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Streaming at the Speed of Now: Exploring the Significance of Ultra Low Latency

An illustration depicting the concept of latency in video streaming. The text describes factors contributing to latency such as video encoding duration, CDN usage, and segment length. It also introduces Ultra Low Latency (ULL) as a cutting-edge solution to minimize delays, achieving nearly real-time experiences for viewers.
What is latency?
In video streaming, latency refers to the delay or lag between the time a video is captured or encoded and when it is displayed to the viewer.
Imagine that your favorite team has scored a goal for which you find out through social media 20 seconds before you actually see it on your OTT content provider. You’re left twiddling your thumbs, aren’t you? 
For the most part, latency could be a point of frustration for the audience, as they might be missing out on time-sensitive content like news or TV sports.
Lower latency is desired in live streaming scenarios as it reduces the delay between real-time events and when they are displayed on the viewer’s screen.
High latency can have a negative impact on interactive live events as it can create a delay in communication or interaction between the streamer and the audience. 
What causes latency?
A number of factors could affect the “glass-to-glass” latency so let’s read about some of them below:
Video encoding duration
Encoding involves the process of converting raw video signals into a compressed digital format, which can be efficiently distributed over a network for streaming purposes. This encoding process requires time and resources, which leads to increased latency in the live stream.
The more advanced the encoding techniques used, the longer it takes to process each video frame, resulting in higher latency. In order to maintain video quality higher bitrates or more encoding passes may be required, further increasing the latency.
A CDN or a Content Delivery Network, is a distributed network of servers located in different geographical regions. Its purpose is to deliver web content such as images, videos, and other files, to users more efficiently.
CDNs have a widespread global presence with servers strategically positioned in various regions. This enables seamless video streaming for users worldwide by minimizing the distance data needs to travel, thereby reducing latency and improving the overall streaming experience.
Segment length
The segment length in live streaming refers to the duration of individual segments of video content that are transmitted from the server to the client. Short segment lengths can reduce latency in live streaming. This is because the server can start transmitting segments to the client more frequently, reducing the overall delay between capturing the video and its playback by the viewer. With longer segments, the server has to wait longer before it can start transmitting the next segment of video content.
Many modern live streaming protocols use adaptive bitrate streaming. In adaptive streaming, the segment length can dynamically adjust based on network conditions and client capabilities. This allows for optimizing latency while maintaining a smooth viewing experience.
What is Ultra Low Latency?
In the thrilling arena of live streaming, Ultra Low Latency is the superhero swooping in to save the day. It bridges the gap between real-time action and what you actually see on your screen.
Achieving ultra low latency requires a combination of technical innovations, including advanced encoding and delivery mechanisms, efficient network protocols, and optimized client-side processing.
An ultra-low latency video stream pushes the boundaries of "low latency streaming" to its limits, delivering an almost instant experience to the viewer, with a delay as short as 0.2 seconds to just 2 seconds. 
ULL is the future of online content delivery, and it's bringing us one step closer to experiencing the world in real-time, right from the comfort of our own screens.
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