The State of LTE (March 2015)

The State of LTE

4G LTE is increasingly more important to consumers' experience on mobile, with subscriptions for the service, as well as its availability, having grown dramatically over the past year.

The OpenSignal app allows users to contribute to our impartial coverage maps of mobile networks, we took data from those of our 11 million users who have LTE plans and focussed on their experience of two key metrics: download speed, and the proportion of time spent with access to the LTE network. All data included in this report comes from November 2014 – January 2015 inclusive.

We found that not all LTE networks are created equal, with big differences between countries and networks.

The Full Spectrum of LTE Performance

Hover over a country's flag to see only that country's networks

This quadrant graph allows for an overview of LTE network performance, combining both Time on LTE and Download Speed to build a picture of true network performance. This graph makes it easy to see that the South Korean networks are among the best performing in the world, recording fast speeds and excellent coverage. Vodafone ES records very fast network speeds but that their coverage is rather limited. 3 UK record the lowest time on LTE of all the eligible networks. CricKet USA are the slowest of all eligible networks (we exclude many networks where we have speed/coverage readings on LTE due to small sample sizes - we have only included networks in this report where we feel that our data accurately represents the user experience).

Time on 4G LTE: A Metric for Coverage

'Time on' (*) is our proprietary metric for looking at coverage, based on user experience rather than geography. Coverage is most important where users actually spend their time, especially for LTE (as it provides a layer of service that is non-essential for emergencies, unlike voice or basic internet connection). Our metric looks at the proportion of time a user has access to the LTE network, which gives a more accurate look at how real-world users are being served by their provider.

Time on LTE

Time on LTE by country and network

For 'Time on LTE' we see South Korea as having comfortably the best coverage globally, with all three of its networks at the top of the global ranking. LG U+ ranks the best of all of our eligible networks, with its users experiencing 99% time on 4G LTE. In the United States Verizon performs best, with its 4G users having access to the network 85.9% of the time, with Sprint some way behind the other US networks.

How speeds compare

Spain has the fastest mobile network speeds in the world, averaging 18 Mbps. Spanish network Vodafone ES comes out the fastest of our eligible networks, with impressive speeds of 25.2Mbps. Last year’s fastest country, Australia, has fallen to 14th with all of the networks recording similar speeds between 12-15Mbps. T-Mobile are the fastest network for LTE in the US, although US LTE speeds rank among the slowest in the world overall.

Saudi Arabia is the slowest country for 4G LTE, with all three of its networks recording speeds below 5Mbps.

LTE speed vs other technologies

LTE download speed in Mbps vs speeds experienced on other connection types

LTE is, on average, the fastest network technology available, outperforming 3G and Wi-Fi by a considerable margin globally. It is important to bear in mind, however, the differences in performance between Wi-Fi and 4G LTE globally are determined by incredibly varying performance in different countries. For instance, according to our data, 4G LTE in Saudi Arabia is only twice as fast as the global average for 3G. Similarly, Wi-Fi speeds differ greatly across different regions of the world – so this chart is just there to give an indication of the relative performance of different technologies in their current state.

The global rollout

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Countries with LTE
LTE scheduled

Hit play or move the slider to see the evolution of LTE

This interactive map shows the state of current LTE service worldwide. This time last year there were 76 countries with LTE worldwide. This year there are 124, showing the extent to which LTE availability has increased around the world. Click the ‘play’ button to see how LTE has spread globally since its introduction in Scandinavia back in 2010.

(*) Editor’s note: In June of 2016, OpenSignal changed the name of its "time on" metric to network availability. Availability measures the same thing as time on — the proportion of time users remain connected to a particular network — but we felt that "availability" was a better reflection of the metric’s definition. For more details see our methodology page.

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