What is Latency? And Why Does it Matter?

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Latency creates different problems depending on the systems used.

If you are making a call, it represents a delay in the transmission of a voice packet to when it reaches its recipient. In some instances, this creates an echo when you are speaking with someone.

Meanwhile, if you are browsing online, latency can result in slower connection speeds to the websites you are trying to access. Here is a look at how these time delays happen and ways you can reduce latency from happening.

What Causes Latency?

There are varied causes to latency. To measure latency, you can review its round-trip time--measured in milliseconds. This is how long it takes for a packet to travel from the origin to the destination then back to a source.

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Additionally, you can measure latency one-way. In either case, the benchmark you are looking for is to keep latency at or under 150ms. When it reaches a higher speed such as 300ms, it makes it difficult to browse the internet due to the delays in connections.

Here are some contributing factors that lead to higher latency:


This is how long it takes for a packet to travel from one spot to another. Since packets travel at the speed of light, the types of cables used for transmission can make a huge difference in connection speeds. To demonstrate, fiber optic cables allow quicker transmission of data because they allow more light in around the middle.

Size of the Packet

Another factor concerns the size of the packet. If you need to transmit much data this results in a bigger packet. Bigger packets take longer to transmit than smaller ones.

Points of Access

With this, you want to minimize how many access points you have to transmit packets to. Access points include items like a router. With gateway nodes like it, latency can occur when the item makes adjustments in the packet by changing the header or hop account.

What are the Types of Latency?

Latency can take many forms. Below is a look at some of the different types:

Interrupt Latency

This is where the computer receiving the packet causes a delay. Often, this happens because the interrupt is forcing the computer to pause while it determines the appropriate action.

Network Latency

Network latency can happen due to a variety of factors such as propagation latency, the size of the packet transmitted, packet loss, download speeds offered by the cable internet provider, network traffic, the amount of gateway nodes and more.

Furthermore, the distance between transmission points can contribute to high latency, especially if you are using a smaller network that has longer distances in transmission. Network congestion can also slow connection speeds.

Lastly, speed is also an important factor, depending on the type of service you select such as cable internet or dial-up modem service. For latency reduction, use Google fiber service--if available in your area, as the fiber optic cables result in better reliability.

WAN Latency

WAN latency is an important contributor to internet latency. The reason for this is even if the network doesn't have much congestion, if the WAN is busy directing traffic by distributing resources then you can experience a round-trip delay.

Operational Latency

This is where you compare linear workflows. To find the average latency, simply use the slowest operation conducted.

Audio Latency

We touched on this in the beginning of the guide. Audio latency is a delay between the creation of sound and when someone hears it. To demonstrate, say you shout into a cave. It takes a moment for the echo to occur. The same happens in audio latency. Ideally, you want a denser medium as this is a faster conductor for sound to travel through. This leads to fewer interruptions and echoes from resulting.

Computer Latency

Say you are trying to access a video through Facebook. You input the command and wait. Then, you wait some more. This period of waiting is computer latency. Latency depends in part on a variety of factors such as your computer's drivers, data buffers, and the performance of its parts.

Read More: Computer latency can severely limit your experience if you enjoy online gaming. Check out our analysis of the best internet service for online gaming.

How Do I Perform a Latency Test?

If you are using a computer you can conduct a speed test. This is a test that conducts sends a ping test how fast your download and upload speeds are. You can use services like pingtest.net or speedtest.net to conduct this test. In the event you discover your connection speeds are much slower than the plan you are paying for with your internet service provider, it's vital to contact them promptly to rectify the issue.

How to Reduce Latency

Think of your computer like you would a car. The better maintained it is, the faster performance you'll receive from it. To reduce latency, do the following tips:

  1. Ensure all your software is up to date. Outdated software contributes to higher latency because it might not be compatible with the new server requirements.
  2. Fine tune your computer's hardware to ensure it operates at optimum levels. A great example of this is uninstalling programs you don't use to free up more storage.
  3. Employ techniques such as prefetching. Prefetching prepares the computer for data input requests, which quickens transmission to reduce latency.
  4. Conduct a speed test to ensure your internet connection operates at the level you are paying for. If not, the internet provider might have to replace your router or fix the transmission issues on their end.

Read More: It's not news to anyone that slow Internet sucks. We've got a bunch of easy tips you can do to speed up a slow Internet connection.


Ultimately, whether making a call or using the internet, latency reduces service quality. While there are many contributing factors, you can reduce the chance of latency occurring by keeping your computer's software up to date and ensuring its hardware operates in peak condition.

If you're unhappy with your current Internet service provider, it might be time for you to upgrade. You can compare internet providers here.

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