US carriers get ranked by latency, T-Mobile snatches a close win

US carriers get ranked by latency, T-Mobile snatches a close win
We spend a lot of time talking about smartphones and the heaps of tech that goes into them, but it's quite rare that we talk about the companies that make the operation of our smartphones possible – carriers. It feels like pretty much nobody likes his carrier, but it's fair to say you and us both are at their mercy, though they do have more than enough motivation to try and keep us happy. That latter one usually involves a high level of cellular coverage, a high-speed network... and a low latency. You see, everything but this last category gets talked about a lot, which is weird seeing as we're increasingly substituting our desktop and laptop computers for the devices in our pockets. It's only natural, then, that we get more inquisitive about the level of the service we receive, and beyond just raw bandwidth.

Ask anybody that does serious gaming, or even casuals that have had to go through the nightmare that video chats are on a high-latency connection. Suddenly, all that bandwidth becomes entirely redundant, as latency is the time it takes for any one packet (or a bunch of them) to make the trek between the source and the target, which is what really counts in a real time environment. FierceWireless, teaming up with OpenSignal (an app), have taken to the task of compiling a quick latency comparison between what it calls Tier 1 carriers – AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile – and their respective networks.

Looking at the scores, T-Mobile, the smallest of the contestants, actually ends at the top, across its myriad of 3G and 4G LTE networks. As you can see, the carriers have been grouped in two groups of two, as they rely on different technologies, though we could simplify (dangerous) things by saying that UMTS, HSPA, HSPAP, eHRPD and UMTS are essentially all technical standards based on 3G networks. Now that we've exhausted the confusing technical abbreviations, it's to time feast our eyes on the results below.

In all honesty, the differences are pretty minor for the most part, especially on the 4G LTE front, which is what currently counts for most. That being said, Sprint's 3G infrastructure is significantly slower than the rest.

Some of you may feel like disregarding data such as this, but it's more than likely that latency will play an increasingly important role in your overall mobile experience as we go ahead.

source: FierceWireless



1. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

I feel like trying out Tmobile prepaid just to check it out. So far, my Sprint 3g is horrible.

4. NexusPhan

Posts: 632; Member since: Jul 11, 2013

Get a prepaid T-Mobile SIm card for $10 at Active the $30 a month 5GB of data, unlimited texts, 100 minutes plan and try it out! I did, and now I'm a happy T-Mobile postpaid customer!

5. cripton805

Posts: 1485; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Yes thats what I was thinking. I know that 100 minutes isn't enough for me, but thats cheap enough to try.

31. SellPhones82

Posts: 569; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Damn, I ordered 2 of them for free last Friday or over the weekend. Just got delivered today and the $30 plan is what I was going to test their service with.

2. Whateverman

Posts: 3295; Member since: May 17, 2009

Don't sleep on T-Mobile! Side note: Who mixed up the colors on the chart?

8. g2a5b0e unregistered

I was thinking the same. The fact that we associate each of the carriers with a different color made the chart a little hard to read.

10. Brewski

Posts: 710; Member since: Jun 05, 2012

Agreed. It would have been easier to dicern at a glance if the colors represented the right carriers. Sprint = Yellow T-Mobile = Magenta AT&T = Blue Verizon = Red


Posts: 109; Member since: Mar 18, 2012

Exactly! How can this be taken seriously when the person who did this almighty test cannot pair the correct colors with each carrier?


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

Chart was done on a Macbook Air.

28. Gdrye

Posts: 111; Member since: Jan 02, 2012

i wouldnt sleep on them but lack of custmers is a good indication of this, im sure it has to do with this

3. Knightmare64

Posts: 29; Member since: Sep 11, 2013

Sprint has the worst 3G? No SH!!!!t


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

They also have the worst 4G; yes, they are consistent. Congrats' Sprint!!

6. theoak

Posts: 324; Member since: Nov 16, 2011

Does this account for the latency involved to run outside of the building you are in to actually get LTE from T-Mobile? I never knew I was that fast ;)

7. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Look at T-Mobile being #1 and Sprint in dead last. ;)

11. JDogg5281

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

Does Sprint being last surprise you

17. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Hell no. Network Vision project was a complete waste of money if they couldn't beat Verizon's 3G.

9. emcdonald75

Posts: 163; Member since: Nov 07, 2012

T-Mobile might have the lowest latency on their UMTS/HSPA+/LTE networks, but what of their 2G/EDGE network? That network makes up the majority of their coverage areas. People cannot keep bashing Sprint for their inexcusably slow 3G network and forget that T-Mobile has similar issues with their 2G network. At least Sprint has announced doing something about their entire footprint, what about T-Mobile?

13. JDogg5281

Posts: 74; Member since: Aug 09, 2012

But the way Sprint rolls out stuff it will be 10 years before they finish anything....Network Vision, LTE, Tri-Band LTE

21. av911 unregistered

"At least Sprint has announced doing something about their entire footprint, what about T-Mobile?" How's that plan doing for Sprint? They've been charging $10 extra for smartphones users for YEARS and what do the users get in return? 3G connection with 2G speed.

12. Omarc07

Posts: 574; Member since: Nov 12, 2012

well over here in los angeles u want speed a good ping and good latency u have 2 choices At&t or tmobile and maybe sprint if u live in the few areas sprint has lte in La Its not that bad ,verizon might have the best nationwide coverage but its lte well over here in La its the slowest.I and like some people i know left verizon for slow data the last phone i had with them was s4 ,sometimes it didnt make sense i would get 1 dwn and ,10 up with full bars lte standing outside the download was always pretty bad and the upload good. And besides it didnt even get good service in buildings i tought verizon lte used 700 mhz for good signal in buildings deep in most stores i would drop dwn to 3G evdo . I know 2 people with verizon both have iphone 5s and complain about slow data aswell. Now on att and tmobile huge difference in speed ,att is my work phone tmobile my personal phone couldnt be hapoier they both get more than 10mbps something verizon rarely got . And att keeps lte deep in buildings something verizon didnt do i cant say the same for tmobile in most buildings it drops dwn to edge but yea couldnt be happier with both att n tmobile never going back to verizon again.

14. dorianb

Posts: 617; Member since: Oct 24, 2012

CDMA has some HUGE latency....

18. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Duh. GSM is the way to go.

22. Shatter

Posts: 2036; Member since: May 29, 2013

CDMA used to be better when it first came out but it sucks now.

23. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

Used to, yes, but GSM (HSPA) is a hell lot faster and you're able to use unlocked phones with no trouble at all.

30. tuminatr

Posts: 1143; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

Networks are much more about implementation than technology. All the US cdma carriers decided not to go CDMA Rev B (packet data added to CDMA rev a campared to UMTS HSDPA+ is their version of packet data CDMA) they decided to leap frog to LTE. Keep in mind that HSDPA+ is cdma.

15. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

I happen to like my carrier, T-Mobile. Can't say the same for when I was on Sprint.

19. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

This. Left Sprint back in 2007 for Verizon and then T-Mobile. I never plan on going back.

20. dex-4

Posts: 22; Member since: Dec 09, 2010

Why are all of the colors mismatched with carriers?

24. nnjerzy

Posts: 126; Member since: Jun 19, 2013

I had all the major carriers,,, im with tmob for 6 months now and never going back as well,, TMOB great job!!


Posts: 2315; Member since: Jul 30, 2011

"It feels like pretty much nobody likes his carrier" ...... Dear PhoneArena, Please speak for yourself, I ♥ my carrier (Verizon) and I ♥ the blazingly fast Unlimited 4G LTE I get on it for $23.99! lol... and, NO THROTTLING!

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