What is latency? – and Why Does it Matter

What is latency? – and Why Does it Matter

This blog post was published before O3b Networks transitioned to SES Networks.

At O3b we are passionate about the value our low latency, fiber-like capability delivers customers. It is crucial for application acceleration, network optimization and ensures the quality of user experience.

But what is latency? Why does it matter? Why should you care?

To put it simply, latency is the time between initiation of an action and the effects of that action. For example, the delay users experience when loading a web page, or the delay callers hear on their phones, the time it takes an email to leave your outbox and arrive in the recipients inbox, or the time between typing www.facebook.com and seeing your fully loaded newsfeed.

Latency is determined by two factors – the length of the route that data has to travel between sender and receiver, and the interaction between the TCP reliability and congestion control protocols. There are many causes of latency, but no matter its origin, high latency will dramatically affect the operation of any application.
Around the world, high latency linked with limited connectivity has stunted both social and economic development.  Slow and unreliable internet access makes it virtually impossible to deploy resources like tele-medicine, or engage in global market opportunities. Limited connectivity is particularly apparent in underdeveloped cities and remote regions. As a result, younger generations are leaving their families to move to more developed cities with better business and education opportunities, and these remote communities are shrinking.

Beyond these secluded regions, high-latency is having a significant impact on billion-dollar industries. Every year, more markets are shifting their business models from physical products to online services (i.e. Netflix) and measuring success to the thousandth of a second.

The virtual gaming industry is a great example. Now more than ever, gamers are interacting online and playing against people from all over the world. In these situations latency isn’t only a nuisance, it’s impacting user experience and the result of the game. Gaming companies have found that even a two second delay can result in abandonment rates of up to 87 percent. In an effort to avoid unhappy customers and a series of negative reviews splashed across the internet, gaming, streaming and online business organizations are heavily invested in resolving latency challenges worldwide.

That’s why we’ve made connecting the “other three billion” our mission. Promoting digital inclusion by deploying or improving mobile and broadband connections goes beyond propelling remote communities. More people engaging globally will ultimately lead to innovation, economic stimulation and sustainment of traditional communities.  In fact, today we are working closely with our customers, enabling them to leverage the benefits and opportunities their low latency service can deliver their businesses, operations and end-user experience.