What latency is and why it is so important to keep it low

Find out why it is so important to keep latency as low as possible and how it relates to 5G technology.

Communication Team

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Reading time: 4 min

What is latency?

Latency refers to the time delay in transmitting information packets over a network.

With the advance of digital transformation, accelerated with the COVID-19 pandemic by three to five years, having a low latency is fundamental and even critical depending on the sectors we are talking about, and which require it in order to digitize, especially those that need to be operated in real time, or almost real time.

Latency and 5G: the millisecond

As mentioned above, by latency we mean the delay between sending and receiving information. With 4G, latency is 200 milliseconds, while with 5G it can be drastically reduced, down to one millisecond.

This is an enormously significant difference compared to 2G at the end of the last century, where latency could range from 500 milliseconds to one second.

The advent of 5G technology is arguably the millisecond revolution.

This great leap in the quality of connectivity that involves the decrease in latency is caused by the elimination of intermediate steps (nodes) in the data path. In other words, the more steps, the longer the delay and therefore the higher the latency. 

The fact is that 5G is not just a new generation of mobile telephony, but a revolution thanks to the practical applications for countless sectors or the possibility of extending ultra-broadband coverage in rural areas. In other words, 5G technology brings numerous advantages for sectors such as tourism, energy, automotive and healthcare.

5G and hyperconnectivity through low latency

Adding the speed to the low latency of the fifth generation of mobile telephony technologies, the era of hyperconnectivity is being established, a reality that, thanks to the IoT (Internet of Things), will show its full potential.

Hundreds and hundreds of millions of devices will be connected to each other, but also to ourselves, something that will make our day-to-day life at home easier thanks to a more effective and efficient use of our household appliances.En el ámbito industrial y empresarial también se notará debido a que la tecnología hará que mejoren los modelos productivos al sacar el máximo partido a los servicios cloud, la robotización o la inteligencia artificial.

Of particular relevance will also be this hyper-connectivity to make cities smarter and also more sustainable.  This environmental friendliness of ultrafast 5G connectivity and digital solutions is not only limited to the field of connected cities, as carbon emissions will be reduced in several sectors, with industry, transport, utilities and household energy benefiting the most.

Low latency to help society

Why low latency is critical for the healthcare sector

As in other sectors, low latency linked to 5G technology is essential, although in healthcare it is likely to become critical.

A concrete example of this relevance can be seen in 5G surgery, where high latency can be fatal. Other medical uses that may benefit from this technology include group rehabilitation for patients with multiple sclerosis (combined with virtual reality) or immersive music therapy with 5G and virtual reality to treat neurodegenerative diseases.

How low latency helps the industry

On the other hand, industry is facing a radical transformation towards digitisation and greater efficiency, mobility and flexibility in its processes. 5G combined with fibre and other emerging technologies such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence is driving digitisation and the move towards Industry 4.0.

From pioneering projects in the 5G digitisation of factories for industrial processes to the reinforcement of security in industrial and port traffic, the relevance of low latency is also proven for this important sector.

Connected car: not without low latency

Road safety is no exception and is also being improved with the advancement of technology.

Specifically in the field of the connected car, ultra-low latency helps drivers to anticipate their decisions, as demonstrated in this use case where assisted driving showed the detection of pedestrians, cyclists or vehicles to avoid collisions or collisions.

Having vehicles or road infrastructures as interconnected city sensors will allow decisions to be made in advance and with room for manoeuvre, helping to create more efficient and safer cities.

How to improve latency

Apart from the boost that these technological advances are bringing to many sectors thanks to low data transmission delays, other areas, such as gaming, can also be affected by latency. To avoid scares, particularly annoying depending on the type of game you are playing, there are other elements that can be taken into account to reduce the time it takes for data to be transmitted:

  • Make your connection via cable rather than WiFi.
  • If you connect via WiFi, check the status of your wireless network and where the booster is placed.
  • Check the connection cable.
  • Check the processes that consume the most resources and cancel them if they are essential.
  • Make sure no one steals your WiFi.
  • Change the DNS.
  • If you are on Wifi, optimise the channels.
  • From the mobile, always better with 5G.

Thus, low latency can help in numerous social sectors in different areas (from professional to leisure) by making our world more human by connecting people’s lives. Telefónica Tech is so clear about this that they have even called their podcast on cybersecurity, cluod, IoT, big data, artificial intelligence and blockchain Latencia Cero (Zero Latency in Spanish).


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