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What Is Latency and How Can I Improve It?

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Satellite internet has been a popular internet solution for those living in remote or rural areas, where access to broadband internet is often limited. However, one downside of satellite internet is the latency, which can make for a frustrating user experience. Here we’ll explore what latency is, how it affects satellite internet, what activities benefit from low latency, and what steps can be taken to improve it.

Internet Latency

Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from one point to another over an internet connection. In the case of satellite internet, it is the time it takes for data to travel from a user’s computer to a satellite in orbit, to the ground station, and then back along the same path. This round-trip data makes is measured in milliseconds (ms). And as you might have guessed, the faster that round trip takes, the lower – or better – your latency is.



Are Latency and Bandwidth the Same?

Latency and bandwidth are both important factors in determining internet speeds and network performance, they are different. Latency measures delay, or, how long it takes for data to travel from one point to another. Bandwidth measures capacity–how much data can be transmitted in a given amount of time.

It’s possible to have a high bandwidth connection with low latency. Satellite internet is a prime example of this where it may have high bandwidth, but high latency due to how far the data must travel.

How is Internet Latency Measured?

A simple online tool like this speed test will quickly show you how fast your download and upload speeds are, as well as your latency. Keep in mind that latency is also referred to as ping rate, delay, or response time. Again, the lower your latency number is the better, or faster, it is. Check out our resource covering internet speed tests to learn more about them and how to read the results.


What Causes Low Latency?

There are a number of factors that can cause poor latency. Due to how far the signals have to travel, satellite internet has innate high latency. Additionally, severe weather can affect latency, as well as the number of devices or users sharing the connection. As well, computer and hardware issues and lack of routing priorities can cause poor latency. Don’t worry, we offer solutions at the end to help improve latency.

What is Good Latency?

The ideal latency depends on what you need to do on the internet, but for satellite internet, 600ms or less is optimal. However, due to the distance that the data must travel, it is common for satellite internet to have a higher latency than other broadband connections.

On average, satellite internet latency ranges from 600ms to 800ms, but it can be as high as 1,000ms or more depending on the satellite’s location and the user’s location. Satellite internet services that use low-earth orbit (LEO) satellites, such as Starlink, will have lower latency due to their closer proximity.


When Does Latency Matter?

Low latency is essential for many online activities, but not all. Those that require real-time communication or immediate response times will benefit the most from low latency.

Online Gaming

Online gamers need to be able to react quickly to what is happening in the game, and any delay could make for a frustrating gaming experience.

Video Conferencing

Low latency ensures that the audio and video streams are synchronized and that there is no lag between the participants.

Video Streaming

It’s possible to stream video with less-than-optimal latency, but low latency will prevent buffering and allow for higher-quality video.

How Can I Reduce Internet Latency?

Latency depends on the type of internet connection you’re using, but there are other factors on your home network that affect latency. Here are several easy steps you can take to improve the latency of your internet connection:

Use a Wired Connection When Possible

A wired connection between your device and your modem or WiFi router provides the fastest and most stable connection.

Close Unnecessary Applications

Running simultaneous apps or having dozens of tabs open in your browser reduces processing power and memory, which can cause unwanted lag.

Use Quality of Service (QoS) Settings

Quality of Service (QoS) settings in your router allow you to prioritize certain types of network traffic, such as gaming or video streaming. Your router’s manual will have instructions on how to do so.

Reduce Network Congestion

Too many devices and users on a network cause congestion and high latency. Limit users and devices when lower latency is needed.

Final Words

Latency can be an issue in satellite internet due to the time it takes for data to travel to and from the satellite. However, there are several techniques available to improve latency, including optimizing network settings, limiting network traffic, and using a wired connection when possible. Keep in mind that low latency is really only needed for activities that require it. General browsing, sending and receiving emails, and checking your socials do not need low latency to perform well.

Looking for quality satellite internet providers? Viasat and HughesNet offer a variety of plans and speeds perfectly suited to your internet needs.

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