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Limelight Tries to Lick Latency for Live OTT Video

Jeff Baumgartner
9/17/2018
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Looking to bridge an important technical gap between the traditional TV and OTT-TV worlds, Limelight Networks claims it has come up with a way to deliver "sub-second" latencies on live, Internet-delivered video streams.

That would vastly reduce today's latencies on live OTT video -- typically in the range of 30 to 40 seconds driven by slowdowns caused by elements such as ingest, transcoding and the transport of the video itself to the viewer -- and enable that video to reach online viewers at about the same time that the regular TV audience sees it.

Reducing that latency would put OTT more on par with traditional TV as increasing numbers of consumers use virtual MVPDs and other online sources to watch sports matchups and other live events. Those latencies can also reveal "spoilers" inadvertently, as the regular TV audience tweets out results that are posted well before the OTT-TV audience sees them happen on-screen. Eliminating (or vastly reducing) those latencies can also enable OTT audiences to synch up with polls and other types of interactive information being paired up with the live program.

Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW) said other applications for its new offering, called Realtime Streaming, include online auctions, in-game online gambling and betting, and health and social care offerings that require the video and embedded data to be shared at the same time without the need for extra proprietary equipment or systems.

Limelight, the company behind a content delivery network and edge cloud services, said its sub-second offering is initially being supported natively on "major" browsers.

Adobe Flash can achieve latencies of about two seconds, but requires those aforementioned special plug-ins that likewise can open up security holes, Mike Milligan, senior director at Limelight, explained.


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In a paper outlining the approach, Limelight also believes that Adobe Flash's use of Real Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP) to cut down latency lacks support from Apple and iOS, while its frequent updates make that approach "painful to use."

Milligan said the company has been conducting trials with its new technology for more than eight months, and that the company expects to be in full production with it toward the end of September.

Limelight, which is demonstrating Realtime Streaming at this week's IBC show in Amsterdam, is using standard WebRTC video format to bring its sub-second capabilities to all "major" web browsers without requiring special software of plug-ins. Limelight said its Realtime Streaming system also runs over User Datagram Protocol (UDP), and achieve sub-second latency in part because video is not transmitted in ten-second chunks that can cause buffering.

"While WebRTC was originally intended for peer-to-peer communication, Limelight is deploying it as a unidirectional video channel connection to end user viewers to deliver low latency live video streams," the company explains in its technical paper.

Limelight isn't alone in developing new systems that target lower latencies. A startup called Haste is having discussions with cable operators and other ISPs about ways to package and sell a low-latency service tailored for PC gamers. (See Haste Sounds Out ISPs on Low-Latency Service for Gamers .)

While online gaming is currently at the center of Haste's efforts, its technology could also be suitable for high-speed trading, online betting, video and other latency-sensitive apps and services.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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