What Is: Packet Loss

What is packet loss

You’ve probably heard of latency, jitter and telephone echo, but have you ever experienced the problem of packet loss? In this article we explain what is packet loss, what causes packet loss and how to recognize when it occurs. 

What is packet loss?

Packet loss is when “packets” or pieces of data traveling across a network do not reach their end destination. The end result of these packets failing to reach the opposite end of the network communication leads to missing data. In a VoIP call, it results in missing pieces of the conversation which isn’t ideal.

Packet loss causes multiple participants to leave a phone call, and either attempt to re-establish a connection or move to another form of communication. When problems occur we often tend to ‘drop the call’ and quickly try to reconnect straight away.

For VoIP calls, dropping one or two minor packets won’t cause too much of an issue. This is because if only one or two words are jumbled, we can generally understand the overall context of the message. However, if packet loss reaches a steady, significant level of 5% to 10% packet loss, individuals will notice entire sentences missing, and awkward pauses in the middle of a conversation. This is an infuriating experience, something you would wish your customers could avoid.


What causes packet loss?

Because packet loss means the data was dropped somewhere in the network, it is generally caused by an issue within the network. Of course, the challenge is understanding and locating the exact weak point. Between both lost and discarded packets, there are a wide number of causes for packet loss.

Causes of packet loss:

  • Network congestion:
    The most obvious, and easiest cause of packet loss, is network congestion. Too many devices hooked up to the same system, all being used at the same time, will run out of bandwidth, slowing your connection to a crawl. Insufficient bandwidth/ the bandwidth cap to handle a VoIP call leads to packets being dropped or delivered out of order.

  • Bad Hardware:
    Internet network connections are made through a number of distinct hardware pieces, such as modems, routers, and switches. Bad hardware, including an outdated firmware/software, a damaged ethernet cable, or a malfunctioning router, will quickly contribute to issues with call quality.
  • Relying on WiFi:
    While convenient, wireless network connections are simply less robust and reliable compared to a wired connection. Signals are blocked by walls or furniture, and interference gets in the way creating delays in the delivery of data packets.
  • Software issues:
    Improper hardware configuration on the software side also leads to packet loss. This could range from interoperability bugs in the network, to the improper software configuration of your devices.

Recognizing packet loss

Some general network monitoring tools measure a selection of audio quality factors including packet loss. However, Spearline provides a comprehensive view, and critically, an end-to-end perspective that crosses international carrier networks, going beyond the private network edge into the wider public network that carries genuine customer calls.

Spearline’s toolset allows organizations to manage and improve telecommunications service quality and improve customer experience. 


New to Spearline?

Spearline allows organizations to provide uninterrupted services to customers around the world. The Spearline platform in particular, tests inbound telecommunications services, as well as dial-out.

If you would like to find out more, we would love to speak with you! Please send us a brief message, and we will be in contact with you shortly.

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