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

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When Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ) began the nation's first major LTE network deployment in 2010, the carrier not surprisingly focused on the speeds that the network technology could enable. And today, LTE subscribers of Verizon and other LTE operators in the United States often enjoy wireless download rates at 10 Mbps and beyond.

But another key element of LTE and other high-speed wireless technologies is a reduction in latency. 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."

In the intervening years, a significant amount of attention and interest has been paid to wireless network speeds, but preciously little light has been focused on wireless network latency. This is surprising considering 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, are aiming to change that. Starting this month FierceWireless and OpenSignal are reporting the network latency speeds of the Tier 1 U.S. wireless carriers. Below you'll find charts showing exactly how the carriers stack up against each other across their different network technologies, from LTE to EVDO Rev. A to eHRPD (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.

OpenSignal uses a panel of over 1 million consumer devices to provide real world data on the performance and coverage of mobile networks. For more information click here.

Tier 1 U.S. carrier nework latency in LTE networks in October:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across 3G networks in October:

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across all high-speed wireless networks in October:

The raw data (October):

Operator
Network Type
Mean Latency (ms)
AT&T
HSPA
137.9376
AT&T
HSPAP
137.7301
AT&T
LTE
96.24045
AT&T
UMTS
122.2991
Sprint
EVDO A
188.8764
Sprint
LTE
107.7518
Sprint
eHRPD
192.5983
T-Mobile
HSPA
131.4028
T-Mobile
HSPAP
117.7695
T-Mobile
LTE
89.39846
T-Mobile
UMTS
116.4344
Verizon
EVDO A
133.295
Verizon
LTE
94.51151
Verizon
eHRPD
157.9791