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What is latency in internet speed?

what is latency in internet speed

Lag in streaming or gaming: our guide to what’s happening and how to fix it.

Latency, ping, buffering, and lag in live-streaming and gaming are words that are often used interchangeably (and usually in annoyance). 

But what are latency and ping? And how can you keep your latency low and reduce lag in gaming?

We’ll answer all these essential questions for the committed gamer or streamer – read on for everything you need to know.

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What is latency in internet speed?

Latency is the literal time it takes for a packet of data to go from its origin point to its destination and back again. Latency is measured in milliseconds (ms) and you want to aim for low latency; below 100 ms is considered good, while below 50 ms is very good.

What is ping?

Ping, meanwhile, is the test used to determine the latency in internet speed. The word “ping” comes from submarining terms, where it’s used to describe a pulse of sound a submarine transmits as part of its sonar system. 

The time it takes for that pulse to be sent and reflected off another object back to the submarine is used to determine the distance between the submarine and objects around it. This is roughly how ping works in terms of internet speed.

What is buffering?

Buffering is the process of temporarily storing data to prevent interruption in internet or streaming services due to slow network speeds or inconsistent data transfer rates. It allows the playback to continue smoothly by providing a reserve of data for the device to draw from when needed.

Lag in gaming

Lag is the delay between an action being performed (pulling the trigger on your controller) and the action taking place in your game. This delay is caused by the latency of your internet speed – how long it takes for the information to be sent and returned. 

Lag in streaming

Network congestion and other factors may cause live streaming issues, also known as a lag in streaming. This can affect or delay your stream experience. 

Lag in streaming refers to a delay between the time the content is transmitted and the time it is displayed on your screen. It can be caused by slow internet speeds, network congestion, or server issues. Lag can result in choppy or glitchy video and audio, making the streaming experience unpleasant or unwatchable.

There are ways to keep your latency low and limit the impact of lag on your gaming, but first you need to understand what could be making your latency high. 

What causes high latency?

Now you know what latency is, check out these key factors that might be keeping your latency high.

Geographical location

If you’re in Australia and you’re playing on an American server, your data is having to travel much further than if you were playing locally. 

Internet connection type 

The technology used for your internet connection will affect your latency. Swoop’s high-speed nbn® plans offer fast reliable internet that won’t throttle your gameplay. 

Find out more about the internet speeds you need for fast gaming here.


Even if you have a gigabit internet plan, an outdated router will slow your network connection and increase your latency. The same goes when you’re connecting to your router – using WiFi or a bad-quality Ethernet cable will cause high latency and you’ll see annoying lag. 

How to improve latency

With all that in mind, here’s how to keep latency low and your gameplay smooth. Follow the below steps to quickly reduce lag in gaming.  

Close unnecessary programs

The quickest and easiest tip for how to improve latency is to close other bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming music or video. 

Use the right connection

To make the most of your nbn® internet connection, make sure you’re connected to your router with a high-quality Ethernet cable. This simple upgrade should make an immediate difference. 

Update your modem and router

These devices affect your speeds more than you think. You could be on an nbn® Home Ultrafast plan but if you’re using an old router, it might only be able to connect you at Fast or Everyday plan speeds. 

Upgrade your plan

If you want a high-speed, low-latency connection to keep your gaming smooth, it might be time to upgrade to a higher speed internet plan. We offer 50, 100, 250 and even a 1000 Mbps plan that will support even the most intensive gaming needs. 

Find out what plans are available at your address and upgrade today to say goodbye to lag in gaming.

Hopefully that answers your question ‘what is latency’ and also provides a useful explanation on related issues and terms.

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