Jitter is the uniformity, or lack thereof, in which packets of information arrive to your device from the internet. Also called “stuttering,” jitter is a common measurement for network stability. A jumpy internet connection that performs at inconsistent speeds may be caused by high jitter.
When you access the internet from your device, information, referred to as data packets, is downloaded and uploaded to and from your computer. When you experience high jitter, packets arrive at different times, some quickly and others more slowly. This becomes particularly noticeable when you are using a service where timing is important, such as live streaming a lecture or having an online voice or video conversation.
Think of a freight train. Each of the train’s cars will cross a certain point at a consistent rate, one car steadily after another, assuming the train travels at a constant speed. This represents low jitter.
However, if the cars were connected with bungee cords, The rate of each car’s crossing could vary widely, some at a faster rate than others. This represents high jitter.
The impact of Jitter
Jitter & Video Streaming
Voice and video calls over the internet are highly sensitive to jitter and network stability. Web meetings using tools such as Zoom, WebEx, or Skype over connections experiencing high jitter can result in audio and video that comes across awkwardly slowed or sped up. This can be extremely disruptive to the natural flow of conversation.
Jitter & Browsing/Web Applications
Jitter rarely impacts the performance of web applications. With the exception of extreme jitter, it will not be noticeable while using browser applications like Salesforce, Google Docs, Trello, or Facebook.
Jitter & Streaming Video/Audio
Similar to Browsing and Web Applications, most streaming services simply download and store portions of a video or audio file on your machine. This buffer makes the experience more resilient to latency and jitter.
Jitter & Gaming
Gaming is usually resilient to jitter, with the exception of some important factors. Similar to streaming video, many games temporarily download portions of the game to your device. This makes gaming resilient to jitter, but not to latency. Because jitter and latency often go hand-in-hand, a network with high jitter should be tested for high latency as well. Also, if during game play you plan to stream video from your web camera or voice chat with others in the game, high jitter can impact that experience as it would on a Skype or Zoom call.
Causes & FixesMany factors within the home and over the internet can cause jitter:
1. Too Many Devices
Networks overcrowded with traffic can experience poor performance due to high jitter. When your device competes for bandwidth, your router may struggle to send data packets to your device at a steady rate.
Solution: High jitter from your home WiFi may indicate that you’ve outgrown your current network. It may be worth investing in higher performance hardware to improve jitter and latency over wireless.
2. Too Many Users
Similar to too many devices, too many users competing for bandwidth may result in unstable network behavior.
Solution: By running HubbleIQ before important voice and video calls, you can detect high jitter and request that others on your home network temporarily consume less broadband. Additionally, this may be a good indication that you’ve outgrown your home router or wireless device capabilities.
3. It’s Not You, It’s Your Internet Provider
Jitter may indicate an issue with your internet service provider. Weak links from your home to your ISP may result in unstable connectivity. This may be due to network maintenance or an outage.
Solution: If possible, plug your device directly into your router and run HubbleIQ. If high jitter and/or latency is still detected, contact your internet provider to report it. Be wary of special offers to upgrade your connection, since more bandwidth speeds will likely not solve the problem of poor network quality.