Have you ever had VoIP calls intermittently drop out during a conversation? This can be an annoying problem for many users who expect crystal clear phone quality from their hosted phone systems. But what exactly causes it?
Network jitter occurs when your network experiences inconsistencies with the exchange of data. This can frequently happen with any internet connection but is typically more noticeable when conducting online activities that require a real-time, two-way connection like video games, Zoom conferences, and VoIP calls.
VoIP calls function by converting your voice into packets of data that are transferred over the network to another user. Under normal circumstances and with a good connection, these packages exchange back and forth without losing quality. But when either user experiences connectivity problems, it can cause these data packets to transfer out of order or even drop them entirely. This dropping of data packets is regarded as “packet loss.” As a result, you hear broken or garbled audio quality.
What Causes Network Jitters
Now that we know what network jitter is let’s discuss what often causes it. High VoIP jitter is one of the most common reasons for disruptions in call quality.
1. Network Congestion
Networks operate much like an interstate highways. And just like a traffic jam, when too many people are using certain connections, it can cause a backup in the transfer of data. This can result in a breakup of your phone quality or even dropped connections.
2. Poor Hardware Performace
Outdated or malfunctioning hardware can often cause issues with network jitter and overall connectivity. Things like routers or damaged cables can all add up to limit your flow of data.
3. Wireless Jitter
One of the most significant drawbacks of using a wireless connection is the slower data flow compared to hardwired connections. If you’re experiencing notable data loss or jitter symptoms, you may try changing out your wireless connection with a LAN cable.
4. Packet Prioritization
Another culprit that might cause network jitter is the prioritization of your data. If you regularly use VoIP systems, you’ll want to enable VoIP calls as a priority in your network settings to ensure that your connection services your phone before anything else.
How Jitter Affects Call Quality
Network jitter can seriously disrupt important phone or Zoom calls by lagging, skipping, or just dropping out. This frustrating issue affects millions of users, especially those with slower or unstable internet connections. But not all jitter issues are created the same. Below, we’ve identified some of the common forms of jitter and how they affect your connections.
• Constant Jitter
This form of jitter happens when constant packet transmission interruptions occur, causing regular drops in call quality.
• Transient Jitter
Transient network jitter is characterized by significant delay intervals when a single packet of data is lost. This fleeting connectivity issue might only cut off a word or cause a momentary lapse in call quality.
• Short-Term Delay Jitter
This type of jitter exhibits itself when there is an increase in the delay that continues through several packets but is followed by a sharp rise in that same data transfer. This latency issue causes an almost ‘rubber band’ like effect.
How to Test Network Jitter
There are a few ways to get the inside scoop on your data packet transfer latency. By calculating the average packet to packet delay time, you can find out just what’s occurring on your network. We’ve compiled a few handy ways to track this information below:
1. Online Speed test
An online speed test, like the service sponsored by Ookla, is an effective way of measuring your overall data transfer speed. Larger network interruptions can easily be measured through this method.
2. Terminal-Based Pings
Sometimes, the standard online speed tests might not provide the full view of what’s happening with your network data. To better view your packet-to-packet transmission speed, you may want to run a terminal-based ping test.
To enable this test, open your Command Prompt or Terminal for Mac owners, and enter this command:
Windows: ping -n 20 188.8.131.52 (Your IP Address)
Mac: ping -c 20 184.108.40.206 (Your IP Address)
This command prompt will transfer data to and from a Google server using a preset amount of data packets, returning with a full view of how quickly and efficiently those packets were transferred.
3. Advanced Network Monitoring
Larger businesses will most likely have access to more robust network monitoring tools. These can measure both inbound and outbound traffic at the router level, alerting you the moment low bandwidth, high jitter, or packet loss starts to occur.
Troubleshooting Network Jitter
If you’re one of the millions of people that experience network jitter daily, have no fear! There are many ways to troubleshoot the issue. With these tips, you narrow down the field of what’s causing your data loss.
1. Upgrade your internet connection
Is your network connection capable of handling the amount of data that’s being transferred? This is one of the most common causes of network jitter and connection issues. Many VoIP systems require a strong connection, and any disruption can result in lagged or dropped voice calls.
2. Upgrade your network hardware
Much like your internet connection, outdated hardware can result in connection issues. Purchasing newer routers and cables and ensuring that everything is updated correctly with the latest firmware will help ensure your network is functioning properly.
3. Use a wired connection
When using software or a service that requires a robust internet connection to function correctly, you will want to use a wired connection. Wired connections are often faster and more stable than those broadcast via WiFi.
4. Utilize a jitter buffer
If you consistently experience issues with jitter, you might use a jitter buffer. This program will delay your VoIP audio just enough that the data packets reorder properly, resulting in overall better audio quality. However, it’s important to note that you will need to set your jitter buffer properly for it to work. Setting it too high can cause issues with your voice reaching the recipient in a timely fashion.
5. Enable Quality of Service (QoS)
Sometimes your network can become congested with non-voice-based traffic. This can happen as a result of downloading large files or even streaming video. The heavy data requirements to complete these tasks can have a massive effect on the overall quality of your internet connection and VoIP call quality. By limiting non-voice activities during business hours, you can maintain a faster connection. Additionally, you might even consider adding an additional internet connection that’s dedicated to VoIP-based functions.
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