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Letter: Stream Latency Is a Non-Issue

A reader takes a divergent view

In response to David Bialik’s piece on latency: In what world does someone start a stream while still listening to the OTA broadcast?

Very few stations are hosting their own streams; most are using a mobile app, TuneIn, Radio.com or other hosting service, and many of those have so many advertisements built in that the top-of-the-hour news is heard at three past the hour.

Does a station care about the delay when they are asking people to tell Alexa to play WBZ News Radio?

TuneIn is a full 30 seconds behind Amazon’s feed, and I didn’t bother to check how far Alexa is behind the real thing, but my “traffic on the three’s” is playing at 44:30 past the hour on my Alexa device.

That’s the reason that in contest rule disclaimers, stations specifically say that they are not liable for digital delays when asking for Caller 10. By the time the stream listener hears the cue to call, the contest line has already gotten Caller 10’s information and hung up. Do you think iHeart, with their nationwide contests, are figuring out air-chain delays so the whole country gets the cue at the same time?

Even SiriusXM is not heard in real time, either on the app or using a SXM tuner. On my phone I have to configure the app to use the “live” stream instead of what the app sends down.

As for HD and analog switching, for the few stations that still do it, I have yet to hear one that was out of time, even when IBOC was used by WBZ(AM). BTW there is no station in the Boston or Manchester, N.H., market doing IBOC analog/digital so it is no longer an issue.

Going from WRKO(AM) to their HD simulcast on WZLX-HD2 there is a huge delay between the AM and the HD2, a good 20 seconds.

Do you think for one millisecond that iHeart cares about latency at that point?

From my laptop here at home through the modem to a server 20 miles away I get 14 milliseconds for a ping response. Three thousand miles away I get 50, to South Africa it is 250.

Unless your company is incredibly cheap and using a Comrex dial-up over POTS, latency is a non-issue.

The author, now retired, is a former radio chief engineer.

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