When we think about the speed of a network, whether that be our home wifi network or more commonly these days, our wireless carrier's network, the big focus tends to fall on how fast we can download that next batch of images or that really huge game file. Network download and upload speeds are certainly important, but they aren't the only factors that matter when it comes to the network speeds. Lest we forget the network latency speeds which can actually impact the user experience more than one might think.
For the uninitiated, latency is the time it takes for the server to send a packet of data to the receiver, in this case, your cell network being the receiver, and the server being wherever you're grabbing files from. Let's use the Play Store as an example for the server , with the new upcoming Foo Fighters album as what you're trying to download or stream, and we'll just pretend that it's already out. Your wireless networks data speeds will determine how fast you can download that album, but the latency is how long it takes the Play Store server to contact your network with that packet of data so you can grab it for download or stream it to listen to it right then and there. The speed of access to download the file is of course just one example and really latency plays a bigger role in effecting the user experience during activities such as online gaming and things like streaming media e.g. movies and music.
Thanks to Fierce Wireless and OpenSignal, we have a clear picture of the latency speeds between all four major U.S. wireless carriers, shown over a series of two months to contrast improvements month over month and between the four providers. There is raw data if you just want to look at the numbers,(you can find that by hitting the source link)as well as charts to display things more graphically for those that are more comfortable reading data that way which we have included down below. According to the most recent display, which is from the months of June and July, AT&T seems to be the carrier with the lowest latency over LTE speeds, and T-Mobile comes in second. Verizon takes up third place and of course that leaves Sprint to bring up the rear with the highest latency speeds over their 4G LTE network. When it comes to the 3G chart, we can see that once again AT&T and T-Mobile take the top two spots for lowest network latency, with Sprint and Verizon Wireless also taking up the same spots as they do for their LTE networks. Some people may never notice the latency speeds that their network contains, but it's nice to see how each of the four major carriers stack up.