What is network latency and how do I fix latency issues?

Girl playing online games without latency issues

What is network latency?

Latency is a time delay or how long it takes data to travel between the sender and the receiver — or between a specific user action and the response. Network latency is a significant internet connectivity issue that can be caused by several things that will dramatically impact a user's internet experience. In other words, network latency refers to how long it takes information to travel from an internet browser to a network server and back again. This is known as round-trip time (RTT).

RTT usually involves three steps:

1. The computer intermittently sends a limited amount of information to a network server.
2. The computer then waits for a response or acknowledgment from the server that the information has been received.
3. The computer gets the confirmation and takes that as a cue to send more information to the network server. This is referred to as the time to first byte (TTFB).

What is a good network latency?

There are two types of network latency: high latency and low latency. Since latency refers to a time delay, a good network latency would be a low latency. The higher the response time (high latency), the worse the connection and the longer the TTFB.

Theoretically, the internet is supposed to move at the speed of light. However, due to factors like refraction and distance, among other things, latency tends to increase. As a result, this causes a time lag on the network connection speed.

A good latency means a network can retain a good connection regardless of the amount of user data being communicated to the server. Although milliseconds is the standard measurement unit for latency, latency can also be defined in terms of graphic updates, known as the ping rate.

To have good network performance, you'll need a suitable bandwidth, good throughput, and low latency. Latency variation, known as jitter, also has to be taken into account to some extent. Another factor that can influence latency is the connection type. According to the FCC's tenth Measuring Fixed Broadband Report, typical latency differs based on the connection type:

  • Fiber: Typical latency would be 10 to 12 ms.
  • DSL: Typical latency would be 11 to 40 ms.
  • Cable: Typical latency would be 13 to 27 ms.
  • Satellite: Typical latency would be 594 to 612 ms.

Latency issues can also be impacted by your internet service provider. That's why it's important to go with an ISP that provides fast and reliable internet plans, like Frontier® Internet. Whether you're interested in high-speed broadband internet or even faster fiber-optic internet, Frontier has an internet plan that can work for you. Check availability in your area today.

How do you fix network latency issues?

High latency can make your digital life harder in more ways than one. For instance, imagine experiencing latency issues while in a virtual job interview. While video conferencing, your internet connection might not be able to keep up with the interview, possibly causing the software to shut down.

However, there are a few things you can do to help reduce high latency. Perhaps the most significant step is your choice of ISP. Choices matter a lot and choosing a reliable and fast ISP like Frontier can make a world of difference in reducing network latency issues.

Common causes of network latency issues

Some common causes of network latency issues include:

  • DNS server errors: A domain name system server that's not properly functioning can seriously affect network latency. This can cause severe time lag and might restrict the website from being reached. DNS resolution can also be the biggest traceroute for most network slowdowns.
  • Poorly formatted and optimized website database: Suppose the website's database is not professionally optimized to be compatible with a wide range of devices (e.g., smartphones, tablets, and laptops). In that case, it might result in severe latency and slow down the website considerably to an almost unusable level.
  • Insufficient memory: When your computer's memory capacity is low, it can result in connection latency. Your central processing unit (CPU) won't be able to sufficiently support the necessary applications required for optimal connection in such cases.
  • Choosing poor transmission mediums: Selecting the proper transmission media can make all the difference between having a good connection or being stuck with a high latency connection. For example, while latency occurs at almost all transmission stages in a fiber-optic network, a fiber-optic connection still has the lowest latency compared to other transmission connections.
  • Using multiple routers: In contrast to the belief that more routers mean a faster network, using multiple routers can actually have the opposite effect. It can lead to the data packets taking a longer time to process, thus causing a delay and time lag before they arrive at their destination. It can even lead to potential packet losses.
  • Wireless disturbances: Natural environmental conditions, such as heavy rain, hurricanes, and stormy weather, can disturb the wireless signals of satellites, potentially leading to network lag.
  • Heavy online application traffic: If the online traffic on a particular website, such as a game website, is heavy, this could lead to a low bandwidth of the website and potentially lead to a network lag.

How can you reduce high network latency?

On top of choosing a reliable ISP for your internet connection, other measures you can take to reduce latency include:

  • Don't download more than one item at a time. Avoid downloading multiple files simultaneously; although it might seem time-efficient, the reality is that it's not. You'll only end up increasing network latency with multiple running downloads, potentially extending how long downloading takes. In the event that you have to do multiple downloads at once, it's a good idea to ensure your internet connection is up to the task.
  • Avoid running too many applications simultaneously. Having numerous applications opened simultaneously can contribute significant traffic to your connection network and might greatly affect your network's latency. Sometimes, all you need to do to optimize your network for the best possible connection and rid yourself of latency problems is to close those applications. This will take a substantial load off your CPU.
  • Scan for viruses. Viruses and computer worms can infect network interfaces and slow down your network. As a result, you may experience frequent network latency issues. Always make sure that your device is adequately secured and backed up with antivirus software. In addition, avoid visiting suspicious websites or sites that your firewalls alert you of as a potential security risk. Antiviruses can also help in network monitoring.
  • Wire your network connection to support lower latency. It's a good idea for high-traffic internet users, like online gamers, to opt for the ethernet cable over Wi-Fi. The reason is that wired ethernet makes for lower latency.
  • Don't delete your cache. Most people consider cache to be just a waste of precious storage space on their devices; however, cache is a way for your browser to create something akin to muscle memory. It does this so that when you next access a particular website, it will load faster, and you'll experience a lower latency.

Discover fast internet options from Frontier

One vital approach to reducing network latency involves choosing a reliable internet service provider. Frontier® Internet offers both broadband DSL and fiber-optic internet plans to help ensure you have enough bandwidth to do the things you love online without having to worry about network latency.

With no data caps and overages, whole-home Wi-Fi, a state-of-the-art router, and 24/7/365 technical support, our high-speed broadband internet plan is great for those who want to stream videos on multiple devices in 4K quality.

Meanwhile, Frontier FiberOptic Internet uses the latest fiber-optic technology and offers enough bandwidth to share in households with multiple internet users. And with no activation fee for internet services and a price lock guarantee, you can experience a digital life with minimal latency. Check availability in your area today.