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Broadband Latency Information

How Do They Affect Your Connection?

Have you ever had an internet connection that will effortlessly stream HD video but freezes and lags during a Skype call? Broadband you can use to download mp3s and film files in seconds but can hardly bear to use to browse the web? Maybe you’re paying for a superfast fibre connection and, when you use a speed checker, are clocking the 63 Mbps you’ve been promised, but for some reason you can’t keep pace in online games.

HYour broadband provider will plaster their supersonic download speeds all over their marketing material, but they’re a little more covert about another spec, the one that can reduce even the speediest fibre connection to a crawl. Ultimately, your download speed won’t much matter if your latency isn’t up to scratch. Latency is the delay in your device receiving a packet of data from the internet and then sending it back. If that exchange of information takes more than a handful of milliseconds, you’re going to notice.

HAnd latency isn’t the only ‘hidden’ spec that will noticeably affect your broadband performance. Your connection can also be hampered by high jitter, the rate of change of a connection’s latency, and by packet loss, the disappearance of packets of data.

HWe’ll take a closer look at these specs, how they impact your broadband performance and internet experience, which connections and providers offer the best performance, and how you can improve your connection.

What is Latency and How Will It Affect My Internet Connection?

Latency, also called ping or ping rate, is a measure of the time it takes a packet of data to travel through a network to a third party server and back.

HIt’s the delay, measured in milliseconds, between an internet server sending information to your device and your device receiving it—and then bouncing information back. Latency is usually measured as a roundtrip from server to device, but you’ll sometimes find measurements of one-way latency. Roundtrip latency is sometimes identified as RTT, or roundtrip time, to distinguish it from one-way latency. (All of the latencies we give in this article will be round-trip, unless otherwise specified.)

HYou may not think a lag of 100 milliseconds (ms)—or a tenth of a second—is significant, but it can make the difference between internet that zips along, comfortably live streams video, and keeps up on first-person shooter games and broadband that’s frustrating and glitchy.

HWhat’s normally advertised as broadband speed actually refers to only one part of speed equation: to bandwidth, which is how much data you can receive and send in a second. Many FTTC connections in the UK boast average speeds of 63 Megabits per second (Mbps), which means they can receive 63 Megabits of data per second. They can generally only send a fifth of that amount of data in the same time period. On most broadband connections, upstream speed is significantly slower than downstream speed. This is a feature of the network, not a bug: most of us spend more time consuming data from the internet than uploading it. Latency is the measure of how fast those packets of data are reaching your computer or tablet—and how fast you’re sending data back. The lower the latency, the better and faster the connection will feel.

HFor some internet activities, like downloading files and streaming video, it doesn’t matter how quickly you’re receiving the information, just as long as you’re receiving a lot of it each second, enough to download the entire file in a matter of seconds and sustain the resolution of an HD video.

HOther activities, like live video calling and online games, requite a rapid exchange of data: your mouth moving on one side of the world and your long-distance friend’s moving on the other side, ideally syncing up with your voices; your mouse pressing shoot to down an enemy and the enemy firing right back.

HLow latencies are especially vital for fast-paced, twitch gameplay games, including first-person shooter games, where a delay can cause your moves to not register and shots to go astray. Turn-based and strategy games can accommodate higher latencies without a decline in performance and playability.

HVoIP, voice calling over the internet, often included in business internet packages, also requires a connection with low latency. Packets of data need to be travelling between the two users in real-time, without much lag or irregularity (the irregularity is jitter—we’ll get to that later) for them to sustain a conversation. At 100 ms of RTT latency you may start talking over each other; over 300 ms and the conversation will be incomprehensible.

Gaming and calling are notoriously hobbled by high latencies, but even navigating a webpage can be torturous if you’re waiting milliseconds for each click to register and a new page to load.

Connections Types and Latencies

Any latency above 150 ms one way and 300 ms roundtrip will be noticeable in ordinary web browsing. Anything above 50 ms will make gaming and video calling a bit annoying: think games not feeling responsive and moves not registering, voices not syncing up with lips, games and calls freezing. Old dial-up connections usually had latencies above this level, which was part of what made pre-broadband internet so glacially slow.

1. Fixed Line Broadband

Luckily, today most ADSL connections from UK providers have latencies below 30 ms and fibre connections usually have latencies below 20 ms, although this will vary by provider. As with your connection’s Mbps speed, latency will often deteriorate during peak times, as more people use the same network infrastructure.

The following table shows average latencies on ADSL and fibre connections from mainstream broadband providers in the UK, measured by Ofcom in November 2017. The data has been taken from Ofcom’s visual charts.

All latencies expressed are roundtrip time (RTT).

Latencies of Standard ADSL Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT ADSL2+ 10 Mbps 20 ms 20.5 ms
EE ADSL2+ 10 Mbps 18 ms 19 ms
KCOM ADSL2+ 9.8 Mbps 31 ms 19.5 ms
Plusnet ADSL2+ 10 mbps 19 ms 19.5 ms
Sky ADSL2+ 11 Mbps 24 ms 25 ms
TalkTalk ADSL2+ 11 Mbps 30 ms 29 ms

Source: Ofcom

Latencies of Lower Tier of Fibre/Cable Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre (FTTC) 50 Mbps 13.5 ms 13.75 ms
EE Fibre (FTTC) 36 Mbps 12.5 ms 12.75 ms
Plusnet Fibre (FTTC) 35 Mbps 12.6 ms 12.8 ms
Sky Fibre (FTTC) 36 Mbps 12.5 ms 12.75 ms
TalkTalk Fibre (FTTC) 35 Mbps 14.75 ms 14.85 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 50 (Cable) 54 Mbps 19 ms 20.5 ms

Source: Ofcom

Latencies of Upper Tier of Fibre/Cable Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre 2 (FTTC) 67 Mbps 12 ms 12.5 ms
EE Fibre Plus (FTTC) 67 Mbps 13 ms 13.5 ms
Plusnet Fibre Extra (FTTC) 66 Mbps 12 ms 12.5 ms
Sky Fibre Max (FTTC) 63 Mbps 13.5 ms 13.75 ms
TalkTalk Faster Fibre (FTTC) 63 Mbps 14 ms 14.5 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 100 (Cable) 108 Mbps 18.75 ms 19.5 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 200 (Cable) 213 Mbps 19 ms 19.75 ms

Source: Ofcom

Fibre connections have lower, better latencies than ADSL, copper connections but faster fibre package don’t necessarily mean better latency. Virgin cable connections offer the highest Mbps speeds widely available in the UK, but come with slightly higher latencies. Full-fibre or FTTP (fibre to the premise) connections have the lower latencies than FTTC, but are less widely available in the UK. Just 4% of premises have full-fibre connections.

Often the difference is between packages and provider is negligible: any latency below 20 ms is considered ‘good’ for domestic use and a below that level, performance won’t noticeably improve.

2. Fixed Line Broadband

Luckily, today most ADSL connections from UK providers have latencies below 30 ms and fibre connections usually have latencies below 20 ms, although this will vary by provider. As with your connection’s Mbps speed, latency will often deteriorate during peak times, as more people use the same network infrastructure.

The following table shows average latencies on ADSL and fibre connections from mainstream broadband providers in the UK, measured by Ofcom in November 2017. The data has been taken from Ofcom’s visual charts.

All latencies expressed are roundtrip time (RTT).

Latencies of Standard ADSL Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT ADSL2+ 10 Mbps 20 ms 20.5 ms
EE ADSL2+ 10 Mbps 18 ms 19 ms
KCOM ADSL2+ 9.8 Mbps 31 ms 32 ms
Plusnet ADSL2+ 10 mbps 19 ms 19.5 ms
Sky ADSL2+ 11 Mbps 24 ms 25 ms
TalkTalk ADSL2+ 11 Mbps 30 ms 29 ms

Source: Ofcom

Latencies of Lower Tier of Fibre/Cable Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre (FTTC) 50 Mbps 13.5 ms 13.75 ms
EE Fibre (FTTC) 36 Mbps 12.5 ms 12.75 ms
Plusnet Fibre (FTTC) 35 Mbps 12.6 ms 12.8 ms
Sky Fibre (FTTC) 36 Mbps 12.5 ms 12.75 ms
TalkTalk Fibre (FTTC) 35 Mbps 14.75 ms 14.85 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 50 (Cable) 54 Mbps 19 ms 20.5 ms

Source: Ofcom

Latencies of Upper Tier of Fibre/Cable Broadband

Provider and Package Average speed Latency, 24 hour average Latency, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre 2 (FTTC) 67 Mbps 12 ms 12.5 ms
EE Fibre Plus (FTTC) 67 Mbps 13 ms 13.5 ms
Plusnet Fibre Extra (FTTC) 66 Mbps 12 ms 12.5 ms
Sky Fibre Max (FTTC) 63 Mbps 13.5 ms 13.75 ms
TalkTalk Faster Fibre (FTTC) 63 Mbps 14 ms 14.5 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 100 (Cable) 108 Mbps 18.75 ms 19.5 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 200 (Cable) 213 Mbps 19 ms 19.75 ms

Source: Ofcom

Fibre connections have lower, better latencies than ADSL, copper connections but faster fibre package don’t necessarily mean better latency. Virgin cable connections offer the highest Mbps speeds widely available in the UK, but come with slightly higher latencies. Full-fibre or FTTP (fibre to the premise) connections have the lower latencies than FTTC, but are less widely available in the UK. Just 4% of premises have full-fibre connections.

Often the difference is between packages and provider is negligible: any latency below 20 ms is considered ‘good’ for domestic use and a below that level, performance won’t noticeably improve.

3. Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband has higher latency than fixed-line internet. Along with slower speeds (thinner bandwidths) and strict data allowances, it’s what makes mobile connections unsuitable for much online gaming and video calling. Latencies on the 3G network are higher than on 4G, further limiting 3G broadband.

The following table shows the latencies of the UK mobile provider’s 4G and 3G networks, data gathered by Open Signal between December 2017 and February 2018. EE, the network with the fastest 4G and 3G speeds and most reliable 4G connection, notches the best latency, while Three’s 4G and O2’s 3G networks struggle.

Latency on Mobile Networks

Provider Latency of 4G Network Latency of 3G Network
EE 40.35 ms 65.8 ms
O2 42.84 ms 80.64 ms
Three 47.23 ms 71.91 ms
Vodafone 40.6 ms 66.81 ms

Source: Ofcom

The coming fifth-generation of mobile network, 5G, will offer maximum latencies of just 4 ms, lower than any fixed-line broadband currently available. 5G currently only exists in test laboratories however and wider commercial rollout isn’t expected until the mid-2020s.

4. Satellite broadband

High latencies are one of the main drawbacks of satellite broadband. Data sent via satellite broadband has a long way to go before reaching your home computer: it has to ping from your internet provider’s satellite hub to a satellite orbiting tens thousands of miles above the Earth back down to your satellite dish. It’s a nearly interstellar journey and consequently satellite connections have an average lag, or latency, of 638 ms, 20 times higher than terrestrial broadband.

Most satellite internet is provided by satellites in a geostationary orbit 35,786 kilometres or 22,236 miles above the earth. At those distances, it takes a signal 120 ms to reach a satellite and then another 120 ms to travel to the ground station. For the roundtrip measure of latency, the signal has to do this journey four times, covering 143,144 km. Even under perfect conditions, the physics of satellite communication mean roundtrip latency is about half a second.

At those levels, satellite broadband can be frustrating for ordinary internet browsing and completely nonfunctional for internet gaming and Skype. It can provide decent download speeds, however, and may be a good option for people who live in very remote locations where terrestrial internet infrastructure is very limited or rendered too slow by distance. But you may never be able to sustain a clear Skype call in the sticks. For more information on satellite broadband, see our guide to rural broadband.

How Can I Reduce the Latency of My Internet Connection?

As you can see, latencies may vary among type of broadband connection but don’t fluctuate too much between provider. Either way, unless you’re a devoted gamer or rely on VoIP services to run a business, it’s unlikely to be worth switching tariff and provider midway through a contract to reduce the latency of your connection. Furthermore, there are things you can do to minimise latency and its effects on your browsing, calling, and gaming experience before you terminate your contract early.

1. Strengthen your WiFi signal and improve connectivity

A wireless router transmits data packets through the air to your computer or device (or vice versa). Unfortunately, some of the data can go missing on that journey and will have to be sent again, which can cause delays. You can reduce this loss and thus latency by strengthening your WiFi signal. You can do this by repositioning your router, upgrading it, and eliminating electromagnetic interference from other devices and systems such as alarms, cordless phones, and Bluetooth speakers. Check the microfilters on your phone sockets, the devices that allow both telephone and broadband service to operate over the same copper phone lines without interference that can reduce the strength and speed of your WiFi, and replace them if necessary.

If you’re losing signal over a large house, consider buying a WiFi extender or even a mesh WiFi network. For more information about boosting WiFi signal, check out our guide to broadband speeds. In general, strategies that increase broadband speed by strengthening signal will also improve latency.

2. Plug in

You can get around the data loss and latency of wireless networks—and also boost internet speeds—by plugging your device directly into the network. It may feel like a reversion to the dark days of dial-up and corded phones, but an ethernet cable will funnel your internet connection straight from the network wires to your device, via a jack in your wall socket. Internet traffic travelling along cables loses less data than traffic beamed through the air, so an ethernet connection can par down latency.

Don’t spring for hundreds of feet of ethernet cable, however. In addition the tripping hazard of stringing metres of it around your home, ethernet cables, which, like traditional phone lines are made of copper, suffer attenuation, or loss of speed, over distance.

3. Close down other bandwidth hogging programs

If you’re currently using more bandwidth than your network supports, latency will surge. When gaming or Skyping, close other bandwidth-intensive programmes on your device, including stopping downloads. Remember also that other users on your connection can also cause lag, so you may have to kick your girlfriend off Netflix before you load Warcraft.

4. Disable firewalls

Firewalls monitor and filter incoming and outgoing traffic, which can take time, adding to delay. Usually one properly configured firewall won’t contribute too much to ping, but several or a corrupted or misconfigured firewall can reduce your broadband performance.

5. Contact service provider

If you’ve made all of the above changes and haven’t registered any improvement in latency on your connection, the fault is possibly upstream of your home, in your ISP’s wiring and street cabinets and beyond. Contact your provider and have them dispatch a technician to check for and fix any problems.

6. Upgrade to fibre—but not necessarily to faster fibre

Fibre optic broadband has lower latency than ADSL broadband, so an upgrade to superfast speeds will often improve your gaming and video calling performance. However, once you’ve made the upgrade to fibre, buying a faster fibre package won’t generally reduce your latency much. And upgrading to the ultrafast speeds offered by Virgin’s cable connections could be counterproductive: connections carried over coaxial cable have more latency than those carried over fibre optic cables.

What is Jitter and How Will It Affect My Internet Connection?

Jitter is the rate of change of latency. Among gamers, who dread it, it’s also referred to as ping spikes and stuttering. The lower the jitter of a connection, the more smooth and stable it is and the more reliable it will be for internet gaming and services like VoIP and Skype. High jitter results in data packets arriving irregularly or even out of order. It can also causes the disappearance of some of that data—a phenomenon called ‘packet loss’ we’ll tackle later.

Low latency isn’t much use if jitter is high, meaning the delay in sending data packets over the network is low but inconsistent.

To envision the problems caused by high levels of jitter, think of a network connection as a motorway, with data packets as the cars travelling along it. Low jitter means the intervals between the cars are consistent: all the data-cars arrive at their destination in the order they merged onto the motorway, at steady rhythm, without any crashes or losses.

But in a high jitter scenario, one car is travelling much slower than the others. It has a higher latency and it’s causing a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam or even collisions. Maybe one data-car manages to pass the slower, high-latency car on the right and arrives early—but unfortunately this car was carrying audio from a VoIP call that’s now arrived out of order, resulting in garbled voices. But maybe another car with less lag collides with the high-latency vehicle and loses the data it was carrying. There goes a few syllables of speech and a few frames of video, resulting in voice and audio calls that jerk and skip.

As with latency, the services most affected by high jitter are audio and voice calling and internet gaming, particularly first-person shooter (FPS) games.

On VoIP calls, high jitter results in choppy, garbled voices and glitches. On Skype, it results in distorted, broken video and audio. In gaming, high jitter, particularly large individual, ill-timed ping spikes can knock your shots off target or even make them disappear entirely.

IT and networking company Cisco defines acceptable jitter as anything below 30 ms. You’ll need levels below that to sustain clear calls and comfortably game.

As with latency, jitter is less of a concern for activities like video streaming that involve unidirectional traffic. Because data is only flowing one way when you stream a video, these services can create larger buffers for jitter. Buffers are temporary memory caches which store data; they can adjust for fluctuations and irregularities in the arrival of data packets, ensuring a smooth and uninterrupted stream of data on your screen.

Activities like gaming and calling that involve a rapid-fire interchange of data can’t cache as much data to buffer against jitter. For example, most VoIP devices have a built-in ‘jitter buffer’ of 20 milliseconds, which can mitigate the effect of up to 20 ms of jitter without noticeable effects for users. Luckily, most of our current internet connections, both standard and mobile, have jitter that falls under 20 ms.

So how does your internet connection fare? Standard broadband speed tests don’t usually measure your connection’s jitter, but you can find specialised ping and jitter tests online.

In general, fibre broadband has less jitter than copper ADSL broadband. Fibre connections usually have jitter of less than 1 ms, while standard broadband experiences less than 2 ms of jitter. As with latency, faster fibre connections don’t guarantee lower jitter. In fact, the reverse may be true.

Jitter performance is generally worse for budget broadband provider TalkTalk than it is for more expensive providers BT and Sky, meaning if you frequently game and using internet calling services it may be worth paying a few extra pounds a month for a more reliable connection from a big telecoms company.

Downstream jitter is normally less than than upstream jitter, meaning you may be receiving data at a regular pace but not sending it as smoothly. However, downstream jitter is more impacted by network contention, meaning it will be higher during peak times in the evening.

Again, Ofcom gathered data about the average jitter of upstream and downstream connections from a number of UK internet providers in November 2017. These figures are below.

Average Jitter for Standard, ADSL Broadband

Provider and Package Upstream jitter, 24 hour average Upstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average Downstream jitter, jitter, 24 hour average Downstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT ADSL2+ 0.9 ms 1.1 ms 0.525 ms 0.65 ms
EE ADSL2+ 1.1 ms 1.15 ms 0.675 ms 0.75 ms
KCOM ADSL2+ 1.25 ms 1.275 ms 0.65 ms 0.8 ms
Plusnet ADSL2+ 1.4 ms 1.5 ms 0.55 ms 0.675 ms
Sky ADSL2+ 1.3 ms 1.5 ms 0.525 ms 0.65 ms
TalkTalk ADSL 2+ 1.75 ms 1.75 ms 0.525 ms 0.575 ms

Source: Ofcom

Average Jitter for Lower Tier Fibre Broadband

Provider and Package Upstream jitter, 24 hour average Upstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average Downstream jitter, jitter, 24 hour average Downstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre (FTTC) (50 Mbps average speed) 0.3 ms 0.3 ms 0.375 ms 0.45 ms
EE Fibre (FTTC) 0.4 ms 0.45 ms 0.55 ms 0.65 ms
Plusnet Fibre (FTTC) 0.5 ms 0.55 ms 0.41 ms 0.475 ms
Sky Fibre (FTTC) 0.4 ms 0.5 ms 0.45 ms 0.5 ms
TalkTalk Fibre (FTTC) 0.45 ms 0.45 ms 0.45 ms 0.55 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 50 (Cable) 2.3 ms 2.9 ms 0.275 ms 0.42 ms

Source: Ofcom

Average Jitter for Upper Tier Fibre Broadband

Provider and Package Upstream jitter, 24 hour average Upstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average Downstream jitter, jitter, 24 hour average Downstream jitter, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre 2 (FTTC) 0.35 ms 0.35 ms 0.425 ms 0.475 ms
EE Fibre Plus (FTTC) 0.3 ms 0.3 ms 0.45 ms 0.6 ms
Plusnet Fibre Extra (FTTC) 0.4 ms 0.4 ms 0.5 ms 0.55 ms
Sky Fibre Max (FTTC) 0.3 ms 0.3ms 0.4 ms 0.45 ms
TalkTalk Faster Fibre (FTTC) 0.6 ms 0.6 ms 0.45 ms 0.475 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 100 (Cable) 2.3 ms 2.6 ms 0.275 ms 0.35 ms
Virgin Media Vivid 200 (Cable) 2.05 ms 2.5 ms 0.26 ms 0.33 ms

Mobile broadband

Jitter on mobile networks is higher than on fixed line internet, with 3G performing worse than 4G. It’s another consideration that makes mobile broadband less suitable for gaming.

Tutela, which crowd sources data about mobile phone networks, published statistics on jitter on the four UK mobile networks. Their most recent data for the UK’s networks is from July to September 2017.

EE, which has the fastest 3G and 4G network speeds and the lowest latencies, has the highest jitter. However, all networks are roughly comparable.

Average Jitter on Mobile Networks

Network Average jitter on 4G network Average jitter on 3G network
EE 4.09 ms 10.51 ms
O2 3.89 ms 10.07 ms
Three 3.67 ms 9.02 ms
Vodafone 3.60 ms 9.30 ms

Source: Tutela

Satellite broadband

Satellite broadband, with the huge distances the data travels and high latencies, also experiences high jitter, so high that gaming and VoIP services and Skype are usually unusable on satellite connections.

How Do I Reduce Jitter?

Most of the strategies that reduce latency on a network connection will reduce jitter, including upgrading your router, increasing signal strength, and using an ethernet cable rather than a wireless network.

What is Packet Loss and How Will It Affect My Internet Connection?

As data is transmitted over a connection, some of it is lost and never reaches its destination. This “packet loss” is measured as the percentage of total data that never completes that journey. Again, it’s particularly important for gaming, video calling and VoIP, but also for streaming video. High packet loss results in broken up, choppy video and audio. In video and audio streaming, each packet represents about 0.2 seconds of content—not very noticeable if just one packet vanishes but large amounts of packet loss can result in long pauses, freezes, and skips.

Network transmission protocols can buffer against some packet loss to smooth out the stream of data for the user. But packet loss can still mean that even if the stream is smooth, you could be getting out of date information. So as you aim for your video game opponent’s heart, he’s actually on the other side of the screen, getting away; and as you’re still watching a striker drive toward the goal, your neighbours are already erupting into victory chants and your Twitter feed is spoiling the game. With packet loss, webpages and streams can also be slow to load, and can mean, no matter how fibre optic your connection, you’re still twiddling your thumbs waiting for a YouTube video to start, as if this were 2007.

You can monitor packet loss with more advanced broadband speed checkers. Any packet loss is technically bad, but transmission protocols should buffer your experience enough that you won’t notice effects until you’re above 5% packet loss—unless you’re gaming or calling. However, anything above 2% usually indicates a fault somewhere in your connection; see below for how to mitigate packet loss. Expect packet loss to increase at peak times, as more people crowd onto the same network.

Typically, fixed line broadband performs better than mobile and satellite broadband in packet loss. Fibre connections generally experience less than 0.3% packet loss, with higher speed fibre performing even better. Standard copper broadband generally experiences less than 0.5% packet loss. On mobile networks, packet loss can exceed 1% or even 2% on 4G networks and between 2% and 3% packet loss on 3G networks. That means up to 3% of the data being sent over the mobile network isn’t reaching its destination.

Packet loss on satellite broadband can exceed 3%, further compromising performance of online games and calling and also complicating streaming.

If you upgrade to a higher speed tariff from the same provider, you may temporarily experience an increase in packet loss, along with a decrease in speed, as your router adjusts to the new connection. Packet loss and speeds should return to normal after a period of stabilisation.

Again, Ofcom gathered data about packet loss on ADSL and two tiers of fibre broadband from the main UK internet service providers. The following tables show packet loss on these connections in November 2017.

Average Packet Loss for Lower Tier Fibre Broadband

Provider and Package Packet loss, 24 hour average Packet loss, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT ADSL2+ 0.145% 0.155%
EE ADSL2+ 0.08% 0.16%
KCOM ADSL2+ 0.175% 0.3%
Plusnet ADSL2+ 0.15% 0.23%
Sky ADSL2+ 0.155% 0.2%
TalkTalk ADSL 2+ 0.24% 0.25%

Source: Ofcom

Average Packet for Lower Tier Fibre Broadband

Provider and Package Packet loss, 24 hour average Packet loss, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre (FTTC) (50 Mbps average speed) 0.65% 0.6%
EE Fibre (FTTC) 0.075% 0.14%
Plusnet Fibre (FTTC) 0.145% 0.24%
Sky Fibre (FTTC) 0.06% 0.06%
TalkTalk Fibre (FTTC) 0.13% 0.15%
Virgin Media Vivid 50 (Cable) 0.4% 0.5%

Source: Ofcom

Average Packet Loss for Upper Tier Fibre Broadband

Provider and Package Packet loss, 24 hour average Packet loss, peak time (8pm-10pm) average
BT Superfast Fibre 2 (FTTC) 0.11% 0.1375%
EE Fibre Plus (FTTC) 0.06% 0.1%
Plusnet Fibre Extra (FTTC) 0.125% 0.1575%
Sky Fibre Max (FTTC) 0.65% 0.5%
TalkTalk Faster Fibre (FTTC) 0.0675% 0.0675%
Virgin Media Vivid 100 (Cable) 0.08% 0.06%
Virgin Media Vivid 200 (Cable) 0.125% 0.115%

Source: Ofcom

Mobile broadband

Three’s network performs especially badly, losing nearly 3% of all data packets transmitted over 3G and, on 4G, nearly double the packets Vodafone is losing.

Average Packet Loss for Mobile Networks

Network 4G Packet Loss 3G Packet Loss
EE 1.12% 2.01%
O2 1.03% 2.07%
Three 1.78% 2.83%
Vodafone 0.81% 2.05%

Source: Tutela

How Do I Reduce Packet Loss?

A lot of packet loss can be attributed to faulty hardware and weak WiFi networks. If you’re registering a lot of packet loss, look into upgrading your router or, at least for certain activities like gaming, bypassing it all together and using an ethernet cable. But even the classic reboot of a router can often plug some holes in ‘leaky’ WiFi networks.

Ageing device will struggle to catch all the data your WiFi network is throwing so if you’re coping with particularly high with packet loss, you may need to upgrade your rig or at least its network card. If you can’t afford to purchase a new computer or tablet, make sure the software your current one is running is up to date.

Some packet loss will be intrinsic in your ISP’s network infrastructure, due to contention and length of wiring, but short of switching provider or getting your own individual fibre optic connection (more about that below), you’re unlikely to dodge these issues. That said, high packet loss could be the result of faulty hardware and wiring upstream of your home. If you’re plugged right into the wall and running the latest gear and still find packets are slipping through your fingers, enough to make video streaming and gaming unfeasible, speak to your provider. They’ll be able to send out an engineer to troubleshoot your connection.

Leased Lines for Businesses: Low Latency, Low Jitter, Low Packet Loss

Some high-end business broadband packages will come with leased lines, also called data circuits, dedicated lines, ethernet leased lines, or private lines. Leased lines run internet directly and exclusively from a local phone exchange to your business premises, meaning you aren’t sharing a connection with anyone else. Leased lines guarantee not just high speeds—up to 10 Gbps, often symmetrical upstream and downstream—but low latency, low jitter, and low packet loss. For some sensitive programmes, not just VoIP but some manufacturing software, excellent latency, jitter, and packet loss specs can be more important than speeds. Leased lines are pricey, with monthly costs exceeding £150 and installation running from £500 to £1500, depending on how far your business is from the local telephone exchange. The expense could be worth it to ensure the best broadband performance for your business.

Theoretically you could run a leased line to your home but the costs involved are usually prohibitive for domestic customers. However, if you’re a super dedicated gamer and have piles money lying around, it could be an option.