The IT Law Wiki

Packet switching

Jitter refers to non-uniform packet delays that can cause packets to arrive and be processed out of sequence.

Jitter, as it relates to queuing, is the difference in latency of packets.

Jitter is a measure of the variability in latency.[1]


Jitter is often caused by low bandwidth situations in VoIP and can be exceptionally detrimental to the overall quality of service. Jitter can cause packets to arrive and be processed out of sequence. When jitter is high, packets arrive at their destination in spurts. This situation is analogous to uniform road traffic coming to a stoplight. As soon as the stoplight turns green (bandwidth opens up), traffic races through in a clump. The general prescription to control jitter at VoIP endpoints is the use of a buffer, but such a buffer has to release its voice packets at least every 150 ms (usually a lot sooner given the transport delay) so the variations in delay must be bounded. The buffer implementation issue is compounded by the uncertainty of whether a missing packet is simply delayed an anomalously long amount of time, or is actually lost. Jitter can also be controlled throughout the VoIP network by using routers, firewalls, and other network elements that support quality of service. These elements process and pass along time urgent traffic like VoIP packets sooner than less urgent data packets.


  1. FCC, About the Consumer Broadband Test (Beta) (full-text).