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There are several factors that determine how consistently a stream of data is sent, and consequently, how seamlessly they can then be received. Streams of data, whether they contain voice, video, or text information, are subdivided into units of information commonly referred to as packets. In order to maintain the best possible viewing/listening experience for the individual on the receiving end of the data stream, the packets of information being sent through the stream need to maintain consistent transfer rates and frequencies. Jitter, however, is experienced when variations or gaps in one of the above categories occur.

Jitter is most often caused by connections that either have a slow transfer speed or are experiencing heavy congestion. For this reason, broadband connections, in addition to providing faster transfer rates, can also help to reduce the amount of jitter that is experienced. Although varying degrees of jitter can be compensated for by using jitter buffers, which can counter jitter less than or equal to the amount of delay used at the beginning of the transfer, the repercussions of the most severe jitter often cannot be avoided. In the event that a jitter buffer is unable to re-align data packets into their appropriate places and speeds, the recipient will experience a gap in the audio, video, or information stream that they are receiving.

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