Internet latency is something we’ve all experienced at some point. If you’ve ever waited for a video to buffer or a webpage to load, you’ve experienced Internet latency.

Internet latency is the time it takes for an Internet-based service to respond to a user’s request, and is a factor that contributes to the overall user experience.

In this article, we will explain exactly what Internet latency is, the factors that contribute to it, and how to reduce it.

What is Internet Latency

Internet latency is the amount of time it takes between you sending a request and receiving a response. For example, if you want to browse a website, then Internet latency is the amount of time between you typing the website name in the browser window and the webpage loading completely.

The amount of acceptable Internet latency depends on the application:

  • For real-time applications such as gaming, up to 50 milliseconds latency is acceptable.
  • For non-real time applications such as web browsing, up to 100 milliseconds latency is acceptable.

What Causes Internet Latency

The major factors that contribute to Internet latency are:

  • Media propagation delay
  • Processing time
    • Network processing time
    • Server processing time.

Media Propagation Delay

Internet traffic is transmitted over a data network that uses multiple transmission media. For example, if you are in the USA and access a website that is hosted in the UK, then the Internet traffic – the request sent by you the response sent by the website – has to traverse

  1. the undersea fiber optic cable between Europe and North America,
  2. the fiber connection between you and your Internet service provider and
  3. your wireless Wi-Fi or wired LAN connection.

Each type of transmission media has its own propagation delay which is a function of the speed at which electromagnetic waves travel. Typical propagation delays for transmission media are:

What Causes Internet Latency

  • Satellite: 150 to 600 milliseconds
  • Wi-Fi: 1 to 5 milliseconds
  • Metro fiber: 10 milliseconds
  • Undersea fiber: 30 milliseconds for a 6000-kilometer link

The media propagation delay is an intrinsic feature of the transmission media i.e. it cannot be eliminated.

Processing Time

Processing time can be divided into

  • the time taken for processing by network devices and
  • the time taken for processing by servers.

Network Processing Time:

The Intenet is a vast data network made of up network links and network devices.  Network links are transmission media such as fiber and cable etc. Network devices are specialized pieces of hardware used to manage the transmission of traffic over the network links: these include routers, firewalls, switches and several other types of equipment.

Each of these devices is made up of a number of components such as processors, memory and interface cards. Each of these components has a capacity limit: for example a processor on a router may be capable of handling 50,000 packets per second, or the memory on a network device may be able to store up to 10,000 packets.

Consider a network router that is handling traffic: as the long as the number of packets the router has to handle is below its capacity, the router will be able to process those packets in a certain amount of time. But when the number of packets that the router has to handle goes beyond its capacity, then buffering of packets will start, and some packets may even end up getting dropped (deleted). In other words, under high load conditions, the processing time will increase.

Similarly when a network link connected to this router is carrying traffic that is less than its capacity (e.g. a 10 Mbps link carrying 5 Mbps traffic), then the processing delay for that link will be low. But when the traffic increases beyond the link capacity (e.g. a 10 Mbps link that needs to carry 15 Mbps of traffic), then buffers on the router will be used to store the excess traffic until it can be transmitted. Again, under high load conditions, the processing time will increase.

Server Processing Time

Server Processing Time

Each website or service that we access over the Internet is hosted on a machine called a server. Link network devices, this server has a certain capacity. Consider a server that is designed to handle requests from 50,000 simultaneous users: the server hardware (processor, memory, hard drives etc) are all selected so that the server can handle requests from 50,000 users.

The server will take a certain amount of time to process each request: this time will be low when the load (number of requests) is low, and will increase with increasing load. Servers have been known to crash i.e. become non-functional due to extreme loading.

How to Reduce Internet Latency

When we talk about reducing Internet latency, it should be obvious by now that this latency cannot be reduced to zero. This is because

  • the media propagation delay is an intrinsic feature of the media used
  • processing time:
    • network devices will take a finite amount of time for traffic management, routing etc
    • servers will take a finite amount of time to deliver services such as webpages and videos etc.

When you use the Internet, the traffic has to pass through two different networks segments:

  • part of the network that it is outside your control: the service provider network,
  • part of the network that is in your control: the Internet service provider you choose, the amount of bandwidth that you buy, your home Wi-Fi etc.

For the part of the network that is outside your control, the best that you can do is to go for a good provider of Internet services.

For the part of the network that is in your control, you could:

  • buy higher bandwidth: 20 Mbps instead of 10 Mbps
  • use new hardware: buy a Wi-Fi router with increased processing power or a Wi-Fi router that supports the newer and faster Wi-Fi standards such as Wi-Fi 6.
  • make sure that the Wi-Fi card on the laptop/computer supports the new Wi-Fi standards
  • make sure that Wi-Fi coverage in your home / office is strong, if its not then improve it by adding access points or Wi-Fi repeaters.
  • Make sure that the Wi-Fi routers have the latest firmware
  • If your laptop is connected to the wired LAN, then upgrading from Fast Ethernet to Gigabit Ethernet will improve speed and reduce latency.

Conclusion

You cant make Internet latency disappear. But you can reduce it so that it doesn’t make you suffer!

The team at Carrierbid can help you to understand why you are suffering from high Internet latency. We can perform detailed assessments and help you in determining the solution that is right for you. Our domain experts can be reached directly at 1-888-706-5656 or through our website at www.carrierbid.com

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