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What is Low Latency?

What is Low Latency?

The constantly evolving technology means it is essential to have fast and efficient systems in place. Whether you’re streaming videos online, playing video games, or working remotely, it makes no difference. Low latency ensures a smooth and uninterrupted experience everywhere. This article will explore the world of it and answer important questions, such as why it is so crucial.

What is Low Latency Meaning?

Latency is the duration between transmitting data from its source to its destination. Specifically, in computing, it measures the time that a computer requires to respond to a request. In simple terms, low latency implies that the computer responds to a user’s action with minimal delay.

Applications that require real-time communication, such as online gaming, video conferencing, and financial trading, place particular importance on low latency. In real-time communication, it means the minimum time duration between the sender and receiver, which is typically measured in milliseconds or even microseconds. As for video streaming, it refers to the duration taken for a video to move from the server to the user’s device.

What Causes Latency?

There are many reasons which lead to latency ranging from distance to the protocols used in communication. Described below are some of the causes behind latency:

  • Distance: It is one of the primary causes of latency. Data takes longer to travel between two points that are farther apart. That’s because data travels at a finite speed, and the longer the distance it has to travel, the more time it takes.
  • Network Congestion: A network with high traffic levels can experience congestion, leading to delays in data transmission. It is particularly problematic in large networks where multiple devices are trying to transmit data simultaneously.
  • Router and Switch Delays: If the routers and switches become overloaded with traffic, it also results in high latency. It is because routers and switches are devices that help to direct network traffic, and they have to analyze each packet of data and determine where it needs to be sent.
  • Processing Delay: The time it takes for a computer to process data can also cause latency. It happens due to factors such as the speed of the computer’s processor, the amount of memory available, or the complexity of the data in processing.
  • Protocol Overhead: Network protocols, such as TCP/IP, add additional data to the data in transmission, which can cause latency. It happens because the additional data needs analysis and processing by routers and switches, which can add to the overall delay.

Understanding Ultra-low Latency vs Low Latency

AspectUltra-Low LatencyLow Latency
DefinitionRefers to extremely minimal delays, aiming for the fastest possible data transmission.Describes a system designed to minimize delay, but not necessarily to the extreme extent of ultra-low latency.
Latency RangeMeasured in microseconds (µs) or nanoseconds (ns).Typically ranges from a few milliseconds (ms) to a few seconds.
Key ApplicationsHigh-frequency trading, real-time interactive applications (e.g., remote surgery, autonomous vehicles), specialized military and scientific research communications.Online gaming, video streaming, web browsing, general real-time communications (e.g., VoIP, video conferencing).
ImportanceCrucial in environments where decisions and actions must be made in an instant, often for financial, safety, or operational criticality.Important for improving user experience and responsiveness in consumer applications and some professional services.
ExampleA financial trading platform processing transactions in microseconds to gain a competitive edge.An online gaming platform reducing lag to ensure a smooth and responsive gaming experience.

How Important It is?

It is highly important wherever it plays a role. It makes a difference between the best and average service, whether it is real-time communication you are talking about or live video streaming. Read the following points to understand why it is important:

  • NextGen Voice and Video Chat: Next-generation voice and video chat services rely heavily on minimizing delays, lags, and interruptions in transmitting audio and video data. Achieving this goal leads to a smoother and more seamless user communication experience.
  • Enhanced User Experience: In any application that demands real-time data transmission, having low latency can determine the quality of the user experience. It is crucial in preventing delays and guaranteeing swift and seamless content delivery, whether it is a streaming video platform or an online game. As a result, overall user satisfaction is greatly enhanced.
  • Competitive Advantage: It is undeniable that low-latency services hold a significant competitive advantage over their rivals. In today’s fast-paced world, the speed at which you receive output or information is critical. This is particularly true in domains such as financial trading and online gaming.
  • Improved Efficiency: With low latency, the efficiency of a wide range of applications improves by a significant margin. The fields where low latency plays an important role range from online transactions to scientific simulations. Moreover, It helps reduce waiting times and increase the task completion speed.

Who Needs It?

A wide range of applications where real-time communication or near-instantaneous response times are critical needs it. Here are some examples of who needs:

  • Gamers: Gaming is one of the most common applications requiring low latency. Gamers require it to ensure that their actions in the game happen quickly and that the game responds instantly to their commands. Besides, high latency in online gaming can cause lag, which can adversely affect their performance in the game.
  • Telecommunication Companies: Low latency is essential for telecommunication companies to provide smooth and uninterrupted video conferencing, streaming, and other communication services. High latency can adversely affect user experience, resulting in delays, buffering, and poor quality.
  • Healthcare: Providing remote medical care to patients through telemedicine has become a prevalent method among healthcare professionals. Low latency is essential to ensure that the video and audio streams synchronize with minimal delay, enabling doctors to diagnose and treat patients effectively.
  • Financial Traders: Another industry that requires low latency is finance. In fast-paced markets, where timing is everything, financial traders rely on it to execute trades swiftly. High latency can lead to lost opportunities and impact a trader’s profitability.
  • Live Streamers: Live streaming has become the cornerstone of online earning. To ensure that their content reaches their viewer instantly, live streamers prefer low-latency live streaming services.

How Does Low Latency Work

One approach is using specialized hardware and software optimized for low-latency communication. These include application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). Another approach is to reduce the distance between the communicating parties by using edge computing or content delivery networks (CDNs) that cache content closer to the end users.

It reduces the network hops required for data travel, significantly reducing latency. In addition, protocols and algorithms can be optimized to minimize latency. To illustrate, the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) can cause considerable latency because it handles data packets.

In general, reducing the delay between input and output signals to achieve it demands a combination of hardware, software, and network optimization techniques.

How to Improve Low Latency

There are several ways to improve it and take it one step further to ultra-low latency. These range from using faster networks to reducing the data load. Here are some general techniques that can help improve:

  • Use a Faster Network: Latency is largely determined by the network speed that data travels over. Upgrading to a faster network can help. You can achieve it by increasing the network bandwidth or reducing the data travel distance.
  • Optimize Data Transfer: One can decrease the amount of data that requires transfer by compressing data, using a more efficient protocol, or minimizing unnecessary network requests. For instance, instead of sending large data files, one can send only the changes made to the file.
  • Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN): CDNs distribute networks of servers worldwide, serving content from the server that is closest to the user and enabling faster access to the content. They can significantly reduce latency for applications that involve serving large amounts of content by caching content closer to the user.
  • Reduce Processing Time: When processing data, reducing the time required to do so can help minimize latency in the application. You can attain this goal by optimizing algorithms, using parallel processing, or decreasing the number of operations that the system has to execute.
  • Use a Faster Storage System: If the application involves accessing data from storage, upgrading to a faster storage system can help. It is achievable by using solid-state drives instead of hard disk drives or opting for a storage system with a higher rate of IOPS.

Why Low Latency Is Essential in Real-time Applications

Low latency is critical in real-time applications because it ensures immediate feedback and interaction, which are paramount for the functionality and user experience of these systems. In scenarios such as online gaming, live video streaming, or real-time analytics, high latency can disrupt the flow of information, leading to delays that diminish the quality of service and user satisfaction.

For instance, in online gaming, any lag can affect gameplay, making the game less competitive and enjoyable. Similarly, in financial trading, delays in data transmission can result in lost opportunities and significant financial implications. Therefore, low latency is essential to facilitate swift, seamless interactions that align with user expectations and the demands of instant decision-making processes.

Moreover, beyond user experience, low latency is vital for the safety and efficiency of operations in critical applications such as autonomous driving and remote surgery, where every millisecond counts. In these contexts, delayed responses could have dire consequences, including risking human lives.

Low latency ensures that data and commands are transmitted almost instantaneously, enabling real-time responses and adjustments. This capability is crucial for maintaining operational integrity, ensuring safety, and enabling the practical implementation of technologies that rely on immediate data processing and feedback loops. Hence, the importance of low latency transcends convenience, becoming a fundamental requirement in applications where real-time responsiveness is critical for success and safety.

Top 3 Solutions for Achieving Low Latency Video Streaming

When looking for low-latency video streaming solutions, you will come across many options. As it can be hard for you to determine which option is better, we have selected the top 3 solutions below:


If you want to get the greatest number of features with ultra-low latency, the best choice is ZEGOCLOUD Live Streaming SDK & API. It offers latency of less than 1 second, ensuring viewers see the content in real-time and can interact seamlessly with streamers. This API supports over 10 million concurrent viewers in a single stream.

It is available all over the globe in 212 countries and territories. Other significant features of ZEGOCLOUD Live Streaming API & SDK include high resolution, co-hosting, recording, virtual gifts, face beautification, and many more.

2. Sendbird

Sendbird Live provides high-quality video and audio streaming with low latency and adaptive bitrates for different network conditions. Using this API, users can hold live events with up to 100K participants per event. This API is also highly scalable with 6 global AWS cloud region video infrastructures. Moreover, It also supports features such as chat, reactions, and polls.


3. VideoSDK

Another great low-latency video streaming solution is VideoSDK Interactive Live Streaming SDK. This SDK lets you integrate live video and audio streaming capabilities into their applications, enabling users to communicate in real time. Moreover, it provides support for a fully customizable UI and dynamic layout. This API’s other significant features include low latency, screen sharing, cross-platform support, co-hosting, live playback, etc.



To summarize, low latency is crucial in delivering viewers a seamless and high-quality live streaming experience. It ensures minimal delay between the broadcaster and the audience, making their interaction more engaging and natural. Therefore, selecting the right live streaming API is vital in achieving low latency. ZEGOCLOUD Live Streaming API stands out as the best choice among various options available.

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