Latency refers to the total delay that occurs in the transmission of a message over a link in computer networks. When you touch or click on a link in your browser, some data transfer takes place.

After all, data has to physically go from one point to another and come back. These arrivals and departures take place within a certain period of time and this means delayed answers instead of instant answers.

The time it takes to complete the transmission of the data and reach the desired location is an important variable that determines the speed of your internet connection. While it is not a big problem for a web page to take a few seconds to load, a few hundred milliseconds delay in an online game can upset you.


There are two main delays that determine latency. These;

1) Transmission Delay (Transmisson Delay)

2) Propagation Delay

Transmission delay is the time it takes for M bits of data to be put on the transmission channel.

T = M (bits) / R (bits per second) in this equation, R represents the data rate and represents the transmission bandwidth. Simply a 1 Mbps connection will introduce much less latency for the same amount of data than a 56 kbps connection.

Propagation delay is the time it takes for the data in the transmission channel to reach its destination. It is found by dividing the distance by the speed of the electromagnetic wave.

D = Length (m) / speed of the signal in the channel (m/second) this delay is determined by the physical properties of the transmission medium.

For example, in a wireless or fiber optic transmission, the transmission speed is the speed of light, while in a wired connection this speed is half the speed of light. As such, there is less delay in wireless and fiber optic transmissions.

Only when the probability of error is very high, especially in wireless transmission, will cause delays in error detection and correction.

These two delays will give the total Latency. L = T + D

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