Introducing a Better Measure of Latency

Latency can seem like a sleeper metric — one that you may not think about when you’re troubleshooting your connections but one that deeply affects your online experience. As speeds increase globally, it’s becoming increasingly obvious to many that something is still getting in the way of the seamless video calls, streaming, and gaming we dream of. That something is often latency and we at Ookla® have recently redesigned how Speedtest® measures latency to give you better access to this essential metric.

What latency is and why it matters

Latency (sometimes called ping) measures how quickly your device gets a response after you’ve sent out a request. A low latency means the server is responding quickly to your request whereas a high latency means a slow response. An example of how this works in online gaming is when you ask your character to move — if your character moves almost immediately, you have a low latency, if there is a delay in your character completing that movement, you might have a high latency.

Latency has always mattered to online experience. However, it has often been difficult to tell the difference between a slow connection and a high latency as both can delay you from getting what you want from the internet. These days, many folks have faster connections but there’s still a disconnect between asking their device to perform an action online and having it complete that action. Which means poor latency is becoming more obvious as the internet gets faster and more devices are connected online.

How our metric is changing (and why)

Speedtest has always tested for latency. A simple measure, labeled “ping,” has been at the top of the app next to download speed. However, we’re no longer living in a world where one device is connected to one router. Instead, you might find yourself with a laptop, tablet, phone, TV and even other smart devices connected to Wi-Fi all at once. And that’s just in your living room.

Our new latency test measures loaded latency, giving a more nuanced picture of responsiveness and what the bottlenecks in your connection really are. The loaded latency test measures ping during three stages, giving you a convenient, easy to use way to better understand your network experience. These three stages are:

  • Idle Ping. This test at the beginning of your Speedtest measures the response of a request on your network as if it is not in use.
  • Download Ping. Latency is measured while the download test is in progress to see how it is affected by download activity on your network, like a household member downloading a large game while you’re trying to work.
  • Upload Ping. Latency is also measured while the upload test is in progress to see how it is affected by upload activity on your network, like someone on your home network uploading a year’s worth of photos.

Our mission at Ookla is to empower consumers across the globe to understand and optimize their internet experience. This new metric gives you the detailed information you need to understand where the bottlenecks in your network’s responsiveness really are. If you’re looking for our old latency metric for comparison, look for the “idle low” in the detailed section of the test.

How you can use our new latency metrics in the real world

All you have to do to get these new latency measures is take the same Speedtest on your Android or iOS device that you’ve been using all along. It’s free (always) and will give you even more insight into the performance of your network. If you don’t see it yet on your mobile device, simply update the app.

Run the Speedtest to see where your latency issues actually lie. You can use your mobile device to test both your cellular network (which you don’t have a lot of control over) and your Wi-Fi network (which you have a lot of room to troubleshoot).

  • If your idle ping is high, you have an overall latency problem. You will want to test the network with another device to see if the issue affects both. If it does, restart your router. If the problem continues, consider moving your router someplace more central.
  • If your download or upload ping is high, you may have a bigger problem. Contact your router manufacturer or internet service provider (ISP) to see if they can help. Advanced users may find this guide useful.

Improve the responsiveness of your online experience. Test your latency on Android or iOS today.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on May 20 with details on where to find the older latency metric.

— Update: 18-03-2023 — found an additional article Latency vs Speed: What Makes a VPN Fast? from the website for the keyword high download latency.

Latency vs Speed: What Does It All Mean?

Let’s start by defining our terms.

Latency is a length of time. It measures the time it takes for a connected device to make a request and receive a response. This round-trip time is also called a ping and is measured in milliseconds (ms).

Speed is a capacity. It measures how much data your device can download or upload at once. Speed is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Download speed is the rate at which your device can receive information from another server, while upload speed is the rate at which it can send that information.

Latency is often confused and conflated with speed.

At this point, you might be wondering why there’s a difference. It seems like both are about how fast data moves on your internet connection. However, that’s not quite right. Let’s explain with a quick analogy.


Picture a highway. The amount of vehicle traffic the highway can carry at one time is determined by the number of lanes. That’s its speed, a term internet service providers often use interchangeably with network bandwidth (see “Is Internet Speed Connected to Bandwidth?” below).

A car driving on the highway represents internet latency — the time it takes to travel from one location to another. Even if a system has the capacity to move huge amounts of data, it might still appear slow if its latency is high (bad). A six-lane highway won’t do you much good if you have a slow car.

For the best internet experience, you need plenty of lanes, a clear path to your goal and a vehicle that can get you there.

It can be confusing. The thing people usually call “speed” is more about the potential for speed, while “latency” — which sounds like a measure of inaction — is the actual measure of speed. Just remember, you need a wide road and a fast car to move quickly.

Is Internet Speed Connected to Bandwidth?

Bandwidth and speed are extremely similar measurements, and they’re often used interchangeably. However, their accurate definitions differ slightly. To oversimplify: Maximum bandwidth determines how much data your internet connection can move at one time, while speed is the amount of data it is moving.

Think about our highway again. Most highways have speed limits, but when driving on the highway, you don’t often get to go the speed limit. You might manage it if there’s no traffic, but with a lot of other cars on the road, you’ll always travel a little slower than the road allows.

That slowdown represents high latency. On highways, the problem might be heavy traffic, accidents or road construction. On a website, issues might include an overloaded server, downtime or poor data distribution.

There’s another reason speed is different from bandwidth: Origin servers and destination servers don’t always allow the same maximum speeds. 

If your maximum bandwidth is higher than that of the server you’re connecting to, you’ll have to work at the lower speed. In the analogy, imagine it as the difference between your car’s theoretical max speed and the actual speed limit and conditions of the road.

ISPs use bandwidth numbers in their ads instead of speed because that’s the number they can control. If someone offers to sell you 50 Mbps of “internet speed,” they’re usually referring to bandwidth — actual speed is out of their control, since it relies partly on your hardware and that of your destination server.

Is Higher Internet Latency Better Than Lower Latency?

No, this is backwards. Latency is like a golf score: You want it to be low. A shorter ping is better, since low latency means your device can exchange information more quickly.

Suppose you’re playing Overwatch and an opponent is shooting at you. Naturally, you’d want to get that information from the game server in the shortest time possible. Lower latency is your goal.

Ping vs Latency

You might sometimes hear latency described as a “ping” or “ping rate.” There’s no difference between these terms. A ping helps with measuring latency by sending a small data packet from one server to another and back. The faster the ping returns, the lower your latency.

The “ping” value on sites like is a measure of latency.

Note that the ping rate you get from online speed tests will normally be lower than your actual ping rate. Latency depends on the other servers as much as your own modem, and distance plays a major role. As with speed and bandwidth, don’t assume that your best possible latency is what you’re actually getting.


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