Speed, Latency, and Jitter Explained

You just had Ting's "crazy fast fiber internet" installed and our technician ran a speed test to show you exactly how fast it is.

Note: A real-world speed test result - the speed our Gigabit customers can achieve on an Ethernet connection
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What do speed test numbers mean?

  • Download is how quickly you can receive information from the internet
  • Upload is how quickly you can send information out to the internet
  • Ping is how quickly a server responds to a request (from you, to them, back to you)
  • Jitter is variation in that ping -- in other words, consistency

What are download and upload speeds?

Speed is how fast you can download or upload information. Downloading is when you receive information (from somewhere else, to you) and Uploading is when you send information back out (from you, to somewhere else).

When you stream a movie, you're receiving content from the internet. You're downloading the movie from their servers. When you're posting an album to social media, they're going from you out to the rest of the world. You're uploading the photos.

How is it expressed?

Speed is commonly expressed in "Megabits per second" or Mbps. The more Mbps you have, the faster you can send or receive.

Basically, a 5 Mbps connection from Ting (using fiber optics) is the same speed as a 5 Mbps connection from a Cable or DSL provider. So if you wish to compare what Ting offers versus another provider, knowing how many Mbps they offer in their packages helps paint a picture.

1000 Mbps (Megabits per second) can also be expressed as 1 Gbps (Gigabits per second), and this is what Ting primarily offers: a 1 Gigabit per second connection, commonly shortened to "Gigabit".

Is speed the biggest difference between Ting and competitors?

Ting is pretty fast and we aren't shy about saying that. We don't call it "crazy fast fiber internet" for nothing. We know that it's capable of.

It's fiber
Ting Internet is fiber optics from A to Z. Whereas other providers may use aging copper wiring, fiber is faster and regarded as more stable. Fiber is purpose-built for the internet!

It's symmetrical
Virtually all internet providers offer an asymmetric connection - that's where uploading is significantly slower than downloading. For example, 25 Mbps down / 5 Mbps up is a common plan. Your ability to send information out is (in this example) five times slower than your ability to receive information.

Ting offers symmetrical Gigabit:
Symmetrical = the same download speed as upload speed
Gigabit = 1000 Mbps
Ting plan = 1000 Mbps download and 1000 Mbps upload

What does this number mean in the real world?

Everyone uses the internet a little bit differently so there's no catch-all answer as to how many Mbps you need. As a very rough guideline, take the below examples and multiply them by the number of users who may use those services in your house at the same time:

Browsing
To browse modern web pages with relative ease, having 3 Mbps or more does the trick. If it's a very image-heavy page with a lot of flashy content, faster can surely help. It really depends on the content.

Speedy browsing can often depend on the computer, too. A lot of things happen behind the scenes to render a web page, so older machines may lag behind even on a faster internet connection.

Streaming
In order to have a stable video stream, you generally need 3 Mbps for non-HD content, 10 Mbps for HD, and 30 Mbps for 4K. As resolutions continue to increase, we'll all need faster speeds to play videos and movies.

Check the speed recommendations for these popular services:

Check your streaming service's FAQs and help articles to determine the speed each recommends to play their content.

File Transfers
This would be general downloading and upload of files. There's no minimum required speed for this to work. However, the more bandwidth you have, the faster you can send and receive those files.

Gaming
It's a common myth that online gaming demands really fast speeds. While it's better to have a fast connection, gaming actually benefits more from low latency.

To actually download a game from the internet, having a fast connection helps you obtain it quicker. But to play it? Your overall connection speed plays a minimal role.

What can I do with 1000 Mbps?

Everyone uses the internet differently so there's no one answer here. In general, though, your internet connection is shared by everyone in your house and each device that connects to it affects the speed for everyone else. A key benefit of a Gigabit connection is that multiple devices can each be doing bandwidth-intensive tasks at the same time without bogging each other down.

Joey could be downloading a 50GB PlayStation 4 game, Ross watching YouTube in 4K on his high-end desktop computer, while Chandler, Rachel, and Phoebe are each watching HD Netflix movies in their bedrooms. Monica is on a video conference call with her parents, while a large cooking video is uploading in the background... and each wouldn't slow down the other because of the large amount of bandwidth available.

Can I actually achieve 1000 Mbps with Ting?

Pretty much! There's a small amount of overhead in each packet transmission, so the real-world limit of a 1000 Mbps transmission is about 940 Mbps. This is why the speed test image above tops out at around 940 down and 940 up. 

Can I hit 1000 Mbps over Wi-Fi?

No. Not yet at least. Modern Wi-Fi technology is still pretty far behind what a hard-wired connection can achieve. Check out our expected speeds guide for the breakdown. In a nutshell, you can expect up to around 400 Mbps in best-case Wi-Fi scenarios, and speeds in the 100 to 200 Mbps range are far more common.

What is latency?

Latency is the time it takes for a request to go from you to your destination. When networking with other computers on the internet, your instructions or commands (e.g., "show me that web page") have to go to a server elsewhere. That server has to acknowledge your request and then let you know its response.

Example:

  • you open your web browser and type Ting.com
  • your connection and Ting.com "speak" to each other to deliver you that website content
  • then the page starts loading (downloading) to your computer and displays on your screen

The time it takes from when you clicked the page until the actual transmission of its content begins is the latency. Or in other words, the time delay between cause and effect.

While you want your speed to be fast, you want your latency to be as small a number as possible. The lower the latency, the less time is needed from cause (the click of your mouse) to effect (the page starting to load). Keep in mind it's not always in your control -- the further the server is from you, the more latency there will be. 

How is latency expressed?

Network latency is commonly expressed in milliseconds (ms). The fewer milliseconds it takes, the faster your request will take effect.

"ping" is another common term (like in our screenshot above). Ping is a measure of round-trip latency.

Example:

  • you (A) send a request to a server (B)
  • it takes 20ms for the request to reach the server
  • it takes 20ms for the request to travel from the server back to you
  • the "ping" in this case is 40ms for the round-trip from A » B » A

What does the number actually mean?

In the everyday world, having latency under 100ms is generally considered acceptable and anything below 50 is ideal. The average internet provider has latency between 30-50ms to most services in North America. This can vary service-to-service depending on the path things take over the internet, time of day, load on other nodes through the path, current traffic on the server you're trying to reach, and more.

Most activities (web browsing, streaming, downloading, etc.) work just fine even with slightly inflated latency though you benefit from it being as low as possible.

When does latency matter most?

Any activity that requires a very fast response needs low latency. Things like online gaming, especially games that require quick reflex times, usually benefit the most from the lowest latency possible.

Let's say you're using a bow and arrow in an online video game. You click the button in your game to release the arrow.

If latency is high? There would be a noticeable delay until the online game server registers you shooting that arrow. And by that time, your target may have moved somewhere else on the map so your arrow would miss... despite that your shot was "lined up" when you pressed the button. And that's just no fun!

How do I minimize latency?

One of the main contributors to high latency is Wi-Fi. This is because the information has to travel through the air and this can introduce a fair amount of lag. This is especially true for the slower (and rather crowded) 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band. If feasible, hard-wiring in via Ethernet is often the best way to reduce latency.

Keep in mind that most game consoles only support 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi, and only the most recent releases (e.g., PS4 Pro; Xbox One X) added 5 GHz Wi-Fi support. This means almost all online-capable game consoles use a Wi-Fi band that is older and heavily congested, so these devices benefit even more from using Ethernet.

If playing online games, selecting a game server near your physical location often helps too, but most online game services do this automatically for you!

What is jitter?

Everything you do on a network is delivered in tiny bits of data called "packets".

After you make a request to a remote server (e.g., "show me that website") the amount of time that data packet takes to get to you can be expressed as its "latency".

Network jitter is the variance in latency between data packets. Basically, if it's pretty stable from packet to packet, you have minimal jitter. If there are random spikes that deviate from the usual numbers you're getting, you've got some jitter.

5 packets are sent. This is how long each took to transmit round-trip.
Example A Example B
3ms 3ms
4ms 41ms
4ms 5ms
3ms 4ms
4ms 56ms
Result: Little to no jitter  Result: Jitter is present


In example A, the latency is very consistent. In B, two of the five packets had latencies far above the norm. Jitter is sometimes referred to as "ping spikes" because it's representative of the occasional inconsistent spike in latency.

How is jitter expressed?

Jitter is expressed in milliseconds. The bigger the number, the more variance in the latency.

What does the number actually mean?

If your jitter is high, it could mean occasional stuttering in online gaming or other tasks that require stable latency. However, you're unlikely to notice a difference in most everyday tasks even if you've got some jitter.

How do I minimize jitter?

The main things you can do are:

  • wait -- sometimes it's just due to heavy load on the other server, which resolves itself
  • use an Ethernet cable whenever possible
  • if Wi-Fi is your only option, use the less congested 5 GHz band and move closer to your router to minimize transmission distance, noise, and signal loss
  • restart your wireless router to have it automatically reconnect to the least congested channel available
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