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

It's no secret that a significant amount of attention and interest has been 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, is hoping to shed some light onto the latency issue. Every month, we report the network latency speeds of the Tier 1 U.S. wireless carriers. (Click here for October's numbers, here for November's numbers and here for December's numbers.)

Below you'll find charts showing exactly how the carriers stacked up against each other in January 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, Sprint continued to post the highest latency speeds in LTE transmissions, as it did in October, November and December. This is likely due to the current configuration of Sprint's LTE network, which generally relies on a 5x5 MHz configuration while other carriers use 10x10 MHz or even 20x20 MHz settings. In January, T-Mobile managed to post the lowest figures for network latency with its LTE network, just beating AT&T Mobility. As for the carriers' 3G rankings, Verizon Wireless and Sprint continued to post the highest latency speeds, while AT&T managed to narrow the gap with rival T-Mobile on UMTS latency speeds.

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 January:
opensignal lte wireless network latency

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across 3G networks in January:
opensignal 3g network latency wireless

Tier 1 U.S. carrier network latency across all high-speed wireless networks in January:
opensignal network latency wireless lte and 3g

The raw data (January):

Operator Network Type Mean Latency (ms)
AT&T HSPA 129.2808
AT&T HSPA+ 125.213
AT&T LTE 79.94868
AT&T UMTS 125.5288
Sprint eHRPD 169.5562
Sprint EVDO A 167.4311
Sprint LTE 100.1647
T-Mobile HSPA 134.564
T-Mobile HSPA+ 104.048
T-Mobile LTE 77.53857
T-Mobile UMTS 100.7771
Verizon eHRPD 156.0969
Verizon EVDO A 134.1226
Verizon LTE 87.04163


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