This broadband guide will break down what broadband latency means, how it is measured, what caused it, and when it becomes a problem. No one likes an internet connection that lags behind, so in this guide you can read some suggestions on how you could reduce the latency you might be experiencing.
What is latency?
Generally speaking, latency refers to the time needed to send and receive a response using your internet connection. It is a measure of how well your internet service provider (ISP) manages their traffic. As latency is a measure of time, any user will experience latency, the question is whether this broadband latency is low or high.
In simple terms, latency simply refers to a delay in your experience online. This could be waiting on a website to load, a short pause or stutter in the music you are listening to or a movie streaming. Gamers often notice a latency otherwise known as a "lag" when their character does not move at the same as their mouse clicks or controls. When online gaming with other people, this can be a frustrating experience.
An important point to note is that slow speeds are not the same experience as latency issues. When gaming for instance, bandwidth demands are actually not as high as you might think, however a latency issue would cause delays in your input commands versus what you see on the screen. Similarly, when you find yourself talking over your colleagues in a Zoom meeting by accident, it could be caused by high latency which means you are dealing with a delay!
What does ping rate mean?
Essentially, your ping rate is the same as latency, and is measured in milliseconds (abbreviated in ms). The smaller your ping rate the better - i.e. a ping rate of 15 ms is preferable to a ping rate of 40 ms.
What causes latency?
There a few reasons as to why you might be experiencing high latency on your internet connection.
- Network fault
For one, it is possible your physical broadband network is having a fault. Note - your broadband network in most cases is not synonymous with your broadband provider. The network refers to the physical copper or fibre connections laid in your area. During adverse weather conditions, or roadworks, the connection can become interrupted, in which case network engineers will come out and try to fix the issues as soon as they can.
If this is the case, you should typically be able to see a status update for your area on the network's or provider's website, informing you of the issue at hand, and giving an approximate completion time.
If your network issues are taking a long time to be resolved, you may be able to claim compensation for the time you have been without a broadband connection. For more information we recommend checking Ofcom.
- High traffic
More commonly however, latency issues arise due to high traffic on your network during particular hours of the day. Generally, peak hours would be in the evening when people have finished work and are settling down to stream the latest episode of the show they are watching for instance. Whilst broadband networks account for higher traffic during these periods, they maybe still be stretched if multiple households in the area engage in particularly heavy internet usage at once.
Many broadband providers further implement data caps to restrict a household's usage if it is deemed excessive. This could be one of the reasons you are experiencing high latency. More likely than not however, these high traffic periods are only temporary and you should be back to regular latency speeds fairly quickly.
If it is becoming a persistent issue, it may be worth switching to a different broadband provider.
- Broadband connection
Finally, whether you are on a fibre or cable connection can have an impact on how likely you are to experience network latency. Copper cables due to their older technology, as well as satellite broadband are most susceptible to damages and therefore latency issues.
Fibre-to-the-home broadband on the other hand would be an improvement, as would full fibre connections.
How do I know my broadband is lagging?
Whether you are experiencing high latency with your broadband connection should become particularly apparent when you are on a video call, or online gaming. For instance when you are gaming and pressing a control demand, but don't see this being actioned at the same time, you can be sure you are dealing with a lag. As mentioned above, you will similarly be dealing with a lag when you find yourself speaking over your colleagues in a Zoom meeting, because the audio and image are not transmitted at the same time.
What I can do to reduce latency?
Whilst it's easy to notice you are experiencing a lag, how can you get low latency to avoid these issues?
Unfortunately a lot of the time broadband latency will be outside of your control, but there may be a few things you could do.
- Wired Connection
One trick worth trying is to use a wired connection as opposed to Wifi, to see if this reduces your latency. Typically wired connections (with an ethernet cable) are more stable and also help reach the fastest speeds available at your property.
- Check your router
Alternatively, you could try to upgrade your router to have higher specs which might improve your connectivity overall.
Should I switch broadband providers if I have latency issues?
If all else fails, your best bet might be to simply switch broadband provider. A new broadband deal could ensure faster speeds and a more reliable connection. However as outlined in the section above, latency issues often arise due to high traffic at any one time, which really can't be avoided.
Switching broadband providers has plenty of other benefits however. New customers are often enticed with special deals and reduced prices, not accessible to already registered users.
You can use our website to find a new broadband deal.