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Introduction and research scope 

Broadly defined, latency is the time interval between stimulation and response. All services delivered over a communications network are subject to latency, which is a function of distance, network architectures, network equipment, service-processing algorithms, operational procedures, and other items. Latency impacts both consumer and enterprise services.

Latency can have a direct impact on the user experience; perceptible latency has a strong effect on user satisfaction and loyalty. If a consumer notices a delay, they may opt to search for a new service provider. Demanding, technology-savvy enterprises will include latency and failover latency requirements into their requests for service. Latency performance can be the difference between winning and losing business. Latency has a direct impact on network monetization. Meeting latency requirements directly impacts latency-sensitive, high-capacity wholesale services.

Latency impacts all elements of ICT (information and communication technology), ranging from IT and cloud services, to mobile networks, consumer broadband and video services, and the MPLS network. The scope and focus of this paper is latency performance on the optical metro access, metro core, and long-haul core of the optical layer.

The primary clients of this portion of the network are enterprises and internet content providers (ICPs) using high-capacity services, wholesale communications service provider (CSP) clients, and the CSPs' own retail operations business units. 5G network architectures and designs will have a tremendous impact on the access and aggregation portions of the network, but are just beyond the scope of this paper.

Low latency underpins carriers' ability to compete and win in verticals and applications

From a CSP revenue perspective, latency improvements could improve a broad spectrum of services and can potentially improve individual point services. CSPs face a multitude of challenges when determining a path for latency improvement:

  • Where will the revenue of the future come from?
  • What will be my optimal long-term target architecture to match future revenue streams?
  • What are the near-term, more tactical business and service opportunities that would be enabled by a low-latency network?

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