What is low latency and why is it needed? - Neos Networks

What is low latency and why is it needed?

What is low latency?

Low latency in networking means transmitting data with minimal delay. Learn all about low latency connectivity and how it could benefit your business.

What is latency?

In networking, latency is the time it takes to send a unit of data across a network.

When you send an image, video, or document to another user, that data packet is transmitted over various networks and devices before reaching its destination. Latency is the time this process takes, and it can be fast or slow, depending on your network.

How is latency measured?

To measure latency, you can ping another device to see the delay in receiving a reply. The response time is measured in fractions of a second, typically milliseconds (ms).

Networks with a fast response time have low latency, while those with a longer delay have high latency.

What is a low latency network?

A low latency network is one designed to minimise data transmission delays. They’re vital for applications that require near real-time access to data that changes rapidly, like financial trading or online gaming.

When is low latency important?

No one wants high latency. But minor delays needn’t be a game-changer if you want to live-stream a concert or send a non-urgent attachment to a colleague. The outcomes aren’t time critical.

By contrast, if you’re a stockbroker timing the market, any delay could cost you millions. Likewise, a gamer could win or lose a tournament depending on their streaming speed.

So low latency matters, whether you’re a business owner or a customer wanting the best experience.

Low latency network

Low latency network

What is ultra low latency?

Ultra low latency describes networks designed to transmit very high volumes of data with an extremely low delay – transmission is almost instantaneous.

Typically, ultra low latency connectivity is measured in milliseconds (ms) or nanoseconds (ns).

When is ultra low latency needed?

Ultra low latency is needed in various applications where minimising the delay between request and response is critical.

It’s common in financial trading, allowing traders to get accurate, real-time market data and buy and sell as quickly as possible. High-frequency, algorithmic trading systems rely on ultra low latency to make split-second decisions.

Ultra low latency can also be critical for real-time business communications, industrial automation, remote surgery and robotics, autonomous vehicles, online gaming, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).

What factors affect latency?

Several factors influence latency. Some can be fixed, while others are just part of the online experience.

Among the key contributors are:

  • Distance: The further the distance between your computer and the target server, the higher the latency.
  • Connection: Fibre optic is the fastest type of connection, closely followed by copper cable, then Digital Subscriber Line (DSL). Satellite internet is the slowest.
  • Hardware: Data is transmitted through various controllers, switches and routers, which affect latency. For example, an old or poor-quality router will produce high, rather than low, latency if it isn’t designed to support your internet speed.
  • Bandwidth: To achieve low latency, you’ll need more bandwidth. The faster the bandwidth, the sooner your data will be sent.
  • Ethernet vs. wireless: Ethernet typically has lower latency and more reliability than wireless connections such as Wi-Fi, as wireless signals are more susceptible to signal degradation and interference. However, microwave radio can actually provide an even faster transmission medium for certain point-to-point, low latency use cases.
  • Sharing: Latency can also be affected if the connection is shared across many services, particularly if the traffic is not prioritised to your device.

Investing in faster routers and dedicated high capacity business internet services are two ways to enable low latency even when transmitting large data packets over long distances.

Another is to use optical wavelengths, which provide superior bandwidth, allowing you to transport large data volumes over long distances faster.

Use cases for low latency networks

Low latency networks are vital for applications where minimising the delay between a request and a response is critical.

Here are some of the main applications for low latency connectivity:

  • Financial trading: Low latency plays a crucial part in trading infrastructure where quick decisions are made based on fast-moving data. Although a trading firm’s algorithms matter, best-in-class infrastructure is essential to maintain low latency and a competitive edge.
  • Online gaming: Low latency ensures a smooth online gaming experience. High-level gamers require minimum response times to beat the competition.
  • Autonomous vehicles: Driverless cars require low latency as they rely on real-time updates to function safely. For example, in a critical situation, a car might return control to the driver for safety reasons.
  • Enterprise collaboration systems: Video conferencing software like Teams and Zoom, cloud-based project systems, and instant messaging apps require low latency to work smoothly. High latency can lead to slow data sharing or communication breakdown.
  • Industrial automation and the Internet of Things (IoT): Low latency is critical to control robots in real-time manufacturing processes. In smart homes, smart cities and industrial and domestic IoT devices, rapid response to sensor data is vital for IoT devices to function correctly.
  • Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR): AR and VR applications rely on low latency to enable fast responses and create an immersive experience. High latency can mar performance and may even lead to cybersickness.
  • Healthcare: Low latency is critical for timely healthcare data exchange. For example, low latency networks help to ensure surgeons maintain precise control of surgical systems while operating
  • Emergency response systems: Emergency services, such as fire, police, and ambulance services, rely on low latency connectivity. It’s vital to ensure reliable, real-time communication to coordinate emergency responses.

Which connectivity solution provides the lowest latency?

Optical fibre is the choice for businesses that need to make time-critical decisions and outmanoeuvre their rivals. It uses Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM) technology to deliver high capacity, low latency connectivity.

DWDM technology:

  1. Is a layer 1 connectivity solution, which avoids processing over packet frames and improves on layer 2 Ethernet services.
  2. Increases bandwidth capacity by allowing multiple signals to be transmitted simultaneously.
  3. Transmits data quickly and securely by ensuring wavelengths don’t interfere with one another.
  4. Reduces overall cost by ensuring businesses get maximum performance and capacity from each fibre.
  5. Is over fibre, meaning its service latency is significantly shorter than that of copper.
  6. Allows you to determine routes across the network, giving you more control over latency.

DWDM technology empowers businesses to transport more data between sites quickly and cost-effectively, future-proofing networks to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

Low latency networks with Neos

If low latency connectivity is critical for your business, we can help. Our high capacity, low latency network is transforming connectivity for Critical National Infrastructure and businesses across the UK, so get in touch.


We’ll be happy to design a low latency network to supercharge your business.

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