Latency vs. Throughput: Differences, What Matters, and Why

Here we break down some key metrics used when gauging the performance of SMS & MMS message delivery

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
latency vs throughput graphic
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

One of the biggest reasons to use SMS messaging as part of your strategic marketing plan involves speed and deliverability: within seconds, you can send a time-sensitive message to a large group of people.

And because these messages reach people in their native text messaging app on their phone, they have very high open rates, read rates, and click-through rates. Compared with email, for example, average open rates are five times higher for SMS messages. 

There are metrics you can use to gauge the performance of your SMS campaigns, some of which involve measuring message speed, while others measure the ability to send a certain volume of messages at a certain speed. Let us break this all down for you. 

What Is Latency?

Latency refers to the amount of time it takes for something (such as data) to get from point A to point B.

When trying to envision what this means, vehicle traffic is a good representation. Here, latency represents how long it takes you to drive from your starting point (home) to a destination (school, the office, or a restaurant, for example).

For SMS messages, latency refers to how long it takes you to receive a message after it deploys—i.e., from the moment it is sent out from the automated A2P messaging platform to the moment the message arrives on your mobile device. The lower the latency, the faster the delivery. 

If text message delivery is delayed, latency (i.e. slow speeds) could be the reason why. Latency can be caused by:

  • The quality of a network or internet connection - the quality of the road you’re driving on, which can affect how fast you can (or cannot) drive
  • The recipient’s lack of network coverage - if you only have a few, single-lane roads to get to your destination it will take longer to get there
  • Heavy network use at peak times - driving from one destination to another will take you longer during rush hour (in the SMS world, think national breaking news or nationwide promotions on Black Friday)
  • A weak or dead battery, or a device that’s turned off - a malfunctioning car that isn’t drivable

What Is Throughput?

Throughput represents the amount of product, material, or information that can be sent from a source to a destination within a certain amount of time.

Going back to the vehicle example again, while latency represents traffic on the road, throughput represents how many lanes the road has for vehicles to be able to drive on it. 

For SMS messages, throughput refers to data transfer per second over a communications channel—or how many messages you can successfully send within a given timeframe. The higher the throughput, the more information that can be delivered successfully within a specific time period.

If text messages get stuck in a queue awaiting to be delivered (often referred to as “bottlenecked”) it’s often due to low throughput, which can be driven by factors like:

  • Attempting to send too many texts within a short or the same timeframe 
  • The capabilities of the technology working behind the scenes to send messages 
  • Wireless carrier or network limitations
  • The degree of network congestion at the time the text message is being sent
  • The transmission medium being used

What’s the Difference Between Latency and Throughput?

While latency and throughput are both factors that influence a system or network’s performance, latency is about the time it takes for systems to process data whereas throughput is how much data systems can process in a certain period of time.

In other words, the key difference between these two metrics is:

  • Latency measures speed: the amount of time it takes for data to move from its starting point to its destination.
  • Throughput measures capacity: the amount of information that can be sent per second, per minute, etc.

Although they’re different, latency and throughput can also impact each other. For example, high latency can reduce throughput which ultimately decreases the amount of data that can be transmitted over a span of time. And vice versa: lower throughput can lead to higher latency.

What About Bandwidth?

Like throughput, bandwidth is a capacity measurement that represents how much product, material, or data can be transferred over a communication channel or network. 

In relationship to SMS messages, bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of data a system can handle to send simultaneous SMS messages. 

However, bandwidth doesn’t always equal faster speeds. As bandwidth increases, this simply means that more data can be transmitted simultaneously, but it doesn’t actually reduce the amount of time it takes data to move from point A to point B.

Latency vs. Throughput vs. Bandwidth: Impact on SMS Marketing

Now that you know the definitions of these metrics, you’re likely asking yourself: What do these metrics mean when it comes to their impact on my SMS messages? Do all of these metrics matter? 

Technically, they do all matter. But if you’re a brand that sends text messages to your customers, the most important thing you care about is if your messages will get delivered or not, and how long it will take. 

Going back to the vehicle analogy one more time: traffic (latency) is an uncontrollable factor that can affect how long it takes you to get to your destination. In order to manage your trip as efficiently as possible, you assess factors like which road has the most available lanes (throughput) that can handle more cars driving on it at a given time, giving you the best chance of making good time traveling from point A to point B.

The KPI for latency is delivery timeliness, i.e. how long it takes for a message to reach its destination once it’s been sent. It can be represented in units like seconds.

The KPI for throughput is message volume over a certain period of time, i.e. the number of text messages you want to send at the rate you want to send them at.

When it comes to delivering timely messages - even during peak times when many messages are being sent at once - the primary metric to focus on is your ability to deliver the number of text messages you need to send and be confident that your customers receive them.

The Vibes Platform Delivers Speed and Reliability

Deliverability and throughput are imperative in order to get every text message out intact and on time.

Our platform is a cloud-native, event-driven system that can be scaled on-demand to meet spikes and peaks in text message traffic. This type of design is what makes it possible to successfully deliver billions of messages within seconds. 

Additionally, finding efficiencies in every step of the messaging process is essential for delivering a high volume of messages fast, which is why our platform is architected with several patterns to reduce overall processing times. The techniques used in this implementation reduce the overall message processing times while still ensuring the security and integrity of your messages.

Besides a platform that’s optimized for fast message delivery, we are also a Tier 1 aggregator - a status that ensures ample, reliable message speed and capacity. 

As a Tier 1 aggregator, we offer:

  • A direct, unmediated connection to 65+ US carrier connections including Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile
  • Unrivaled throughput with an SMS uptime record of 100% since 2016 
  • A system that processes tens of thousands of messages per second to ensure successful message delivery that reaches your audience when you need to reach them

The Bottom Line

The SMS aggregator you choose to work with will have a major impact on the success of your mobile messaging campaigns. 

Our platform is designed with sophisticated quality of service algorithms to ensure that no single customer of ours consumes all of the available throughput while optimizing for reliability to speed. 

Also, Tier 1 aggregators are the only ones who have direct carrier connections, which results in offering better speed and more successful delivery of SMS and MMS messages.

If you’re evaluating SMS aggregators for your business, make sure you inquire about their experience and their relationships with the carriers so you know that you’re investing in a platform and partner that’s built to handle any bump in the road. 

At Vibes, we’re incredibly proud of how we’ve earned the trust of so many enterprise brands to handle reaching every consumer within seconds.

Reach out to us today to learn more about Tier 1 connectivity and how we can drive the success of your SMS and MMS marketing campaigns.

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
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