LTE Network Latency compared with 2G, 3G & WiFi

LTE Latency: How does it compare to 2G, 3G and WiFi ?

4G/LTE is a “today” modern cellular networking technology.  Many users of 3G notice that latency performance is often poor.  For some applications, delay is very important.  So How does Latency in 4G/LTE compare with older wireless standards?

Considering various industry reports onto the state of global LTE, specifically the performance of mobile networks using two chief metrics: ‘time on’ LTE and average download speed. One of the things we looked at was how LTE download speed performs in comparison to other kinds of wireless technology, which puts LTE performance in context with 3G, and 2G technologies worldwide, as well as average Wi-Fi speeds globally.

Of course, download speed does not tell the whole story for mobile network performance – but, because it is the headline stat that networks advertise, it is the one we decided to use as best representative of network performance. For mobile users, download speed, upload speed and latency are all important, with their relative importance determined by the specific use a subscriber puts the network to.

Comparing Technologies: LTE, 2G, 3G, HSPA, WiFI

One of the graphs for LTE compares the average latencies globally across various technologies. This graph shows comparative latency performance for the second of 2013, allowing for an easy overview of how the technologies differ – and, especially, the superiority of LTE for mobile users.

CableFree LTE 4G 3G Latency Comparison
CableFree LTE 4G 3G Latency Comparison

Latency is especially important for VOIP and loading web pages, where the response time is especially important and overall download speed has less of an impact. So our data shows that LTE is far better for VOIP calls than the average Wi-Fi network.

Motivators to improve Latency: VOIP and beyond

Latency improvements are beneficial for TCP down- and uploads. Another example of a benefit could be that radio resource efficiency could be positively impacted by reductions. Lower packet data latency could increase the number of transmissions possible within a certain delay bound; hence higher-rate transmissions (higher MCS due to higher BLER targets) could be used for the data transmissions thereby freeing up radio resources and potentially improving the capacity of the system.

There are a number of current applications that will directly benefit from reduced latency in terms of increased perceived quality of experience: examples are gaming, real-time applications like VoLTE/OTT VoIP, and video conferencing.

Going even beyond the current use cases, into the future of the networked society, we foresee new applications that will benefit from or even require reduced latencies. Examples may be remote control/driving of vehicles, augmented reality applications in e.g. smart glasses, or specific machine type communications.

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