What is latency and how does it affect your internet performance?

by | Mar 23, 2023

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On our computers, our TVs, and our devices, we want to stream, work, game, and browse without lag or interruption. Speed matters online—but there are different ways to measure it, including bandwidth and latency.

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be sent from Point A to Point B in a given period. It’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps) or gigabits per second (Gbps). Sufficient bandwidth is essential for smart homes and streaming. But there’s more to the speed equation than that. Another important factor—latency—also significantly impacts how you work and play online.

What is latency?

Latency refers to how long it takes for information to leave your device, travel to its destination, and return the requested information to you. Think of it like a boomerang. Put another way, latency measures the time from when you click on something until it loads. Remember, low latency is good, high latency is bad.

What is latency? Find out here.

What is low latency useful for?

If you game or stream high-definition videos, you want low latency to avoid lags and lost connections. But if you work from home, lower latency is essential for applications requiring real-time communications. Whether it’s Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video conferencing like Zoom or Teams, or sending and receiving large data files, you need a reliable network that keeps you securely connected and moves as fast as your business.

What is a good latency speed?

Latency times are measured in milliseconds (ms). Ideally, you want latency times below 50ms (5/100 of a second). But if you’re a gamer, aim for even lower latency—around 30ms or less—to minimize lag and ensure an optimal gaming experience.  Want to escape to a world of virtual reality? For a fully immersive VR experience, look for a latency of 20ms or less.

What causes high latency?

Latency is affected by many factors. The most common include:

  • Connection type: Light can travel faster through a fiber-optic cable than electricity through a wire. If you already have high-speed fiber internet, you’re ahead of the game since fiber offers low latency.
  • Bandwidth: If your network doesn’t have enough bandwidth, some of the data you send may get stuck in a holding pattern, leading to latency. Think of your network as a hose and the water running through it as data. A larger, more robust firehose will move the same amount of water much faster than a less powerful garden hose can.
  • Physical distance: The further your data has to travel to reach its destination, the longer it takes to arrive. That’s especially true if you send information to another country or even another state.
  • Number of hops: Every time information moves to a new device, it must “check-in.” The more times it checks in—called “hops”—the longer it takes to reach its destination.
  • Volume of content: If you’re loading a web page containing limited text, things should move quickly. But if the page has lots of high-resolution images, ads, and embedded videos, that’s where high latency can kick in.

How do I measure for high latency?

There are various online tools you can use to measure your network latency. Most network-enabled computers have built-in latency testing tools, such as ping or traceroute. PingPlotter is a popular latency testing tool that displays the data in a graph format. Another excellent tool is TestMy.net. You can see and compare your latency when connecting to different servers around the world—that’s especially useful since a major contributor to what causes latency variation is the distance to the server.

Learn how to fix latency.

How to fix latency issues

When determining how to fix high latency, you need to consider the possible sources of the delay. It could be an easy fix, depending on where the slowdown is occurring. Try the following tips:

  • Upgrade your internet service to a fast, robust connection. High-speed fiber internet may give you plenty of bandwidth and low transmission delay.
  • Upgrade outdated routers. Is your router five years or older? If so, it’s time for an upgrade. A newer router is less likely to overheat and will better support low-latency technology.
  • Connect to the internet with an Ethernet cable. Plugging your device directly into the modem or router can significantly increase transmission speeds.
  • Use a WiFi mesh network. The strength and speed of your household’s WiFi signal can vary due to factors like distance from the router or interference from obstacles such as walls. A WiFi mesh network can improve your signal and lower latency.
  • Check for background activity. If you’re downloading data in the background, it could slow the delivery of other information you’re loading.
  • Close applications not in use. You can cut down on latency by closing out applications you aren’t using. Closing applications frees up extra power on your computer to process data faster.
  • Get rid of malware. Malicious software can slow your computer down, hog your bandwidth, and increase the time it takes to process information. If you suddenly experience a slowdown, scan your computer with antivirus and malware detection software to check for problems.

High latency can be a real drag. But knowing how to fix common latency issues can help improve your internet experience, so you can browse, stream, work, and play!

Content Disclaimer - All content is for informational purposes only, may require user’s additional research, and is provided “as is” without any warranty, condition of any kind (express or implied), or guarantee of outcome or results. Use of this content is at user’s own risk. All third-party company and product or service names referenced in this article are for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement or affiliation with Quantum Fiber. If Quantum Fiber products and offerings are referenced in the content, they are accurate as of the date of issue. Quantum Fiber services are not available everywhere. Quantum Fiber service usually means 100% fiber-optic network to your location but, in limited circumstances, Quantum Fiber may need to deploy alternative technologies coupled with a non-fiber connection from a certain point (usually the curb) to your location in order to provide the advertised download speeds. ©2024 Q Fiber, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Quantum, Quantum Fiber and Quantum Fiber Internet are trademarks of Quantum Wireless LLC and used under license to Q Fiber, LLC.

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