Latency: why response time is so important


Life is about decisions. Sometimes we have enough time to take them. Other times, we have to choose immediately between various options. Any delay can be detrimental and change the course of events. The most important thing when taking decisions is to have as much information as possible and a clear hierarchy of values.

The fast-paced society we live in requires humans and machines to cut response times to a minimum. Everything has to be in step and in sync. In this context, the 5G revolution brings to mind a word from the world of biology: latency. According to the dictionary definition, it is the time that elapses between a stimulus and the response it elicits. In medicine, latency is the time between a disease being contracted and the appearance of the first symptoms. A very topical concept.

In the world of telecommunications, and also of computing, latency is the sum of time delays within a network due to various factors affecting the transmission of data packets moving through it.

The fifth generation of mobile telephony drastically reduces the latency time to between five and one milliseconds, in other words 400 times less than the blink of an eye. This hyper speed will change our Internet browsing experience. It will take just a few seconds to download a song and a high-quality movie will download in very few minutes. The user experience with video games will also improve because online games will run much more smoothly and it will be easier to react to certain situations. And the same will happen with videoconferencing, which has become widespread during the pandemic.

Synchronisation between machines and driverless vehicles

Low latency will herald a great leap forward in industrial automation. Machines will communicate with each other with a level of reliability that will allow any errors to be corrected instantly. It will also make it easy to remotely control machines and robots with high precision in industrial environments, with efficiency improvements and huge savings for companies. A breakthrough in productivity.

We will be talking about mass communication between machines. The roll-out of 5G networks will be decisive in communication between devices (sensors, computers, robots, etc.), since densities of up to a million connected devices per square kilometre are expected.

And cutting response times will be key to the development of driverless and connected vehicles. The ability to react will be vital to avoid accidents in the new mobility, which will require information to be read, interpreted and managed at least as fast as we do when driving a vehicle. A whole new challenge that will impact the future of transport modes, communication routes and smart cities.