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In general, ROS doesn't make any guarantees about latency, but in my experience it's generally quite low (<1ms locally) for TCPROS and UDPROS. Over a network, the biggest factor behind latency is the network itself.

Both transports use a serialized binary format - not XML. That said, there is still some latency from the serialization process, but the designers took great pains to minimize that latency.

In addition to trying to reduce the latency in the transport layer, you should spend a little time trying to understand how much latency you application can tolerate, and trying to measure the existing latency; these will tell you when you're reached "good enough" so that you can stop optimizing.