This time a year, the mobile industry’s attention turns to Barcelona where operators, network equipment vendors, device makers, internet companies and any number of startups — including OpenSignal — convene at Mobile World Congress. The headlines at MWC usually center on big device news, for instance Samsung’s big Unpacked Event, where the latest in the Galaxy smartphone line will be unveiled. But MWC is also a place where the world’s mobile operators discuss the nitty-gritty of doing business, where the latest advances in network technology are announced and where some of the biggest controversies in the mobile industry get played out.
We figured ahead of MWC would be an apt time to release our latest State of LTE report, which provides an extensive update on the status of the world’s LTE networks. There’s a lot of good to report.
A year ago a 20-Mbps mobile network was a very rare thing, but because of new network upgrades and new LTE-Advanced technology, networks averaging download speeds of 20 Mbps or more are now becoming quite common around the world. By OpenSignal’s count 52 individual operators and 15 countries meet that mark. The top average 4G speeds are now well beyond the 30 Mbps and in at least one network, we’re seeing consistent downlink connections of 40 Mbps or greater — that’s average speed, not top speed.
These new super-fast networks are not confined to one region of the world. Instead, they’re widely dispersed across the globe, ranging from Singapore to New Zealand, Austria to Australia, Romania to Canada. Many operators are building their second and third 4G networks in new frequency bands, and LTE-Advanced upgrades in several of these countries are able to push the bandwidth available over individual 4G connections even higher.
Though these countries and operators are pushing the upper boundaries of LTE speeds faster than others, we’re seeing LTE connections get faster everywhere. The average LTE speed globally is now 13.5 Mbps, up almost 1 Mbps since our last LTE report four months ago.
Clearly a lot of operators globally are investing in their LTE infrastructures, and they’re not just making them faster. LTE coverage is also expanding in most countries in the world. In South Korea and Japan LTE is now so ubiquitous, there’s actually a 4G signal in more places than a 3G signal. East Asia and North America in particular are on the leading edge of LTE’s coverage expansion, though there are some notable standouts in Northern Europe (the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway), the Middle East (Kuwait, Qatar and UAE) and South America (Uruguay).
Not every operator is progressing at the same pace in both metrics, however. Some of the first LTE early adopters, such as the U.S. and Japan, rank far below their peers in speed, despite the fact they’ve built out some of the most reliable networks in the world in terms of coverage. Western Europe has some speedy networks, but it’s lagging behind much of the world in coverage. Operators in Spain, Italy, the U.K., France and Germany are still leaning heavily on their 3G networks as the chances of connecting to a 4G network are often little better than a coin flip.
But a few operators have done an exceptional job at maximizing both speed and coverage. SingTel and StarHub in Singapore and Olleh and LG U+ in South Korea are the most prominent, but Europe also has its stars, in particular Telenor and T-Mobile in Hungary, T-Mobile in the Netherlands and TDC in Denmark.
Be sure to check out the full report where we go into far more detail about the performance of 187 different networks around the world. We break them down by country and by multinational operator group, and provide detailed interactive charts so you can make your own comparisons.