of 30ms applicable across all applications. Jitter below this threshold is noise customarily ordered acceptable because it hardly has any noticeable effect on the reception quality.
As earlier explained, internet jitters can be barely noticeable with less-abrupt differences in packet data intervals.
However, the impact of jitters is determined not only by the packet data intervals, but application being used, connection speed, and the hardware and software on the receiving end.
For instance, jitters can easily be tapered out in online streaming on high-grade devices with latency buffers. Thanks to the unidirectional flow of data packets in online streaming, moderate jitters are hardly an issue for the receiving hardware/software.
On the other hand, VoIP applications are highly sensitive to jitters. A slight difference in packet data intervals can cause stutters, choppy reception, or poor quality audio.
Jitters are measured in milliseconds of delays. So, what is a good jitter speed? In general, jitters should not be tolerated beyond 30ms (milliseconds). Many video streaming services are sensitive to this threshold, as are gaming services and other services.
Network latency, which foreshadows jitters (more on that below), shouldn’t be tolerated beyond 150ms (or 300 ms for a two-way trip). Any level above these might create a noticeable impact on the reception quality.
Packet losses from transmission delays are even more significant. Serious reception issues might occur if you lose as much as 1%.
How Jitter Affects Your Internet Experience
As earlier said, the impact of jitters is a product of multiple factors, including internet speed, hardware, network configuration, and application. Jitters can be tamed if you use high-speed internet, appropriate configurations, and high-grade hardware.
However, the application shapes the impact of jitters in your internet experience in more intricate ways. Let’s see why this is:
How Does Jitter Affect VoIP?
Unlike the other applications, VoIP packet data transmission is bi-directional. This complexity of the transmission requires nothing short of seamless connectivity. A slight interruption can have an outsized impact on your call, creating static and choppy reception. At a higher frequency and intensity, jitters can create more annoying issues like delayed calls or dropped calls.
What Does Jitter Do in Gaming?
Online gaming is a little more tolerant to jitters than VoIP because you can adjust your gameplay to regular network jitters and latency. However, you can only adjust your gameplay to a certain degree of jitters. Higher levels can ruin the excitement of your gaming experience. Jitters can be the difference between shooting accurately and misdirected shots or a good spell of ball possession and poor passing.
What About Video Streaming?
Since packet data is unidirectional in online streaming (only flowing from the source to the recipient), the effects of jittering can be less perceptible compared to bidirectional applications. As such, regular network jitters, which would normally cause stutters or choppy audio in VoIP, might just go unnoticed in video streaming.
In most cases, video streaming is supported by buffer memory or cached data, which records packets ahead of their display time to play them back seamlessly, tapering out disruptions from jitters in real-time.
Jitter vs. Latency
Jitter and latency are two closely related concepts. They both signify delays in the arrival intervals of packet data. Latency can give rise to jitters, but it’s not the only cause of it. We can say the two share a causal relationship, but jitters can also indicate wider network issues.
Latency measures the time it takes for a packet to be sent or received. A greater latency means the packet is sent or received long after the transmission was initiated. Jitters, on the other hand, represent irregularities in arrival intervals. It can occur due to high latency, latency fluctuations, or other network issues preventing packets from arriving on time.
To further clarify their differences, in certain applications, time stamping can help fix jitters, enabling the recipient to properly chronicle jumbled data, but it certainly can’t help with latency issues because it doesn’t speed up the flow of data between connected devices.
Nonetheless, some solutions can resolve both problems, including using proper hardware, decongesting bandwidths, or using high-speed internet.
Common Causes of Network Jitter
To figure out what to do about them, you need to first identify what causes jitters. Most times, jitters result from these common causes:
1. Network Congestion
If the network is overcrowded with too many applications and devices drawing on the bandwidth, packet data may be delayed or lost over the network, resulting in internet jitters.
2. Poor Firmware or Network Configuration
Another important place to check is the state of your hardware or network configuration. Are you using old, unsupported routers or cables? Are your routers configured properly? Sometimes you might need to change your router settings to suit VoIP or any particular application. For instance, you might need to prioritize audio data over other types of traffic.
If you’re using cables, make sure they’re thoroughly inspected for wear, damages, or improper connections.
3. Wireless Jitters
You may experience jitters with wireless networks because of the relatively lower network quality when compared with wired networks. Try switching out your wireless network for a wired connection for guaranteed maximum connection speeds.
How to Fix Jitter Issues
Don’t let jitters ruin the excitement of your Skype meetings. Here are simple troubleshooting steps to get the better of it:
Test your connections
First, some housekeeping. Ensure that your poor reception is not a product of your internet connection. Find out what is jitter on speed test and how to run a ping test or a bandwidth test.
If your router has a Quality of Service (QoS) feature, you can allocate more bandwidth to audio, video, or the packet data type for your application.
Free up your bandwidth
Avoid sharing your bandwidth with heavy streamers and minimize the number of devices on your network, especially if it’s a home connection—close apps and browser tabs when not in use.
Check for frequency compatibility
If the frequency of your device doesn’t match those of your service providers, you may experience frequent interferences that generate network jitters. Check with your service provider to see if your device is compatible with their network frequency.
Deploy a Jitter Buffer
Jitter buffers uniformly delay packets to even out jitters in the reception. The reception could be delayed for longer than otherwise, but it would be orderly and predictable compared to the capricious nature of network jitters.
Supercharge your internet speed
Swap your wireless network for Ethernet cables or old, decrepit routers for new models with blazing connection speeds.
Now that you know what jitters are on the internet, you can say goodbye to poor quality audio, dropped calls, or disruptions in your video display.
Sometimes, imperceptible jitters come and go on their own. But when they begin to cause static, stutters, and sluggish gameplay, then it’s time to run jitter tests and deck out with your troubleshooting gear.
You can use our guide to trace out the culprit and figure out how to fix a jitter.