What is Network Congestion?

Most of us have experienced it, slow, “laggy,” and congested networks, especially when we are frequently online working, staying connected, studying, gaming, streaming, and more. Ask yourself what exactly is ‘network congestion,’ what really causes it, and how can we get past it?

In the context of internet networks, congestion occurs when the network is exchanging or carrying more data (bandwidth) than it can comfortably handle (exceeding capacity). In a congested network, response times slow and quality of service deteriorates with reduced network throughput.

Network congestion usually happens because of “bandwidth bottlenecks” that typically happen during weeknights from 7-11 PM better known as “internet peak hours.” Internet peak hours occur when lots of people in your area and your home are using the internet at the same time. A bandwidth bottleneck is a result from internet providers serving lots of customers in a local service area with a limited bandwidth supply or capabilities of their network. Network congestion can also happen in your home if you have a lot of users on your Wi-Fi or if your devices are outdated and do not support higher bandwidth speeds.

Time for a Road Analogy

Think of your bandwidth like a highway, and your data as cars that travel the same speed. The more lanes you have on the highway, the more cars can travel at a time – it will take 5 cars longer to get to their destination on a 1-lane road than it would on a 5-lane highway.

Now let’s say you’re a driver on a two-lane highway that is designed to handle 500 cars per hour but at “peak hours” 5000 cars are all traveling this same road at the same time. You’ve hit the dreaded rush hour traffic (aka the “bandwidth bottleneck”), and all traffic begins to slow down due to congestion. Just like highways, networks are designed and deployed to handle a certain amount of traffic, but lack of sufficient traffic flow just creates jams during certain periods of the day.

Have you ever hit rush hour in traffic? Then you know how aggravating it can be when you must slow down and wait as traffic sluggishly goes down the road. Learn more about RTC Communications’ “Fiber Superhighway on the back!”

Causes of Network Congestion

The amount of congestion you deal with depends on various factors such as the following:

Oversubscription – Often times a major cause of network congestion is caused my internet service providers (ISPs) oversubscribing their networks. ISPs can oversubscribe their network capabilities by not having proper networking or hardware equipment in place or simply not supplying enough bandwidth to their network to handle all its subscribers. Networks are designed to handle a certain amount of traffic, so when they’re pushed past their limits users are going to experience some slowdowns.

Insufficient Speed Selection – The number of users, quantity of connected devices, and what you are using your connection for (ex: video conferencing, work from home, eLearning, streaming, etc.) all play a vital role in what speed of bandwidth you need to meet your family and home’s needs. Selecting a tier that is slower and lesser of what your devices data is sending and receiving can create a bandwidth bottleneck in your home.

Network Type – There are various network types such as fiber-optic, DSL, cable, wireless, cellular, and satellite. Fiber-optic and various other internet solutions also come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but not all solutions are made equal. Fiber-to-the-Premise or Home (FTTP/FTTH) is the leading internet backbone in today’s need for reliable, high-speed internet.

Deficient Infrastructure – It’s not always the traffic that’s the problem—it’s the way the highways are laid out. Your ISPs’ internet network layout should be optimized to maximize performance across all areas of coverage and plan for future bandwidth consumption. However, due to poor network designs, cost restrictions, and lack of infrastructure improvements, end-users are often left with needing more reliable, high-speed internet.

End-user Hardware Devices – Technology advances constantly, and many devices or connected equipment cannot take full advantage of the blazing speed and bandwidth of today’s fiber broadband connectivity. Make sure your devices and equipment have the network cards and internal processing power that can leverage the speed of market-leading fiber broadband like RTC Communications’ Intelecyn™ Speed. 

RTC’s Information Fiber Superhighway

There are a variety of reasons why your internet may slow down. Things like outdated devices and equipment can contribute but most often, it’s a case of home and network congestion. As the amount of people using the internet for data-heavy activities like entertainment, gaming, video conferencing and downloading large files increases, so does the demand for enormous amounts of bandwidth.

RTC Communications’ reliable, high-speed, fiber superhighway (FTTP/FTTH network) provides robust internet offerings, supplying your internet needs of today and in the future. We actively monitor our network’s capacity and usage during peak hours to ensure enough bandwidth is supplied to cover the needs of ALL of our customers. This means you can connect with family and friends at ANY time and receive the speed you rely on while not having to stay up in the “wee” hours of the night.

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