European Commission funds research to eliminate latency

Researchers from universities and enterprises across Europe are undertaking a project to minimise latency over the internet

Researchers in Europe have embarked on a new project to reduce latency across internet connections without having to pay for state-of-the-art technology.

The Reducing Internet Transport Latency (Rite) project is being funded by a €3.57m grant from the European Commission’s Framework 7 programme, which was set up to encourage science and technology research throughout the European Union.

Led by Norway's Simula Research Labs, others involved in the venture include Alcatel-Lucent, BT and the University of Aberdeen. The three-year study will look at significantly reducing, or hopefully eliminating, latency to benefit both business applications, such as videoconferencing, and more consumer-focused activities, such as gaming.  

“Every time you click on a web page or encounter a new scene in an online game there are all manner of things going on ‘under the hood',” said Rite’s project coordinator, Andreas Petlund. “Bandwidth is only about how many bits you can transfer per second, but speed is about how long it takes to complete a task.

“This depends on how long it takes for even a small message to get from A to B, and how many back-and-forth messages the protocols require even before data transfer can start. Then it can take a few more rounds of messages to get up to speed while the computers sense how much network capacity is currently available.”

Professor Gorry Fairhurst, an internet engineer from the University of Aberdeen who is working on the project, hopes it will not just be specific groups which benefit from the findings, but internet users as a whole – if the wider industry plays ball.

“Our vision is that the new methods will actually be adopted by the industry and we feel that’s a credible possibility,” he said. “We’re focused on one defined problem and we think there are fixes for this, but we have to change the current standards for the internet.

“This isn’t something that companies such as Microsoft and Apple will undertake lightly, but we expect they’ll take up what we’re doing because this has benefits for everyone. If we can’t do something that makes the rest of the world stand up and say, ‘OK, I get it, we’ll standardise it’, then we’ve failed.”

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