Understanding the Differences Between HLS and Low-Latency HLS

4 min read
March 18, 2024

Reducing latency, or delay, is essential for ensuring a smooth viewer experience during video streaming. Therefore, having an efficient streaming protocol is essential to minimise this delay. While the HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) protocol is renowned for its reliability, it falls short for applications such as live sports or interactive events where real-time delivery is paramount. This is where Low-Latency HLS (LL-HLS) comes into play as an extension of HLS specifically designed to minimise delays. In this article, we'll delve into the key disparities between HLS and LL-HLS, aiding you in selecting the most suitable technology for your streaming requirements. So, let's dive in!

Table of Contents

  1. What are HLS and LL-HLS?
  2. Differences between HLS and LL-HLS
  3. Go beyond HLS and LL-HLS: Achieve real-time video streaming with Digital Samba
  4. Conclusion

What are HLS and LL-HLS?

HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) is a video streaming protocol designed by Apple that has already gained its fair share of fame. HLS reliably delivers video content across varying internet connections and devices by breaking a video stream into smaller chunks, which are then offered at different quality levels. Your device automatically selects the most suitable quality for a smooth viewing experience.

While HLS excels at resilience, it also has higher latency (a slight delay between when something is filmed and when you see it). That’s where LL-HLS (Low-Latency HLS) comes in! It’s an enhancement to the original HLS protocol that specifically tackles that delay issue to bring real-time video delivery closer to reality.

Here's how LL-HLS achieves this:

  • Shorter chunks: Instead of waiting for the whole video segment to be ready, LL-HLS sends out smaller portions as soon as they're available.
  • Faster delivery: These smaller chunks travel more quickly to your device, reducing the wait time and speeding up your streaming experience.

Overall, LL-HLS is an extension of HLS designed for lower latency streaming. This makes it perfect for interactive live broadcasts, sports events, or scenarios where near-real-time viewing is essential.

Differences between HLS and LL-HLS

HLS and LL-HLS are both widely used protocols for delivering video over the internet. Though they are related, they have some key differences:

Latency (Delay):

  • HLS: In standard HLS, a focus on stream reliability can lead to latencies of 10–30 seconds or more. This delay is acceptable for pre-recorded content but less than ideal for live scenarios.
  • LL-HLS: Specifically designed for near-real-time streaming, LL-HLS can reduce latency to as low as 2-3 seconds, making it suitable for highly interactive events.

Segment sizes:

  • HLS: Uses larger video segments (e.g., 6–10 seconds) to ensure smooth playback even with fluctuating network connections.
  • LL-HLS: Employs smaller "partial segments" (often sub-second in length). These chunks are sent to the viewer's device as soon as they are encoded, minimising the wait time.


  • HLS: Enjoys widespread support across browsers, devices, and operating systems, making it a versatile choice.
  • LL-HLS: Has growing support but remains primarily an Apple-driven technology. It may not work seamlessly on every device.

Use cases:

  • HLS: Well-suited for standard video-on-demand and non-interactive live streams where a few seconds of delay don't pose an issue.
  • LL-HLS: Excels in situations demanding near-real-time interaction, such as live events, sports broadcasts, auctions, online gaming, and other time-sensitive applications.

LL-HLS builds upon HLS to significantly reduce video streaming delays. For the lowest possible latency, LL-HLS is the way to go. However, if maximum compatibility is your priority and some delay is tolerable, standard HLS is still an excellent and reliable option.

Go beyond HLS and LL-HLS: Achieve real-time video streaming with Digital Samba

Are you looking for a reliable, scalable, and easy-to-set-up video conferencing solution for your application or website? Look no further than Digital Samba! While HLS and LL-HLS protocols are commendable, they do have limitations when it comes to achieving genuinely real-time interaction. This is where Digital Samba excels. Leveraging resilient WebRTC technology, we facilitate seamless real-time streaming. 

Here are some reasons to choose the Digital Samba SDK/API for real-time video conferencing:

If you prioritise live interaction with minimal delay, Digital Samba offers a powerful and user-friendly way to bring real-time video conferencing directly into your application.


The ideal streaming protocol for you depends on your specific needs. HLS is stable and compatible with numerous devices, making it perfect for general video streaming. But if you require lightning-fast interaction, LL-HLS offers minimal delay, making it perfect for live events or any scenario where users must respond swiftly.

But if the absolute lowest delay is essential, consider Digital Samba. We use WebRTC for real-time video conferencing, which is of great quality and has an easy setup procedure.

Whether it's live sports, interactive auctions, or anything demanding instant responses, Digital Samba delivers a top-notch experience. Sign up to get started and take advantage of our 10,000 free HD video call minutes.

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