Low latency – 5G’s secret weapon

Jerry Foss is a Senior Lecturer and Subject Leader in Birmingham City University’s School of Computing and Digital Technology. Jerry has over 30 years of experience in intelligent networks, interactive services, broadband access, services development and more. He is currently pursuing a range of exciting research directions, including personalised and interactive TV, media asset management, the use of VR and AR for user services and real-time low latency networks.

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5G – faster, stronger, better

There are a number of contributing factors regarding the introduction of 5G, namely its predecessor’s inability to cope with the demands of an increasingly digitised society. One particularly prevalent area is latency – the time taken for a response across the web, especially for the transmission and reception of media content.  As 5G is more widely introduced over the next two-to-three years, one of its main advantages will be its ultra-low latency. The differences between 4G latency and 5G low latency are quite considerable, although it is worth noting that much of the latency comes from processing in the network switching, rather than the speed of transmission.

Apart from lower latency, users will experience faster downloads, especially on mobile (and users are turning to mobile rather than landline access). Furthermore, HD movies can be downloaded in a matter of seconds.

Low latency will radically improve wireless video, video games, and the world of AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality), which means more technologically-focused industries, such as gaming, will widely benefit from the introduction of low latency.

The benefits of low latency

Our research into low latency distribution will have numerous benefits from both a personal and business context. With over 70 percent of internet traffic consisting of video content – which is set to rise to 82 percent by 2021, around the same time as 5G’s wider rollout – there is a greater need for low latency, not just from the delivery and distribution to the end user, but also in the production process. The better quality the video, the better the ending and final distributed video for the user.

5G is particularly interesting due to the increasing location-based video acquisition – outside broadcasts that will have to configure access from the camera through to the production facilities using the best video quality. With the Commonwealth Games just around the corner for Birmingham, low latency will enable attendees and/or mobile users to engage with the activities in real time. There are also benefits to advertisers, as low latency affords a higher response rate and more meaningful engagement for the user.

Collaborating with business

In order to further explore real-time low latency networks, we have a collaboration with Nine Tiles, a Cambridge-based developer of network technologies for time-critical media. Specifically, we are using their Flexilink technology, whereby packet media data is rationalised through a network node to preserve low latency for the media. In doing so, it still allows other (“best effort”) user data to be accommodated in the stream.

Flexilink provides better quality of service (QoS), and user experience (UX) which is advantageous for applications in which live media is conveyed (CCTV, broadcast infrastructure and more).

Life-changing results

In order for 5G to be utilised and be fully successful, it must provide solid reliability as well as low latency. Our research into it will have benefits for businesses, SMEs and the wider world. Offering feature-rich services to end users will result in greater revenue-generating services based on rapidly producing content at all locations.

In greater society, AR and VR streaming requires high-speed data so the user can appreciate a better quality experience – any poor latency in the network may result in lagging of the view update to the viewer, which could cause dizziness and disorientation.

Many other sectors stand to gain from 5G.  For example, for transport, low latency is vital in the implementation of autonomous cars – keeping people safe in these automobiles will depend on reliable rapid data transactions and also allow the sharing of traffic data with other vehicles, process fast changes and quickly communicate with emergency services if required. The medical sector will also gain from rapid transfer of high-volume data, for example medical imaging.

Low latency is one of the key ingredients to the success of 5G, ensuring that the network will become a life-changing implementation that will benefit businesses, communities and the entire globe.

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Academic profile for Jerry Foss

Jerry Foss

Subject Leader

Jerry has over 30 years of experience in intelligent networks, interactive services, broadband access, services development and more. During his extensive career, he has collaborated with leading organisations such as BT, Siemens, Ninetiles and more. He is currently pursuing a range of exciting research projects, including personalised and interactive TV, media asset management, the use of AR and VR for user services, and real-time low latency networks. Most of Jerry’s projects all link to the impending introduction of 5G services.

Jerry would welcome collaborations with major TV and broadcast companies, broadcast workflow companies, and service providers within media and distribution.

Working in the following areas:

Web technologies