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Tencent RTC Blog
Tech

Breaking Tech Barriers: What is Low Latency?

Tencent RTC - Dev Team - null

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The term "Low Latency" has become increasingly important in the world of technology. But what does it actually mean? This article aims to explain what is low latency, why it's crucial in our technology-driven world, how to identify the type of latency that's appropriate for your specific situation, and the technological strategies used to reduce latency. Let's get started!

What is Low Latency?

So, what does low latency mean? Low latency, in the world of video and real-time communication (RTC), refers to the minimization of delay between the initiation of an event and the time when it is perceived or received on another end. Typically, latency is expected in data transmission due to various steps involved such as camera capture, encoding, network transmission, decoding, and more. Each of these steps consumes time, often fractional seconds, but cumulatively, they can produce noticeable latency.

For example, you might have noticed your neighbors cheering on a goal that hasn't yet appeared on your screen—this scenario indicates varying latency levels between different streaming networks.

The Importance of Low Latency

low latency is not just a technical term but a cornerstone for effective communication. Let's explore why low latency is crucial in video and RTC, and its impact on user experience and business operations.

  • Teleconferencing and Remote Work: In a world where remote work and virtual meetings have become the norm, low latency is pivotal. Delays in communication can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and reduced productivity.
  • Live Streaming and Broadcasting: For live broadcasters, whether it’s for gaming, events, or news, low latency mode ensures that viewers receive real-time updates without significant delays, creating a more engaging and interactive experience.
  • Education and Training: In online education, low latency allows for more interactive and responsive teaching, closely mimicking a traditional classroom environment.
  • Telemedicine: In healthcare, real-time communication can be critical. Low latency enables smoother consultations, remote surgeries, or patient monitoring, reducing risks and improving outcomes.
  • Financial Services: In the world of finance, where milliseconds can mean millions, low latency is crucial for real-time trading and decision-making.

What Category of Latency Fits Your Scenario?

To select the appropriate latency category for your situation, consider these typical latency/delay parameters:

  • Video on demand (movies, Netflix, etc): With a typical latency of around 10 to 60 seconds, this grade is suitable for the streaming of non-interactive content.
  • Live broadcast, no interaction: A live broadcast with no audience interaction might experience delays of about 6 to 18 seconds.
  • One-to-many live stream with light audience interaction: In this category, where there's limited audience interaction, we might see latencies in the range of 2 to 3 seconds.
  • One-to-many live stream with heavy interaction: In a scenario that requires the host to interact with the audience in real-time, latencies less than 400ms are necessary.

Remember, high-quality video and audio demand more bandwidth which means bigger file size. If the size of the stream surpasses available bandwidth, delays or buffering might occur. Ideally, your platform should offer flexibility between video quality and latency, based on the use case and network conditions.

Low latency streaming also gets affected by various factors including encoding process, network issues, packet loss, and certain network architectures. If engineered well, these challenges can be overcome to deliver a rich, interactive streaming experience.

In essence, the right latency level depends on the specific requirements of your scenario. It is key to balance user experience, technical factors, and cost while choosing your latency grade.

Technological Approaches to Achieving Low Latency

Here are some of the best technological approaches to achieve low latency:

Choosing the Right Codec

The process of encoding converts raw video into a digital format appropriate for transmission. In this context, codecs (encoder/decoder) compress the raw video to a size compatible with internet transmission requirements. The balance among perceptible quality, bandwidth availability, and latency requirements traverses a tight rope. That said, choosing the correct codec depending on transmission needs helps minimize latency. For instance, the H.264 codec is renowned for its efficient compression and good video quality, a suitable choice for low latency streaming.

Employing Managed Networks and RTE Platforms

Managed networks enable companies to control their own network infrastructure. Consequently, this allows them to bypass conventional ISPs and provide high-speed direct connections to their services. Real-time Engagement (RTE) platforms have extensive resources devoted to overcoming latency and other communication challenges. Such platforms allow businesses to focus on their core offerings while ensuring high-quality real-time engagement experiences for their users.

Utilizing Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

Adaptive Bitrate Streaming (ABS) is a sophisticated technology designed to optimize the video streaming experience. It functions by dynamically adjusting the video quality in response to the user's internet speed. This intelligent adjustment ensures a continuous, stable stream even in fluctuating network conditions. ABS is particularly effective in minimizing buffering delays, a common issue that significantly contributes to latency. By constantly adapting the video quality to the available bandwidth, ABS ensures a seamless viewing experience, maintaining video fluidity and reducing interruptions due to buffering.

Upgrading Network Infrastructure and Implementing QoS Protocols

Optimizing the Network Infrastructure is a vital aspect of achieving low latency in video and RTC. This process involves upgrading critical components like routers and switches to more advanced models that handle data more efficiently. Additionally, the implementation of Quality of Service (QoS) protocols is essential. QoS prioritizes video and voice traffic over less time-sensitive data, ensuring that these services receive the necessary bandwidth for smooth and uninterrupted transmission. These upgrades and configurations play a pivotal role in minimizing delays, thus providing a more seamless and real-time communication experience.

Using Tencent RTC

Tencent's RTC (Real-Time Communication) platform has emerged as a potent tool for low latency. Tencent RTC offers a reliable and secure global network connection. The platform uses a multi-level addressing algorithm developed by Tencent Cloud that can connect to nodes across the entire network. Its extensive high-bandwidth resources and globally-distributed edge servers enable it to maintain an average end-to-end latency below 300 ms across various countries and regions.

Moreover, Tencent RTC reduces stuttering through intelligent QoS control and optimized encoding, ensuring high-quality, smooth, and stable audio/video communication. It possesses superior video/audio quality that even supports 720p and 1080p video calls under a packet loss rate of 70%.

Its adaptive features, client SDKs, easy integration processes, and scenario-specific components make Tencent RTC an efficient and comprehensive solution for achieving low latency in real-time communication. By using Tencent RTC during video calls, users can experience a high-quality real-time audio/video interaction characterized by low latency and low stutter rate.

Conclusion

To wrap up, it's evident that the question, "What is low latency?" is crucial when addressing the performance of different technological networks. Appreciating its importance helps align our usage scenarios with the appropriate latency categories, while various technological methods aid optimum latency reduction. Ultimately, the pursuit of low latency is a journey towards an efficient, seamless, and nearly real-time digital experience.

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