How to reduce network jitter on Wi-Fi

Diane Balogh profile image January 23, 2023 | 14 min read

If your business suffers from high levels of network jitter, it’s natural to explore the steps you can take to reduce it. After all, network jitter can have a huge impact. It disrupts various forms of communication, slows down productivity, and ultimately makes it more difficult for your business to be successful.

Many VoIP providers actively manage network jitter with their own tools so you won’t have to worry about it, but there are things you can do to make your situation better if you are experiencing some problems.

Let’s take a closer look at eight proven strategies you can use to reduce network jitter on Wi-Fi®.

9 ways to reduce network jitter on Wi-Fi

If you are experiencing network jitter issues on your Wi-Fi network, here are nine techniques to reduce network jitter on Wi-Fi:

1. Use a jitter buffer
2. Upgrade to a more powerful internet router
3. Use wired connections instead of Wi-Fi
4. Add or upgrade Ethernet cables
5. Identify power users and prioritize service for them
6. Upgrade your router’s firmware
7. Evaluate and optimize bandwidth usage
8. Implement Quality of Service (QoS)
9. Make sure the appropriate ports and protocols for your hardware are open

Let’s take a closer look at what’s involved in each of these techniques.

1. Use a jitter buffer

A jitter buffer is a great solution if network jitter is disrupting VoIP calls. Jitter buffers work by delaying voice data packets and reordering them, ensuring that all voice data is delivered to the recipient in the correct order.

Many VoIP providers offer a jitter buffer, so you should give them a call to make sure they have one and it’s being used. If your provider doesn’t offer one, you can purchase and install your own. Just make sure to set it at 200 ms or less for the best performance.

2. Upgrade to a more powerful internet router

One of the most common causes of high levels of jitter is outdated internet hardware. All internet traffic flows through your router, and if it’s not up to the task of handling high volumes of VoIP traffic, it can act as a bottleneck.

If you’ve had the same router for a few years, it may no longer be suitable for your internet usage needs. Many newer internet routers come with built-in voice packet prioritization technology. This minimizes the impact network jitter has on VoIP calls, particularly during times of network congestion. These newer routers prioritize VoIP data over other types of data, ensuring VoIP calls remain smooth at all times.

3. Use wired connections instead of Wi-Fi

Wireless internet connections offer several benefits to business users. They’re easily accessible and enable employees to move around the office while remaining connected. But for some use cases, including VoIP calls and videoconferencing, wired networks offer a superior level of performance.

Consider adding wired connection points throughout your business that employees can use when low network jitter is important. Common examples include hardwiring VoIP phones used by your customer service team or adding wired internet connections to meeting rooms to ensure smooth conference calls.

4. Add or upgrade Ethernet cables

If you’ve decided to start using wired internet connections for certain employees or locations, carefully select the Ethernet cables.

You shouldn’t just use any old Ethernet cables you have lying around. There are several different categories of Ethernet cables and premium cables provide significantly better performance than cheaper equivalents. High-performance Ethernet cables reduce network jitter, unlock additional bandwidth and ensure higher levels of connectivity.

5. Identify power users and prioritize service to them

In any business, it’s likely certain employees use VoIP calling and videoconferencing much more frequently than others. These power users are often in customer-facing positions like sales and customer service. They spend a large portion of their time at work virtually meeting with prospective customers or answering support calls.

The ability for power users to communicate smoothly is critical to the success of your business. Do everything possible to shield them from the effects of network jitter. One way is to prioritize their VoIP traffic. This ensures that the voice packets sent by these users are given the highest level of priority.

Some routers let you prioritize certain devices or certain types of internet traffic, so make sure to check your settings for these options or refer to your manufacturer’s instructions.

6. Upgrade your router’s firmware

While upgrading your router’s firmware is something you might forget, and is in some cases an annoyance, it’s actually incredibly important to maintain the reliability and integrity of your internet connection.

Consult your router manufacturer to see how to upgrade your router. Once you do that, you can even take an additional step my turning off the SIP Application Layer Gateway (ALG) setting. ALG can sometimes modify data packets and contribute to jitter.

Consult your manufacturer’s documentation to learn how to turn it off on your router.

7. Evaluate and optimize bandwidth usage

Network jitter is particularly impactful when your network is congested, which occurs when your bandwidth is not used efficiently. Many business networks are unnecessarily congested, and it’s possible to minimize network jitter by reducing this congestion.

Perhaps you have a TV in your reception area that streams online video all day long—an activity that uses a lot of bandwidth. Eliminate this bandwidth usage by having the TV play downloaded videos instead, freeing up more bandwidth for VoIP calls and other business-critical activities.

It’s worthwhile to evaluate your bandwidth usage on an ongoing basis and consider how you can optimize it. This is particularly true when your business implements new cloud-based software tools, which often use a significant amount of bandwidth.

As your business grows, it’s often necessary to upgrade to a more powerful business-class internet package that offers increased bandwidth.

8. Implement Quality of Service (QoS) to prioritize VoIP traffic

Implementing QoS on your internet service allocates higher priority to VoIP data, making your VoIP calls less likely to be disrupted by network jitter. Without QoS, every data packet is treated the same, regardless of whether the data it contains is a VoIP phone call hosted by your CEO or a YouTube video an employee is watching in the breakroom.

Enabling QoS sends VoIP traffic to the front of the queue, ensuring it’s sent before other types of data on your network. To implement QoS, you might need to change the settings on your internet router.

You can find information on how to view and adjust your QoS settings by referring to your manufacturer’s setup guide.

9. Make sure the appropriate ports are open

To properly work, VoIP phone systems often require that certain ports and protocols are open to make sure communication flows freely.

The specific ports that need to be open will vary depending on what kind of hardware you’re using. Your VoIP provider will often have a list of what ports need to be open for which pieces of hardware. For example, Ooma provides a list of all the ports that need to be open for hardware used for Ooma Office.

Frequently asked questions about network jitter and Wi-Fi

Network jitter is one of several key factors that determine the strength, speed and stability of a Wi-Fi internet connection. High levels of jitter can have a serious impact on various types of internet use. However, excessive levels of network jitter have the largest impact on VoIP communications solutions.

As VoIP caller technology becomes ever more popular in businesses around the world, network jitter has evolved into an issue that’s top of mind for many IT leaders. If jitter is too high, VoIP call quality will be inconsistent, with garbled audio, static, and in the worst cases, calls that drop entirely.

For businesses that rely on VoIP phone systems to manage communications between employees, customers and external partners, that can be a disaster. Employees may struggle with poor audio and visual in virtual meetings, leading to misunderstandings and frustrations. Or worse, your customer service team might not be able to communicate clearly with customers, leading to high levels of dissatisfaction.

Unless these issues are addressed, high levels of network jitter can directly impact your company’s bottom line. That makes reducing network jitter on Wi-Fi networks a key focus for all businesses, regardless of their size or industry.

What is network jitter?

A working knowledge of the technical concepts behind network jitter is essential to successfully diagnose and remedy network jitter issues within your Wi-Fi networks.

When you use the internet, data is transmitted in a series of tiny data packets. In a VoIP call, each of these data packets contains a snippet of the conversation. In perfect conditions with no network jitter, these data packets would be transmitted in exactly the right order. They would take the same amount of time to reach their destination—the person on the other end of the VoIP call—and the call quality would be perfect.

Network jitter happens when there are variations in the amount of time it takes for these data packets to be transmitted. Jitter is measured in milliseconds (ms): a unit of time equal to one-thousandth of a second. Every network has some level of jitter. As a general rule, if your network jitter is less than 30 ms, it should not impact VoIP calls. But when network jitter is too high, many voice data packets arrive out of sequence, leading to significant drops in call quality.

Learn more: Everything you need to know about network jitter

What is the connection between latency and jitter?

Network jitter is closely related to latency: another key factor in the quality of any internet connection. The latency on a Wi-Fi network is the amount of time it takes for data packets to travel from one endpoint to another, such as between two people on a VoIP call. Like jitter, latency is also measured in milliseconds.

High levels of latency affect more than just VoIP calls and can be very problematic for the employees who use your Wi-Fi networks. Latency is commonly associated with lag. When latency is high, webpages take a long time to load and cloud-based software platforms become very difficult to use. For VoIP calls, high levels of latency lead to out-of-sync conversations. That can make you appear rude as you’ll constantly be cutting off other participants in the call.

So it’s clear that both latency and jitter can significantly impact the performance of your Wi-Fi network, but how are they connected? In essence, jitter is a measure of the change in latency. When jitter is high, latency increases as it takes data packets longer to be transmitted. When latency is high, jitter also increases because there are more data packets waiting to be transmitted.

A high-quality Wi-Fi connection for employees requires IT leaders to proactively manage both latency and jitter. Fortunately, many of the techniques you can use to reduce network jitter on Wi-Fi will also lower latency.

How does network jitter affect Wi-Fi?

High levels of network jitter can affect the quality delivered by your Wi-Fi network in several ways, causing performance issues that adversely impact the way your employees use Wi-Fi. Some common examples include:

● Poor VoIP call quality
● A lag between video and voice transmissions
● Inconsistencies in network performance
● Calls cutting out or failing entirely

If your business relies on Wi-Fi to host virtual meetings or receive VoIP calls from customers, excessive network jitter can spell big trouble for business. Employee morale will drop, partners will grow frustrated, and customers will become increasingly angry as their attempts to communicate with your business fail.

Is it common for network jitter to occur on Wi-Fi?

Network jitter affects businesses of all shapes and sizes, though Wi-Fi networks are more susceptible to network jitter issues than wired networks. While Wi-Fi networks transmit data using wireless signals, wired networks transmit data using Ethernet cables: high-performance cables that can transmit higher volumes of data quickly.

Wi-Fi networks are appealing for a number of reasons: They offer employees greater flexibility, are easy to install, and help your workspace look less cluttered. You can even get Wi-Fi VoIP phones. But when it comes to latency, network jitter and overall performance, wired networks represent a superior solution. They offer faster, more reliable connections with lower levels of network jitter.

Many businesses equip their offices with both wireless and wired internet networks. For activities like browsing the internet and answering emails, employees are free to use the wireless network. But when it comes to activities that demand a higher quality of connectivity, such as VoIP calls or videoconference meetings, employees can connect to a wired network.

How can you measure network jitter on your Wi-Fi network?

Measuring network jitter is fairly straightforward. There are two main techniques used to measure network jitter: online speed tests and terminal based ping tests. If your performance issues are most evident in VoIP calls, consider getting a VoIP monitoring tool.

Let’s take a closer look at how each of these tests works.

Online speed tests

Anyone can use an online speed test to learn the quality of their internet connection. It’s easy—in fact, you can take one right here. Online speed tests usually take less than a minute to complete. You’ll be able to view immediate performance data on network jitter, as well as a host of other variables, including latency, packet loss and internet speed.

There are many online internet speed tests available. A great place to start is Ooma’s simple, easy-to-use test, offering powerful insights into the performance of your network.

Terminal-based ping jitter tests

If you’re more technically savvy and hands-on, you can also use a terminal or command line-based ping jitter test. This requires you to open a coding terminal on your computer, ping a location and get back a number of results. You can then use a jitter calculator to determine the network jitter.

It’s a good way to check the jitter directly from your device, but it’s definitely simpler for most people to instead use an online speed test.

What is an acceptable level of network jitter?

Remember, all Wi-Fi networks have some level of jitter, and provided it’s kept to low levels, it won’t impact the quality of your internet connection. But what exactly are these low levels?

Ooma recommends that network jitter should not exceed 30 ms for high quality communication. Any higher and it’s more likely employees will notice issues with VoIP and video calls, including dropped calls, lag and static.

What should you do if you can’t solve network jitter issues?

If you’ve tried the eight techniques outlined above with little success, don’t lose hope. Wi-Fi networks are very complex and there might be some intricacies that you’re missing. Fortunately, there are a few additional steps that you can take to further address network jitter issues.

If you are having some bad problems, it might be time to talk to a professional. Here, you have two options. Because many VoIP providers take care of network jitter, you can reach out and see if their customer service team can help.

However, if your jitter problems have more to do with your internet infrastructure or location, it might be time to reach out to an IT professional. If you have your own, that’s great, you can simply ask them to monitor performance and implement new tech. If you don’t, it might be time to find a local consultant to help you out.

Upgrade to a new internet service provider

Sometimes, your current internet service provider isn’t providing sufficient service to your business. You may be getting less internet bandwidth than what’s specified in your contract. Or, your business might have outgrown the level of service you currently have.

If you find that the bandwidth being provided by your internet service provider is insufficient, it’s usually possible to upgrade to a more powerful tier. Alternatively, you can also switch to a new internet service provider with a package that’s better suited to your needs.

At Ooma, we’re proud to offer managed Wi-Fi services built for the needs of small businesses. With fast, easy deployment and professional network management that increases employee productivity, Ooma’s managed Wi-Fi service frees small businesses to focus on their day-to-day, safe in the knowledge they’ve got a reliable Wi-Fi network powering their operations.

Larger enterprises can also partner with Ooma to upgrade their enterprise communications infrastructure. Our expert team will work with your IT leaders to analyze and modernize your Wi-Fi network to ensure optimal performance throughout your organization.

Schedule your free consultation today.

Switch to a new VoIP service

If your business still relies on a first-generation VoIP solution, the VoIP technology itself could be the primary driver of network jitter. If that’s the case, upgrade to a new business communication system featuring best-in-class VoIP technology.

Ooma Office is a market leader in VoIP phone systems, offering more than 50 business features to communicate more effectively than ever. Ooma’s VoIP phone system is powered by innovative technology that delivers crystal-clear call quality.

Discover how much your business could save by switching to Ooma Office today.

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