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Packet loss

Packet loss

Packet loss definition

Packet loss is the failure of one or more data packets to reach their destination during network transmission. Information needs to be broken down into small individual data packets to be transmitted. The loss of these packets can slow down the network, cause data corruption, or even result in a dropped connection.

See also: low latency, packet sniffing, packet capture, packet filtering, packet coalescing, network frame

Common causes of packet loss

  • Network Congestion: When there is too much traffic, network routers and switches can be overwhelmed with the volume of data.
  • Interference: Devices like microwave ovens, Bluetooth gadgets, and even other wireless networks can disrupt transmission over a Wi-Fi network.
  • Faulty hardware: Miscongifured or damaged network equipment (like routers and network interface cards) may fail to transmit or receive packets properly.
  • Distance: The longer the distance between two devices, the more possible failure points (such as faulty hardware or interference) there are along the route.
  • Software issues: Errors in network protocols and apps can result in packet loss.

Packet loss mitigation

  • Packet retransmission: If the sending device does not receive an acknowledgement that a packet had been received, it sends a duplicate copy to the destination. This helps prevent data corruption, but can slow down the network.
  • Congestion control: Congestion control algorithms, congestion avoidance techniques, and network use policies help alleviate congestion and reduce packet loss.
  • Error correction: Forward Error Correction (FEC) and other error correction techniques can reduce packet loss — for example, by adding redundant data to packets to help reconstruct those lost in transmission.
  • Network redundancy: Having multiple paths and network backup systems allow packets to reach their destination even if one part of the network is congested or offline.

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