I'm trying to wrap my head around the concept of a real jitter buffer. I'm basing the only knowledge that I have around this article:


This article states that:

In the jitter estimator formula, the value D(i-1, i) is the difference of relative transit times for the two packets. The difference is computed as

D(i,j) = (Rj - Ri) - (Sj - Si) = (Rj - Sj) - (Ri - Si)

Si is the timestamp from the packet i and Ri is the time of arrival for packet i.

I've been trying to figure out in my head how it's possible to get the time it takes a packet to get from one system to the other even using TCP. If I'm not mistaken, won't the timestamps on the two devices be out of sync even if I were to send them as headers? Even if I were to sync timestamps before beginning pushing out the audio data, wouldn't that be received several milliseconds afterwards making syncing not possible?

So my question is, how can I actually calculate how long it takes for packets to arrive at their destination to calculate jitter?


The absolute time it takes for packets to arrive at their destination is called latency. Jitter is the relative difference between those times. The distinction is important, because due to a fortunate quirk of the math, you don't actually need to know the latency in order to calculate the jitter.

Let's say the sender's clock is t milliseconds faster than the receiver's clock. t changes over time due to drift, but in the 20 milliseconds between packets, that drift is essentially negligible. That means we must add t to every receiver timestamp in order to synchronize it with the sender's timestamp. Correcting for the unsynchronized clocks, the formula becomes:

D(i,j) = ((Rj + t) - (Ri + t)) - (Sj - Si)

Notice anything? Because we are only interested in the difference between timestamps, the t cancels out! If we really want to calculate t, and subsequently the latency, we can do it using techniques I described here, but it's not necessary if we only care about jitter.

  • Okay. That makes a lot of sense, but could I ask what the D(i,j) = means? Is it supposed to represent a point? Also, I could understand Ri would mean the received time for this current iteration, but what does Rj mean? Thanks so much. – Mikey A. Leonetti Jul 6 '15 at 14:51
  • i and j are two consecutive packets. Rj is the receiver's timestamp for the current packet and Ri is the receiver's timestamp on the previous packet. D(i,j) is the difference in transit time between the two packets. – Karl Bielefeldt Jul 6 '15 at 14:55

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