Transmission quality is important in any kind of communication. Be it having a conversation in a noisy bar, a phone call with bad reception or a video call on a public hotspot, bad communication quality can always make a conversation tedious or hard to follow, but when dealing with professional interpretation, the quality standards for transmissions rise even higher.
This is due to the fact that a professional interpreter does more than translate. He not only understands what you say but what you mean and communicates your message in another language — he transcreates its meaning. Listening, observing, understanding and recreating simultaneously is an incredibly challenging cognitive task. To be able to do it, the interpreter needs to hear and see the speaker clearly. He needs to hear the nuances in his speech, as well as see the facial expression and gestures of the speaker to fully understand the message. Striving for the best possible quality is key in video remote interpretation.
Optimising for quality happens on many different levels. The headsets used by the speaker and interpreter, the way the software is built, the speed and stability of the internet connection all influence transmission quality.
With the prevalence and speed of wireless connections, though, it might come as a bit of a surprise that switching from a wireless to a wired LAN connection can help improve quality significantly. This improvement is not due to a difference in speed between the two connection types. Both are perfectly capable of transmitting data fast enough, but a wired connection clearly beats the wireless one in reliability.
While the risk of losing data sent through a wire is very low, a packet of data sent through Wi-Fi runs the risk of being distorted by various sources of interference such as your neighbor’s Wi-Fi, a microwave, a cordless phone or simply not reaching the other end because your computer is too far away for the signal to reach the router reliably.
In day-to-day life, we tend not to notice this because the protocol used for most web services, the transmission control protocol or TCP, mitigates the packet loss, requesting lost packages to be sent again. Say, for example, you are uploading a picture to a website. The picture will be split into small packets of data, the packets are numbered and sent to its destination. Should your computer not receive confirmation that the twelfth packet arrived, it continues resending it until confirmation for the delivery of that packet is received. Only then does it start to send the next one in the queue. As useful as this is for web surfing or the down- and uploading of files — prioritising safe over timely delivery becomes a problem when dealing with real-time communication. A perfect video feed of your conversational partner is of little use if it is too late.
That is why real-time communication uses a different protocol, the User Datagram Protocol or UDP. Compared to TCP, it is faster because it is capable of sending packets of information more rapidly after each other, partly due to it not waiting for a confirmation before it sends the next package. It allows for transmissions to stay fast and synchronized, but unfortunately, UDP is not perfect either since it does not allow for the recovery of the occasional packets lost.
To sum it up, the technical difference between the technology underlying video and audio streaming and most internet applications makes the switch from Wi-Fi to a wired LAN connection especially effective at improving transmission quality for real-time communication even further — allowing the interpreter to have the best material to work with.
The LAN cable might have gone out of fashion, but it can certainly play an important role in ensuring that your message reaches its audience — uninterrupted.