3G/4G wireless network latency: How did Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile compare in Q1 2015?

By Mike Dano

It's no secret that a significant amount of attention and interest are paid to wireless network speeds in the United States and globally. And LTE networks clearly provide faster download speeds than 3G networks.

However, relatively little attention has been paid to 3G and LTE latency speeds--which is notable considering a number of operators have pointed to improved latency as a major reason behind the push to LTE. Indeed, when Verizon announced its LTE deployment in 2010, the operator boasted that "the user plane latency achieved in LTE is approximately 1/2 (one-half) corresponding latency in existing 3G technologies. This provides a direct service advantage for highly immersive and interactive application environments, such as multiplayer gaming and rich multimedia communications."

Latency is defined as the time it takes for a source to send a packet of data to a receiver. Latency is typically measured in milliseconds. The lower the latency (the fewer the milliseconds), the better the network performance.

FierceWireless, with partner OpenSignal, hopes to shed some light onto the latency issue.

Below you'll find charts showing exactly how the carriers stacked up against each other in the first quarter across their different network technologies, from LTE to EV-DO Rev. A to eHRPD (a software solution that allows Verizon and Sprint to use existing CDMA towers to pass data packets over to the LTE network) to HSPAP (part of the HSPA upgrade path) to HSPA. You'll also find the raw data collected by OpenSignal that the charts are based on.

In the below charts, Verizon showed a slightly higher latency in LTE when compared with its competitors, though the difference likely is imperceptible to subscribers. Verizon and Sprint also slowed slightly higher latency figures in their 3G networks when compared with AT&T and T-Mobile.

OpenSignal uses a panel of more than 1 million consumer devices to provide real world data on the performance and coverage of mobile networks. For the latency test, OpenSignal runs three ICMP pings on google.com and takes the average. For more information on OpenSignal and its offerings, click here.

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency in LTE networks in the first quarter of 2015:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across 3G networks in the first quarter of 2015:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across all high-speed wireless networks in the first quarter of 2015:

The raw data (in the first quarter of 2015):

Operator

Network Type

Mean Latency (ms)

AT&T

HSPA

125.6329601

AT&T

HSPA+

114.144998

AT&T

LTE

75.29211784

AT&T

UMTS

111.6781311

Sprint

eHRPD

130.2570284

Sprint

EVDO A

135.6407315

Sprint

LTE

75.72048225

T-Mobile

HSPA

132.8926473

T-Mobile

HSPA+

116.8095518

T-Mobile

LTE

76.72817528

T-Mobile

UMTS

109.9716571

Verizon

eHRPD

131.6712728

Verizon

EVDO A

123.1502244

Verizon

LTE

85.08222994

 

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