Ultra Low Latency

Ultra low latency is the term given to the fastest possible speed and consistency of real-time video streaming, and is strived for during specific types of content viewing that requires no buffering.

Although the term is popular (and yearned for) within the industry, there is no technical measurement given for ultra-low latency, and some industry experts will insist the term is purely academic.

What is latency?

Latency is the term given to the speed and consistency of real-time video streaming. In specific terms, it represents the delay between the video or content being produced, and the delivery of that content to the viewers’ streaming device.

The ‘ideal’ latency depends largely on the type of content being streamed and viewed. For the most part, low latency, or ultra-low latency is not considered an important factor when watching a pre-recorded video, for example, as a 30-second delay is not likely to be perceived by the viewer, or is not required to view the content.

As a general measure, low latency video streaming is expected to optimally achieve a glass-to-glass (G2G) latency of sub 3 seconds and can be fine-tuned in exceptional circumstances as low as 1 second. Various factors will affect latency including access requirements (including subscription and encryption) as well as broadcast transit (fibre v satellite). G2G is the measurement of the time it takes for a packet of video (or audio) data to travel from video capture (the camera) to the delivery of the content to a viewing device (your screen).

When is ultra low latency most important?

Achieving low latency and ultra-low latency is more critical when viewing a live video stream with a time reference. A delay in a live stream will be much more noticeable to a human viewer, and can cause issues for certain types of users and content. Let us look at the areas of live video streaming that are most affected by latency, and will benefit the most from ultra low latency solutions:

Online gaming

When participating in online gaming, ultra-low latency is more important, as delays, or buffering, will impair/frustrate the user experience significantly.

Auction participation

When taking part in a live auction, users require ultra-low latency to ensure they can keep up with the bidding.

Online trading

Modern trading platforms offer real-time access to users for clear and obvious reasons. Access to the most up-to-date trading data, such as share prices, or more critically, forex charts where volatility can play a big part in trading decision-making, is a prerequisite for successful trading.

Live sporting events

Consumer satisfaction can reduce dramatically and quickly if low latency is not achieved when viewing a live sporting event. This can exacerbated if the discrepancy between differing end user devices (such as desk top versus mobile) lead to one user receiving an inferior (delayed) experience compared to the other.

Online gambling

Again, for all the reasons mentioned above, an online gambling platform requires speeds of delivery that offer a real-time experience for the participant. This is heightened for InPlay gambling when it is vital to place bids before the market, or platform odds change.

Video conferencing

This type of interactive viewing must achieve low or ultra-low latency to be viable and inclusive sop that remote contributions are in time with live events being discussed, or debated. This also applies to the online live chat scenario.

Any type of interactive online viewing platform, including the provision of tutorials, will strive for ultra low latency to ensure seamless interaction with minimal delay that is unnoticeable to the viewer.

In addition to the everyday viewer, ultra low latency should be addressed and achieved for use in military communications and applications, such as situational awareness and the delivery of critical intelligence information in real time.

As providers of streaming services introduce more multi-protocol technologies, tools and applications, the industry is beginning to see the emergence of more ultra low latency solutions.