What is Packet Loss?

Packet loss is the bane of the VoIP world. Even a small amount of packet loss can cause huge problems with a VoIP call, such as a dip in service, a call error, lag in sound or video, or even a disconnected signal. Clearly, high packet loss is something to be avoided when at all possible. To prevent low and especially high packet loss from occurring, it’s helpful to first understand just what is packet loss — and for that matter, what packets are.

Generally speaking, packet loss occurs when packets traveling through a network fail to reach their destination. A packet is a name for formatted data that is sent over a network, so what is packet loss? Essentially, packet loss is data loss. VoIP calls rely on the successful transmission of packets in order to ensure call quality is at its best and free from interruptions. When high packet loss occurs, a call can experience temporary disconnection.

What causes packet loss?

With packet loss being so important to avoid, just what causes packet loss? A primary cause is a weak network connection; a weak network cannot sustain the transfer of data, and some may be delayed or escape. It’s also possible that the internet connection isn’t weak at all, but instead is just insufficient to handle the amount of packets that need to be transferred — so while it’s working flawlessly, it’s simply not strong enough to maintain such a high volume of data, and some data gets dropped as a result. This can happen especially if a network is set up with the mindset that only so many calls will need to be handled at a time, but then there is an influx of calls beyond what the system was intended to manage.

Other items on the list of what causes packet loss may include hardware failure (such as with an internet router), corrupted or glitchy software, system noise, and user error. Sometimes a combination of factors can be at fault for causing packet loss.

How to test packet loss

Knowing how to test packet loss is essential to identify if there is a problem that needs to be addressed. Many VoIP providers include an in-browser, online VoIP test that allows users to see if their current hardware and network setup is likely to have problems with packet loss, and even to diagnose if there is a network connection problem.

If packet loss is occurring, you will need to troubleshoot the cause by checking your application, network connection, and hardware to see if you can isolate where the issue is coming from.

How to fix packet loss

If you’re experiencing problems with call quality due to packet loss, knowing how to fix packet loss is extremely important. How to fix packet loss really comes down to fixing the root issue responsible for the packet loss.

Where packet loss is the result of an issue with your devices or hardware, replace the malfunctioning hardware with new hardware that can better support your VoIP calls. If the problem lies with your network, you may want to get a higher capacity network or greater network speeds to more efficiently transmit and receive data.

How to prevent packet loss

While good hardware and a sufficient network connection are important to preventing packet loss, a failure in either can cause your VoIP service to have glitches. A good option to help prevent packet loss is a Quality of Service (QoS) or packet loss concealment setup, which means your network traffic involving packets from voice or video connections will be prioritized over other traffic on your network — so if your network can only support one set of data, it will try to save your packets related to call quality first.

Conclusion

Don’t let packet loss interrupt important business conversations. If you suspect packet loss is affecting your call quality, try to find and resolve the issue as quickly as possible so you can bring your calls back to peak performance. If you’re still unsure on how to fix packet loss, reach out to your network provider for troubleshooting help.

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