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U.S. Carriers Get Ranked by Latency – How do They Stack Up?

November 6, 2013 - Written By Cory McNutt

Latency – defined as, “the time it takes for a source to send a packet of data to a receiver.” We worry so much about the download/upload speeds of our carriers – Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint – that we sometimes forget about the importance of a having a low latency.  Today LTE subscribers in the U.S. enjoy wireless download speeds of 10Mbps and sometimes beyond depending on the location and time of the day.  Another one of the key elements of the LTE network over the 3G is that latency time is about one-half, and the lower the latency (the fewer the milliseconds), the better the networks’ performance.  This plays an important role for highly immersive and interactive applications such as multi-player gaming and multimedia communications.

FierceWireless, teamed up with OpenSignal to make sure that we realize the importance of latency and just exactly what the latency is of our four major U.S. carriers – which one is providing us with the lowest (best) latency, and thusly, the fewest milliseconds.  For these tests, OpenSignal “uses a panel of over 1 million consumer devices to provide real world data on the performance and coverage of mobile networks.”

Raw data

Above is the list of raw data used to compile the following graphs.

3G Latency

The above chart concentrates on the 3G signal – not what most of us want to use, but are forced to use many times.  Here you can see that, on average, T-Mobile beats out the competition, followed by AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint coming in last.

Highspeed Latency

When it comes to what OpenSignal calls, high-speed, and we can see, once again that T-Mobile edges out both Verizon and AT&T, with Sprint slower than the rest of the carriers.

Oct 2013 Latency

The above chart should mean the most to us as we move increasing closer to a 4G LTE world…and we are happy to report that for the most part they are all very close, but in this world of winners and losers, we must rank them – and once again, T-Mobile slightly beats Verizon, closely followed by AT&T, while Sprint comes in last.

Overall for latency speeds, T-Mobile is the slim winner, followed closely by Verizon, followed closely by AT&T for third place and Sprint would be in fourth place.  This term and latency will becoming increasingly important as we move forward in this mobile world we have created.