What is “quality-of-service” (QoS)

Let’s say you’re a gamer. Or, you run a large enterprise that uses internet-based phones. Or even, suppose you stream a lot. No matter what you do on the internet, you want it to go well. Modern routers use a technology called “QoS” which stands for “quality-of-service.”

Here’s what it’s about.

In order to give you the best internet experience, your router uses several measurements. Here are the most important ones:

Packet loss

This is exactly what it sounds like. All information on the internet travels in “packets,” little blobs of information. If the information is coming too quickly or there is just to much of it, some of those packets just don’t get received. Packet loss can mean gaps in speech when you’re teleconferencing, or a frozen picture when you’re gaming.

Jitter

Jitter is when packets arrive late or early, or when any scheduled event happens too early or late. This can create fun problems, like missing the target you’re aiming for when you’re gaming, or really big problems like calls not being completer.

Latency

Latency is the difference in time between when you ask for something and when you get an answer. I’ve talked about latency before and how it’s the most common way we sense “slow internet.” You click on something and you wait. That’s latency.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is technically a measure of “capacity to transmit.” The easiest way to think about bandwidth is to look at a highway. If the highway has more lanes, it can handle more cars. Too many cars and the traffic will slow down.

How does QoS manages these things?

QoS software built into your router tries to identify each bit of network traffic and what it’s doing. It then tries to figure out what kinds of traffic can take a little more congestion.

For example if you’re downloading a large file you don’t care what the download speed is at the moment. You care about the overall time it takes to download. So QoS might temporarily slow your download and then speed it up later to make up for it.

If you’re talking on the phone or streaming instant video (like many folks do when they work from home) you need really high quality of service. If that sound doesn’t come instantly it’s too late.

Streaming video is more like a downloaded file because generally your device will buffer a minute or two of video. So, if something slows down for a minute, it’s ok because the buffer can handle it.

Gamers, of course, demand everything NOW and want instant communication. So, QoS will optimize gaming packets to give the fastest, smoothest response.

Overall you can kind of think of QoS as “Waze for your router.” All of your network traffic sends information in about how things are moving along and it intelligently lets some things go ahead, some things stay behind, and holds some things until any congestion passes.

If you’re looking for an upgraded router with QoS features or any other piece of computer equipment for your connected home, shop for the best stuff now at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 5,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.