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What Is Low Latency? Learn About Communication Technology

Low latency is the technology that makes real-time communication possible. Any activity happening on the Internet, from googling to video conversations to live streaming and gaming, is heavily impacted by latency.

What is Latency?

Latency, or response time, is the time between issuing a command and receiving the expected answer. It shows the time it takes for data to transfer through the network. Low latency or delay is generally preferred, whereas excessive latency should be avoided.

Latency is deemed low if it is less than 30 milliseconds and inadequate if it exceeds 80 milliseconds:

– between 0 and 30 ms, we have an ideal Internet connection;

– between 30 and 50 ms, we have a decent Internet connection;

– larger than 80 ms, we have a sluggish Internet connection.

However, there will always be some delays due to some causes. Generally, data flow can be slowed by lengthy distances and other hardware and software issues.

Latency, Bandwidth, Throughput

The terms delay, bandwidth, and throughput are all related, and you may have heard people using them interchangeably. However, they have various meanings:

– The bandwidth of a pipe affects how narrow or broad it is. The thinner it is, the less data can be sent simultaneously, and vice versa

– The latency is the rate at which the contents may be sent from the client to the server and back.

– Throughput is the volume of data transported in a certain amount of time.

Low latency and large bandwidth are the optimal combinations for better throughput and a more efficient connection. Bottomline is always the latency that causes bottlenecks in the network, decreasing the amount of data sent over time.

Concept of Low Latency

Let us now define the idea of latency. Though it may appear abstract, it has concrete meaning. A program should start quickly after a double click when working on a computer. When browsing the Internet, a website should load immediately. In cloud gaming, you might expect a quick reaction to your commands when scoring points or moving your avatar.

As we move toward more immersive scenarios and real-time interaction, excessive latency is particularly noticed, even physically. Consider using VR glasses and how realistic experience and immersion in the virtual world are destroyed if the digital environment does not recharge fast enough. Now imagine how low latency is crucial for new scenarios such as autonomous driving. It should be close to 0 so that cars can react safely to accidents and other sudden situations in road traffic.

Therefore, low latency will also play a much more decisive role in the future.

Low Latency Use Cases

As previously stated, our daily online interactions need low latency to happen in ‘real’ real-time. Low latency is crucial for any use case with huge network communication. The most common low-latency use cases are:

– video conference or online meeting applications with seamless user engagement

– Gaming with an integrated, fast tempo of action and interaction

– Broadcast with a high-quality experience for a big audience.

– Video on Demand prioritizes the greatest possible quality for the fewest bits.

– Trading in financial markets working at millisecond network speed

– Live streaming on webRTC apps

Speaking of WebRTC apps, these can successfully achieve low latency. However, when it comes to scalability for many viewers, like live events, quality experience is generally sacrificed.

How to Improve Latency

A small distance between the transmitter and receiver is one of the most critical elements for low latency. This aspect is processed at a higher level using edge computing, an IT architecture that processes data as near to the source as feasible. Obviously, this technological factor is out of reach for most people, but they can take action to reduce latency. Among these:

– Reduce the burden on your connection to gain more bandwidth for the present application by shutting background apps on your computer, temporarily disabling other devices (such as cellphones or tablets), and prioritizing your device over the router.

– Remove all unwanted programs.

– When broadcasting or playing online, choose a closer server in the game or streaming platform’s options.

– For especially data-intensive applications, use a cable rather than Wi-Fi

– Stay near your router and restart it to renew it and ease its ongoing load.

– Reduce the packet loss caused by the firewall by setting the firewall to designate specific pages or apps that should not be checked.

Technology-wise, the new 5G technology has brought significant improvements. It enables exceptional latency performance on the radio access link by providing a flexible context that supports various services and quality of service (QoS) requirements. Given the nearly infinite bandwidth fiber networks provide, future 5G networks will positively affect the low latency activities on the Internet.

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