If you’re experiencing choppy phone or video calls, pixelated conferencing, or disjointed VoIP audio connections, the culprit is likely network jitter wreaking havoc on your data streams. The good news is that with the right troubleshooting approach, jitter can be reduced or eliminated in under 10 minutes flat.
How to Know if Network Jitter is the Problem
Although there are plenty of reasons why your network may not be working properly—like faulty routers, poor internet connection, and other network-specific issues—there are some telltale signs that point to jitter being the problem. Here’s how you can determine if network jitter is interfering with your network.
Static Sounds and Dropped Calls Point to Jitter
If you’re experiencing disruptions like static and robotic sounds on your VoIP calls or video conferencing sessions that end abruptly, jitter is likely the culprit.
Jitter specifically manifests as inconsistent stream quality caused by uneven packet delivery over your network. If jitter is the root cause behind your choppy or glitchy streaming, identifying it can lead you to the right network configuration tweaks to address the problem.
Confirm Jitter with a Ping Test
To figure out if jitter is impacting your connection, a quick and easy diagnostic you can run is a network ping test. This test sends data packets to measure latency and jitter directly.
Keep in mind that you don’t need any fancy software or advanced technical knowledge to test for jitter. Many online jitter tests—such as meter.net—provide free and fast options. Acceptable jitter should be under 30ms.
How To Fix Network Jitter For Good
If you’ve confirmed that your jitter is janked, the solution will largely depend on the problem that you’re dealing with. In other words, you need to have some context in order to “dejankify” your jitter.
Here are a few common causes and solutions:
1. Network Connection
Cause: Using a wireless connection has its downsides, as it is more prone to disturbance from other signals and environmental interference.
Solution: Switch to a wired connection via an ethernet cable to establish a stronger, jitter-free connection that isn’t subject to wireless disruption.
2. Inadequate Hardware Performance
Cause: Outdated routers, network switches, firewalls, and other connectivity equipment can struggle to deliver consistent packet streams, especially on higher-speed connections. If you’re not sure what your connection looks like, you can run a VoIP speed test to check your connection speed.
Solution: Upgrade your firmware or replace aging hardware with modern equipment designed to handle streaming demands smoothly.
3. Network Congestion
Cause: Bandwidth bottlenecks from congested networks or trying to send data too fast for connection capacity cause network packets to queue and arrive inconsistently.
Solution: Reduce your data streams to sustainable levels for the current network or increase your network’s bandwidth to fit your equipment and ISP plans.
4. Packet Prioritization
Cause: Without proper Quality of Service (QoS) configurations, vital packets can get stuck behind less critical queued data.
Solution: Enable QoS on your networking equipment to prioritize traffic more efficiently and avoid delay-sensitive stream packets getting bogged down.
5. Constant Jitter
Cause: Consistent jitter usually stems from an inherently flawed network architecture that is prone to contested streams.
Solution: Redesign your network to isolate streaming load, allow ample bandwidth, and remove intersections that are causing chronic interference through traffic shaping.
6. Quality of Service (QoS) Rules
Cause: If you haven’t defined any QoS rules, this can lead to arbitrary packet delivery based on first-in, first-out methods rather than application criticality.
Solution: Define QoS policies that explicitly prioritize key applications and data flows to deliver preferential treatment for jitter-sensitive traffic.
How To Prevent Network Jitter From Happening In the First Place
If you care about your network’s safety, speed, and efficiency, then this section is for you. Here’s how you can prevent network jitter from plaguing your network.
Stay On Top Of Updates
One of the easiest ways to avoid jitter issues cropping up is to keep the firmware and software for all your network-related devices fully up-to-date. Router, switch, firewall, and WiFi access point vendors regularly issue performance and stability patches—and for good reason. Installing recent releases will prevent out-of-date components from disrupting packet flows.
Choose Quality VoIP Providers
It’s in your best interest to vet any potential VoIP, video conferencing, and streaming providers for call quality assurances and jitter mitigation techniques before signing up. Many of the best VoIP providers offer dedicated multi-path packet delivery, edge network optimizations, and voice QoS to sidestep any potential jitter pitfalls.
Isolate VoIP Traffic
When configuring your wired office network architecture, you may want to set up a dedicated virtual LAN (VLAN) for VoIP and streaming packages. This will insulate sensitive media packets from disruptions stemming from other traffic types, keeping your network’s pathways protected. Similarly, you can also use wireless access points to isolate your SSIDs.
Continuous Optimization Is Key
Even if your initial jitter problems are resolved, it’s still a good idea to conduct ongoing network monitoring to help detect and address any suboptimal network conditions before they snowball. Once you’ve started monitoring your network, watch out for early warning signs like increased latency so you can fine-tune your configurations.
What To Do When VoIP Troubleshooting Doesn’t Work
Even if you do everything right and follow all of the online advice, you may find that your jitter problems won’t go away. In this case, here’s what you should do next:
Seek Out Expert Support
While many jitter issues can be addressed with targeted troubleshooting, certain situations may require enlisting additional expertise when your DIY efforts don’t work.
Fundamental Network Flaws: If jitter arises from foundational network design problems—like congested infrastructure—temporary tweaks may not be able to override core shortcomings. In this case, a comprehensive redesign by a network engineer is likely required.
ISP Bottlenecks: Choppy streaming can also stem from factors beyond your personal control, like bandwidth-constrained ISP peering points. If your ISP happens to be the problem, then handing this issue to an experienced network engineer is likely the best way to resolve your jitter problem.
Advanced VoIP Configurations: While it may seem counterintuitive, over-customized SIP trunk settings, codec selections, and dial plan rules can undermine your call quality. However, by resetting your VoIP settings to the defaults—and then selectively re-configuring them—you can put an end to your jitter problem.
Ultimately, the best way to fix network jitter for good is to familiarize yourself with how your network works and regularly monitor it for any red flags. If all else fails, handing the issue over to an experienced network engineer is your best bet for solving your jitter problem.