what is internet latency

What is Internet Latency? The Ultimate Guide to Lag-Free Gaming

Imagine trying to catch a ball that’s constantly changing direction. That’s how it feels when dealing with high latency during an online gaming session or other internet-based activity. As an internet service provider, we understand the importance of low latency for enjoyable online experiences.  

Our goal of this blog post is to help you identify the causes of high latency and provide practical solutions for improving it. So, let’s dive in and learn how to reduce latency for a smoother and more responsive gaming session. 

What is Latency? 

Latency is the time it takes for data to travel between your device and the server it’s communicating with. Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms), and often referred to as “ping” in the context of online gaming. The lower the latency, the faster and more responsive your online experience will be. 

It’s essential to differentiate between latency and bandwidth. While latency refers to the delay in data transmission, bandwidth is the maximum amount of data transmitted in a given time.  

Think of latency as the speed of a car and bandwidth as the width of the road. A car can move quickly on a wide road (low latency, high bandwidth), but can face traffic jams on a narrow road (low latency, low bandwidth). Similarly, a car can move slowly on a wide road (high latency, high bandwidth) or struggle on a narrow road (high latency, low bandwidth). 

High latency can significantly impact your online gaming experience, causing lag, stuttering, and disconnections. Moreover, high latency can disrupt voice and video calls, making communication difficult. 

Common causes of latency include: 

  • Your internet connection type (DSL, fiber, satellite, etc.) 
  • The distance between your device and the server 
  • Network congestion and routing inefficiencies 
  • Hardware limitations (outdated routers or modems) 
  • Software issues (operating system, drivers, etc.) 

You can make informed decisions to improve your online activities by understanding latency and its impact. In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into the factors affecting latency and how to improve it for a smoother, more responsive experience. 

what is internet latency

7 Factors Affecting Latency 

Several factors contribute to latency, and understanding each is crucial for finding the best solutions to improve your online experience. Let’s explore these factors in more detail below. 

Types of Internet Connections  

Different internet connection types can have varying latency levels. For example, fiber-optic connections generally offer lower latency than DSL or satellite connections. 

Speed and Quality of Your ISP 

The speed and overall quality your ISP provides can directly influence latency. A faster connection typically results in lower latency, while an unstable connection causes latency spikes. Select an ISP that offers consistent high-speed connections, symmetrical speeds, and no data caps. 

Geographical Location of Servers  

The physical distance between your device and the server can significantly impact latency. Data has to travel over long distances. The further away a server is, the longer it takes for data to travel back and forth, resulting in higher latency. When possible, connect to servers that are geographically closer to you. 

Internet Traffic & Congestion  

Just like roads during rush hour, the internet can become congested with data, leading to increased latency. Network congestion can cause data packets to take longer or more convoluted paths, impacting your online experience. Unfortunately, this factor is mostly beyond your control, but some solutions can help, as we’ll discuss later. 

Network Devices 

Routers, switches, and other network devices are crucial in maintaining low latency. Outdated or improperly configured devices can slow down data transmission and increase latency.  

Personal Devices 

Your computer, gaming console, or other devices used for internet-based activities can also contribute to latency. Devices with outdated hardware or those struggling to run demanding applications can experience increased latency. Keep your devices updated and optimized for the best performance. 

Operating Systems & Software 

Software running on your devices, such as operating systems, drivers, and gaming applications, can also affect latency. Bugs, compatibility issues, or outdated software result in higher latency.  

How to Measure Internet Latency 

Before improving latency, you must learn how to measure it. You have to learn how to measure it. There are several ways to do this, and we’ll discuss the most common methods below. 

Online Speed Tests 

The easiest way to measure internet latency is to use a speed test. Numerous tests are available to measure latency, such as Race Communication’s speed test. It features an easy-to-use interface for measuring latency, download and upload speeds, and other network performance metrics. 

Ping Tests 

A ping test is a simple and widely used method to measure latency. It sends a small data packet to a server and measures the time it takes for the server to respond.  

You can easily perform a ping test using your computer’s Command Prompt (Windows) or Terminal (macOS). For example, to check latency to Google’s servers, you’d enter ‘ping google.com’ and hit enter. The results will show the latency in milliseconds (ms). 


Traceroute is another handy tool for measuring latency. It provides more detailed information than a ping test by showing the path your data takes to reach a server and the latency at each hop (intermediate point) along the route.  

You can use the tracert command (Windows) or traceroute command (macOS) followed by the server address (e.g., tracert google.com). 

Interpretation of Results 

When interpreting latency results, remember that lower values are better. Here’s the breakdown of latency by milliseconds: 

  • A latency of 0-30 ms is considered excellent, 
  • A latency of 30-50 ms is acceptable for most online activities, 
  • A latency between 50-100 ms can cause minor issues (lag, buffering), 
  • Anything above 100 ms could lead to noticeable delays and disruptions, especially in online gaming. 

Remember that latency can fluctuate due to several factors like network congestion or server load. Performing multiple tests at different times is recommended to get a more accurate picture of your latency. 

what is internet latency

How to Improve Latency: 6 Proven Strategies 

Great news! There are several ways to improve latency and make your online gaming sessions much smoother. Let’s dive into these six solutions. 

Upgrading Internet Service 

Picking the right ISP is crucial for low latency. As an ISP, we recommend comparing different providers based on their latency performance, speed, and quality of service in your area. Look for ISPs that offer dedicated gaming packages or prioritize low latency. 

Upgrading your internet plan to one with higher bandwidth and better quality of service can reduce latency. Faster connections usually come with lower latency, making your online gaming experience more enjoyable. 

Optimal Router & Modem Placement 

Properly placing your router and modem can significantly impact latency. Keep them in a central location, elevated from the floor, and away from obstructions or interference-causing devices like microwaves or cordless phones. 

Physical barriers like walls, floors, and large furniture can weaken WiFi signals and increase latency. Minimize these obstacles by placing your router and gaming devices in the same room or using wired connections when possible. 

Updating Hardware & Software 

Invest in high-quality, gaming-specific routers, modems, and other devices to optimize your online experience. These devices often have features designed to reduce latency, such as Quality of Service (QoS) and advanced traffic prioritization. 

Regularly update your devices’ drivers and firmware to ensure optimal performance and fix any latency-related issues. Manufacturers often release updates to improve performance, stability, and compatibility. Don’t miss out on them! 

Using Wired Connections Instead of Wireless 

Wired connections like Ethernet cables generally offer lower latency and more stable connections than WiFi. Use an Ethernet cable to connect your gaming device directly to your router for the best possible latency. 

Why Ethernet?  

WiFi connections are prone to interference, signal degradation, and higher latency. While convenient, they’re not always the best option for online gaming. If you must use WiFi, consider upgrading to a WiFi 6 router for improved performance. 

Using Gaming VPNs & Network Optimizers 

Using a VPN (virtual private network) can affect the distance data travels and thus impact latency. When you use a typical VPN, you connect to a remote server, which can be further away from you than the server you are trying to access for gaming or other online activities. This can increase latency due to the added distance.  

However, some gaming VPNs are designed to optimize routing and bypass congested network paths, potentially reducing latency even if the VPN server is further away. In this case, choosing a VPN specifically tailored for gaming that focuses on reducing latency and enhancing overall performance can make a significant difference. 

Restarting & Resetting Devices 

Sometimes, a simple restart of your router, modem, or gaming device can resolve latency issues. Additionally, run regular system scans and troubleshoot issues to maintain optimal performance. 

Conclusive Thoughts About Internet Latency 

In this blog post, we’ve covered the essentials of latency and how to improve it for better online gaming. Remember, the key to low latency lies in understanding its causes and addressing them effectively. So, gear up, level up, and game on! 

Here’s a quick recap of the main takeaways: 

  • Understanding latency: Learn what latency is, how it affects online gaming, and the factors that influence it. 
  • Measuring latency: Use tools like ping tests, traceroute, and online applications to measure latency and identify areas for improvement. 
  • Improving latency: Implement various strategies such as upgrading internet service, optimizing router and modem placement, updating hardware and software, using wired connections, changing DNS servers, utilizing gaming VPNs, and troubleshooting common issues. 

Now that you know how to improve latency, it’s time to level up your game. Race Communications offers fiber optic internet with low latency and numerous other benefits, including higher bandwidth, better reliability, and faster speeds. 

Don’t wait! Fill out our inquiry form to sign up for our fiber optic internet service and unlock the ultimate online gaming experience. Transform your internet connection and enjoy seamless gaming, video streaming, and more with our high-speed, low-latency fiber service.