Among the causes of a sudden drop in Internet connection speed, one is often underestimated. What is network congestion, and what to do when it occurs? The Internet can be thought of as a large highway where cars are the data packets that travel from one node (device, server, etc.) to another, transmitting the information. If the number of data packets increases uncontrollably, the high traffic can cause traffic jams that cause network congestion.
When this occurs, the network cannot process the accumulated traffic, and the Internet becomes slow. To understand if the network on which they are connected is congested, users can perform a speed test and evaluate whether the resulting parameters are in line with those provided by their Internet service provider (ISP) and if they are comparable with the browsing speed usually encountered. If this is not the case, it will be necessary to understand the causes of the congestion and intervene to obtain a fast and stable connection.
Network Congestion: How It Is Created
Data travels over the Internet in “packets” exchanged between two hosts, such as a server and a computer. The system that allows managing the traffic is the use of the combination of TCP / IP protocols. The TCP, Transmission Control Protocol, creates a connection between two hosts and manages the delivery of packets between two network nodes.
The IP protocol, on the other hand, provides the instructions necessary to transfer the packet data. The process of transmitting packets between the sending host and the receiving host is called a handshake, and once it has started, the data begins to flow along with the network. The TCP / IP system is equipped with a mechanism that allows detecting the presence of errors in the transmission chain.
When a packet is damaged, the protocol will request that a new data packet be sent. This implies that if new requests caused by transmission errors are added to the significant demand for data transfer, a real traffic jam could form on the Internet network, which can, in turn, lead to general network congestion.
Network Congestion: When It Occurs
When this situation occurs, there is a slow Internet service, with all the inconvenience of users who try to surf the net, for example, by doing a Google search or watching streaming content. Network congestion can occur at the level of ISPs ( Internet Service Providers, telecommunications service providers), for example, during what is known as “Internet rush hour, “i.e., the time between 6 pm and 11 pm, where the number of users who connect after returning home from work increases.
Whether it’s downloading email, indulging in an online gaming session, or watching your favorite series, the increase in requests becomes difficult for the network to manage and dispose of. With the increase in intelligence working in recent years, the risk of network congestion no longer even has a peak time and could occur at any time of the day.
In other cases, network congestion does not affect ISPs, but the individual home where connection speed slows down. Suppose in a house several people connect to the modem, or in the case of intelligent homes. In that case, there are multiple devices connected to the router at the same time, each of them engaged in different online activities that require a specific bandwidth, the traffic jam will form locally. .
To verify that the Internet slowdown is due to network congestion, a speed test must be performed several times a day to be able to calculate an average value of the connection parameters and compare them with each other and then with those provided by your ISP. By communicating the data collected through the speed tests to your provider, you can look for the best solutions to the problem if they are lower than those stipulated in the contract.
Network Congestion: How To Fix It
When traffic problems in their homes cause network congestion, there are several ways that users can take to improve their connection speed. Suppose you are using an outdated router or modem. In that case, you can proceed with a software update that could automatically reconfigure the device, solve setting errors, and offer greater bandwidth to avoid line jams.
On the other hand, if the modem is up-to-date and recent, the solution may be to ask your ISP to increase bandwidth. Also, suppose the home modem model is relatively recent. In that case, it is possible to configure the traffic priorities through the so-called “Quality of Service” (QoS) function, which allows you to give precedence to the type of data traffic that most interests us at a given moment. .
In this way, it is possible to privilege, for example, video streaming to watch our favorite programs without pauses, perhaps at the expense of the connectivity of our home intelligent devices such as voice assistants, webcams, etc. Another way forward is to take advantage of both the bandwidths offered by your modem or router: the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz one.
Think of an intelligent home with multiple smart devices connected to Wi-Fi: devices usually support connectivity to the 2.4 GHz band, so having multiple devices connected simultaneously can increase network congestion and slow down the Internet. If this is the case, you can quickly solve the problem by assigning the 2.4 GHz bandwidth to the devices and using the 5 GHz for connection via PC or smartphone, thus relieving the pressure on the home network and improving speed.