How to Speed Up Your Internet: The Role of Latency

Internet speed is not just about how much data you can download or upload at once (aka ‘throughput’), but also about how quickly that data can travel from point A to point B. This speed of data travel is known as ‘latency’, and it’s a big deal. Imagine you’re in a race: Throughput is the number of racers running, and latency is how fast they run. A faster runner (lower latency) often matters more than simply having more runners (higher throughput) when it comes to a better internet experience. So, what slows down our internet racers? The main culprit is something called ‘packet buffering’. Imagine the racers have to wait in a long queue before they can start running. If the queue gets too long, it creates a traffic jam, slowing down the internet. This is often felt when we’re playing online games or making video calls during busy times – the dreaded lag. The first step in getting our racers running faster is to understand how slow they are right now. We can measure latency by timing how long it takes for a piece of data to travel from one point to another and back. Think of it like a relay race where the runner has to return to the starting point. Now that we’ve measured our latency, how do we improve it? Well, we can do something about that long queue causing the traffic jam. A method called ‘Active Queue Management’ (AQM) can help by preventing the queue from getting too long in the first place. This means our racers can start running sooner, reducing latency. But what can you do at home to make your internet faster? Here are some tips:
  1. Move Your Router: The location of your router in your home can make a big difference to your internet speed. Try to place it centrally, so the signal spreads evenly. Avoid placing it next to an outer wall or near large metal objects like kitchen appliances that can block the signal. If you’re unsure about the best location, ask your internet service provider for advice.
  2. Check Your Equipment: The age and model of your router can also affect your internet speed. If your router is a bit old, it may need a firmware update or even a replacement. Gamers might want to consider routers designed specifically for gaming. If your router was provided by your internet service provider, check with them to ensure it’s the best one for your needs.
  3. Use a Wired Connection: Wherever possible, opt for a wired connection over Wi-Fi. Ethernet cables don’t have to deal with the same interferences as wireless signals, which can significantly reduce latency
  4. Close Unused Applications: Having many applications open on your device, especially those that use internet bandwidth, can slow down your connection. Be sure to close any unnecessary applications, particularly those running in the background.
  5. Update Your Software: Ensure that your device’s operating system and the applications you’re using are up-to-date. Developers often release updates to improve performance and reduce latency.
  6. Reboot Your Router: Sometimes, simply rebooting your router can help reduce latency. Rebooting can clear out any temporary files or processes that could be slowing down your connection.
  7. Avoid Peak Times: Internet service providers experience the most traffic during peak hours, usually in the evenings when most people are home. If possible, try to schedule latency-sensitive activities such as gaming or video calling outside of these times.
Remember, latency is an essential part of your internet speed. By understanding what it is and taking steps to reduce it, you can improve your internet experience significantly.

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