Ultra Low-Latency Streaming Basics

Posted in Latency, Streaming on Apr 12, 2022

Ultra Low-Latency Streaming Basics

Live events, it turns out, may be anything but. Despite advancements in streaming platforms and technologies, less than one second in latency between source and user device is rare. Otherwise known as Ultra-Low Latency Streaming.

Ultra Low-Latency Streaming is more than simply buying the newest devices and the fastest router. It involves how data processes between source and destination — a maze of encoders, buffers, and transcoders. Each deserves its own blog, but today we're examining the basics of latency and how it relates to Ultra-Low Latency Streaming. A streaming partner can help you achieve this milestone in content delivery for your streaming organization.


Video latency in live streaming refers to the time between when a video frame is collected and presented to the viewer. Video latency, in a sporting event, is the time between when a play occurs in real life and when it displays on your screen. It is the delay that viewers experience when comparing their device feed to events as they happen.

Latency occurs in broadcasts simply because it takes time to process and transfer live footage. Of course, it doesn't take too long — especially with the right tools. Despite optimization, each stage in the process will inevitably incur a slight delay.

This is due to the time necessary for the five major functions in content delivery:

  • Camera image processing
  • Encoders preparing the stream
  • Transmission between source and user destination
  • Allocation for buffering
  • Device decoding for final video display

The time each of these steps takes, varies depending on the hardware, devices, and software used. It is crucial to align your technology with the kind of streaming you want to achieve. Live streaming, for instance, will have a much different set of challenges than VOD or podcast streaming. Choosing the wrong strategy could lead to excessive latency or disrupt your stream entirely.

Addressing just one or two of these delays may not correct the speed of your stream to achieve Ultra-Low Latency Streaming. All of the pieces must align for optimal stream performance.

Why Strategy Matters in Ultra-Low Latency Streaming

With so many moving pieces, why can’t we skip all of the above steps? If you’ve ever moved data between computers, you know that many files (especially those including high-resolution audio and video) take an enormous amount of time to transfer. The same can be said for streaming, which takes all of that information and transmits it near-instantaneously.

Our networks achieve sub-second latency, allowing for up-to-the-second streaming of sports matches, live events, and breaking news. Most sports providers using outdated methods can experience difficulties getting below 15 seconds to 1 full minute of latency. To accomplish streaming delays of less than one second, we match clients' needs with our technology platforms. This ensures every connection is optimized and the final product meets the most stringent viewer demands.

Think of a sub-par strategy like playing a VCR on a Smart HDTV. One end of the equation is fast and agile, but the source material (a dusty tape) will still bring quality limitations to the final outcome.

Solutions for better streaming may include dedicated content delivery networks, high-performance encoders, or an overhaul of internal systems. On the other hand, it might simply take a quick peek from an expert streaming team to set better parameters for content delivery.

To learn more about improving the quality of your streams, and significantly increasing your audience, please reach out. We love to help.

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