By Jaheer Abbas, Senior Director, Sea & India, Limelight Networks
A key frustration for many viewers today is the delay between the broadcast feed and online stream. This is especially the case with live sports, online gaming and other real-time events, majorly impacting customer satisfaction.
Uncovering the cause of re-buffering, latency issues are inherent in the majority of streaming video formats for the internet. While the delays within a traditional broadcast signal path are consistent and can be easily controlled, this is not the case for the delays that occur as a result of unstandardized video formats. As such, viewers experience a delay of typically 30 seconds or more on average, which greatly hinders their viewing experience.
The Latency Challenge
Delivering content at low latency is key for an immersive viewing experience. Yet, this remains one of the biggest challenges faced by businesses around the world. With more organisations now delivering ‘live’ viewing experiences, this has required much lower latency than most streaming services deliver today.
While this challenge has been mitigated by Adobe Flash, support is being phased out on mobile devices and major web browsers. As a result, some organisations have turned to HTTP Live Streaming (HLS), or MPEG DASH – HTTP-based media streaming communications protocols – to overcome this challenge. However, HLS and DASH still result in high latencies due to their delivery as chunked streaming with buffering, and are thus not a viable option for all use cases. This results in a fundamental disconnect between technologies and industry use cases.
Therefore, organizations need a live streaming solution that is able to deliver predictable and consistent sub-second latencies to viewers in order for them to experience the action in near real-time on virtually any device, and from anywhere in the world.
Overcoming Latency with WebRTC
Speed remains at the core of the viewing experience. For industries that requires as close to zero latency as possible, a different approach needs to be taken as HLS and DASH cannot provide latency of less than one second, as a result of buffering of chunks prior to transmission that cause high latency.
Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC) technology has emerged as a new solution to this pervasive issue.
Delivering content at low latency is key for an immersive viewing experience
An open framework that enables the delivery of live video streams with less than one second of latency, it utilises fast and efficient UDP data transfer protocol, made possible by video streams that do not need to be segmented into chunks and buffered before delivery.
Moreover, the viewing experience is enhanced, with Adaptive Bitrate streaming that delivers the highest possible picture quality to each viewer, even over changing network conditions. With WebRTC, organisations will be able to easily implement this through scalable live video streaming workflows.
Real-time Delivery of Live streams to Any Audience
It is becoming increasingly common for viewers to use their mobile devices as their primary device for consuming online video content. According to Limelight’s State of Online Video Report 2018, most Asian viewers prefer watching videos on their smartphones. However, this means added complexity to the web infrastructure of organizations looking to deliver content across devices. Delivering content across desktops, mobile browsers, and dedicated mobile applications means that multiple versions of their content need to be developed and delivered in the appropriate format to each device which supports different capabilities. This challenge is compounded by the geographical dispersion of viewers around the world, and on varying network conditions.
To provide all viewers with the best possible viewing experience, this revolutionary technology is designed to be flexible in its implementation, as it is natively supported by all major browsers and devices without the need for special software or plug-ins, making it easy for viewers to enjoy real-time video on a variety of devices. In addition, WebRTC offers global scalability, delivering live broadcast-quality video from anywhere in the world, to anywhere in the world, with less than one second of latency.
The Future of Live streaming
For many viewers across the globe, a seamless viewing experience is pertinent. As live streaming increasingly gains traction, organisations are facing greater pressure to address the latency challenge. In particular, by developing two areas of focus: increasing its capacity and making more features available.
As WebRTC is ideal for applications where perceived latency is critical, it has the potential to provide endless opportunities for organisations to deliver content at near real-time, in broadcast quality and to virtually any device, anywhere.
Ultimately, organisations should make investments that improve the efficiency of their workflows, and business opportunities by prioritising the needs of their end users. WebRTC will be a useful tool to enable the streaming of live-video at near real-time for greater engagement and interactivity, and it is time that organisations optimise the benefits that it can bring to their business.