The State of LTE (November 2017)

The global 4G market has reached a transition point. Instead of focusing on boosting speeds, we now see an industry intent on boosting accessibility to 4G signals. In our latest global report, OpenSignal parsed more than 50 billion measurements worldwide to see how 77 countries stacked up in 4G performance.

Report Facts

50,119,524,309
Measurements
3,816,934
Test Devices
Jul 1st - Oct 1st 2017
Sample Period
Global
Report Location

Highlights

No country has yet cracked 50 Mbps

Though individual operators have broken the 50-Mbps barrier for average 4G download speeds, we're still waiting for the first country to consistently provide LTE connections greater than 50 Mbps. South Korea and Singapore are the closest, averaging 45.9 Mbps and 46.6 Mbps respectively.

LTE's reach continues its quick growth

In this test period, 50 countries of the 77 countries we examined had 4G availability scores above 70%, compared to 33 countries just six months ago. That means 4G users in those 50 countries were able to latch onto an LTE signal in more than 7 our every 10 attempts. It's a sign that 4G has reached maturity in many more countries.

4G speeds have stalled in the top-performing countries

While LTE availability is increasing worldwide, the same can't be said for LTE speeds. No new country has joined the 40-Mbps club since our last report, and the number of countries that averaged speeds greater than 20 Mbps has fallen, rather than increased.

The average 4G download is now 16.6 Mbps

Despite the fall off in speeds among the top countries, the global average 4G download did increase slightly from 16.2 Mbps to 16.6 Mbps in the last six months. A huge influx of new 4G users in developing countries is lifting LTE speeds in the bottom half of our rankings.

4G Availability

This chart shows how consistently accessible 4G networks are in each country. Rather than measure geographic coverage, OpenSignal's availability metric tracks the proportion of time users have access to a particular network.

4G Availability Comparison

4G Speed

This chart shows the average download connection speed that users in each country see when connecting to LTE networks. Though some operators sometimes refer to HSPA or other technologies as 4G, we only count LTE connections in our 4G speed tests.

How fast a country's 4G speed is can depend on many factors: how much spectrum is devoted to LTE, whether it has adopted new 4G technologies like LTE Advanced, how densely networks are built and how much congestion is on those networks. In general, though, the countries with the fastest speeds tend to be the ones that have built LTE-Advanced networks and have a large proportion of LTE-Advanced capable devices.

4G Speed Comparison

The Full Spectrum of Mobile Performance

This chart compares 4G speed against 4G availability for all of the countries covered in this report. Countries higher up and toward the right in the chart have both fast LTE networks and a high proportion of LTE signals, reflecting more developed 4G infrastructures. Countries in the lower-left hand side of the graph are typically in the early stages of their LTE rollouts. There's no hard and fast rule, though. Countries can have highly accessible networks, but their speeds can be limited by capacity constraints. Meanwhile countries with new LTE networks may have limited 4G availability but, due to their light loads, can support considerably fast speeds.

Comparing Speed and Availability

The Global Picture

All of the countries examined in this report are shown on this interactive map, detailing the distribution of mobile networking capabilities across the world. Those countries that perform better in a particular metric are shaded darker, and you can select different metrics to view in the drop down menu. Countries not included in this report are shaded in grey. Our sample only included the countries for which we had enough test data to make a statistically meaningful analysis. As our crowdsourced user base grows, we’ll continue to add more countries to our reports.

Speed by Technology

This chart compares the average download connection speed globally of the major wireless network technologies. 2G includes GSM and CDMA 1X connections, while 3G includes UMTS, HSPA and CDMA EV-DO connections. OpenSignal defines 4G as LTE technologies only.

Average Connection Speed by Wireless Technology

Analysis

In OpenSignal's last State of LTE report, we anticipated we would soon see a country that exceeded 50 Mbps in average 4G download speed, setting a new benchmark for high-performance mobile networking. But that 50-Mbps mark remains elusive. Instead, 4G's once steady growth in speed has stopped, and OpenSignal has even begun to see declines in LTE speeds in the top-performing 4G countries. But it's not all bad news in our 4G metrics. While speeds have stalled, OpenSignal measured some massive gains in LTE availability around the world. 4G signals are consistently accessible more often and in more places now than six months ago. The mobile industry — for the time being at least — appears to have shifted its focus from building powerful LTE networks to building far-reaching networks.

For our latest installment of OpenSignal's State of LTE report, we examined more than 50 billion measurements collected by more than 3.8 million smartphone and smart device users. We used these measurements to compare 4G speed and 4G availability in 77 countries, ranking them first in each respective category and then comparing speed against availability for each state. In addition, we've displayed those 77 countries on a global map and calculated the global average speeds for 2G, 3G, 4G and Wifi. While more than 77 countries have LTE services today, we only included the countries for which we had enough data to provide meaningful analysis. As these countries ramp up their LTE deployments and we collect more data within them, we'll include them in future reports.

Shifting LTE trends

OpenSignal's 4G availability metric is a measure of how often consumers with 4G devices can connect to an LTE network in their respective countries. There's quite a divide between the best and worst performing countries on our list with South Korea leading the pack with an availability score of 96.4% and Algeria at the bottom with a score of 41.5%. But in general, 4G availability is improving across the globe — and at a rapid clip.

We saw increases in 4G availability in almost every country covered in this report. Six months ago, 33 countries were able to provide an LTE signal more than 70% of the time. That number has grown to 50 in this report, a sure sign that LTE has reached maturity in much of the world. What's more, the number of elite countries in availability is also on the rise. In our latest tests, 20 countries had 4G availability scores of 80% or greater, compared to 16 countries just six months previous. Only two countries, though, have managed to break the 90% mark. In South Korea and Singapore, 4G signals are now as ubiquitous as 3G signals.

But the rapid growth we measured in 4G availability isn't reflected in our 4G speed metrics. In fact, we're witnessing a slight decrease in average LTE speeds among top-performing countries. In our June report, 14 countries averaged 4G downloads of 30 Mbps. Now that number is 13. And of the 45 countries that six months ago managed LTE connections 20 Mbps or faster, only 42 remain on the list. The countries at the top of our list, Singapore, South Korea, Norway and Hungary all maintained very impressive speeds over 42 Mbps. But a year ago it appeared that 4G speeds were steadily marching forward across the globe, and it wouldn't be long before we saw our first 50 Mbps-plus country. Now it appears mobile speeds have stalled.

That said, the global average for LTE downloads did tick upward slightly from 16.2 Mbps to 16.6 Mbps in the last six months. While speeds may be falling off in the top half of our table, they're increasing in the bottom half. And many of these developing countries are having a significant impact on this metric given their huge population sizes.

Looking at 4G speeds or 4G availability alone, however, doesn't paint the full picture of how far a country has progressed in its LTE rollout. In our Full Spectrum of Mobile Performance chart, we plot each country's speed against availability, providing a snapshot of the 4G situation across the globe. States that fall in the upper-righthand quadrant of the chart have both fast 4G speeds and widespread 4G availability, while those with limited availability and slower speeds fall into the lower and lefthand regions of the chart.

In this chart it's easy to see the countries that have maximized the accessibility of their 4G services while still maintaining superior technical capabilities: Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Singapore and South Korea. At the other extreme are countries that are still in their 4G infancy: Algeria, Costa Rica, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sri Lanka.

The majority of the 77 countries in this report are clustered in the upper middle of our chart, landing with a range of 60% to 80% 4G availability and 10-25 Mbps speeds. It's the outliers, however that are the most interesting. You'll notice Japan sits alone in the top-center of our chart, showing it's capable of delivering one of the most consistent LTE signals in the world but can't match the global network powerhouses in speed. Meanwhile India is an even more extreme example of the same trend. It has one of the top LTE availability scores in the world, but also the slowest LTE speed rating of the 77 countries in this report. Meanwhile, Ecuador and Ireland find themselves in the opposite situation. Both had measured LTE speeds well ahead of the global average, but in both countries consumers could find an LTE signal only half the time.

Analyzing the results

We're tracking two distinct trends in LTE. While access to LTE service is unmistakably increasing around the world, the once impressive growth in 4G speeds seems to have ground to a halt. While the former trend is most certainly good news, the latter isn't necessarily bad news. We seem to have hit a plateau in LTE technological evolution. 4G's first movers in the developed world have built out their LTE-Advanced infrastructure and are now focused on bringing all of their customers to these new high-powered networks. Meanwhile, in the developing world operators have largely completed their initial LTE rollouts and are turning their 3G customers into 4G customers. Consequently we're seeing much more of a focus on availability than speed. The more people that can tap into the LTE signal, the more potential LTE or LTE-Advanced users operators can sign up.

Even though LTE speeds have declined in many countries, that doesn't mean that the user experience has similarly declined. As 4G availability increases worldwide, consumers spend more time connected to faster LTE networks than to slower 3G networks. Chile is a good example of this trend. In our State of Mobile Networks: Chile report we found that LTE speeds had dropped significantly in the space of 12 months, coinciding with a huge wave of 4G adoption. Chilean regulator Subtel reported 162% growth in 4G connections in 2016, and those new users are competing for bandwidth on Chile's LTE networks, driving down average 4G speeds. But we also measured dramatic increases in 4G availability from most of Chile's operators. With LTE service more readily accessible throughout the country, typical overall mobile data speeds actually increased as consumers spent less time connected to slow 3G networks.

We see similar patterns to Chile's in many countries, especially in developing regions where operators are still expanding their LTE networks and moving their customers onto 4G services. Consequently we may very well see 4G speeds decline further in our next few State of LTE reports before they once again start to improve. It's not that LTE's technological advancement has halted, but we do seem to have reached a transition point where operators globally are more focused on building coverage than capacity into their networks. Once the next iterations of LTE-Advanced network and handset technologies become available, we'll likely see the 4G powerhouses kick off a new cycle of upgrades, pushing the topmost 4G speeds even higher. And in the developing world, we'll likely see new rounds of investment in 4G capacity as operators load up their initial LTE networks with customers and tap into new sources of spectrum.

Either way, it looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer before we crack that 50 Mbps barrier.

Our Methodology

OpenSignal data is collected from consumer smartphones and recorded under conditions of normal usage. As opposed to drive-test data, which attempts to simulate what a user might experience by using the same devices to measure network performance in a small number of locations, we take our measurements from millions of smartphones owned by regular people who have downloaded OpenSignal’s apps.

Those measurements are taken wherever users happen to be, whether indoors or out, in a city or in the countryside, representing a mobile data service the way users experience it. We continually adapt our methodology to best represent the changing experience of consumers on mobile networks and therefore comparisons of the results to past reports should be considered indicative only. For more information on how we collect and analyze our data see our methodology page.

For this particular report, 50,119,524,309 datapoints were collected from 3,816,934 users during the period: Jul 1st - Oct 1st 2017.

All data has been collected from users of the OpenSignal mobile app for Android or iOS.

©2017 OpenSignal, Inc. All rights reserved.

OpenSignal, Inc retains ownership of this report including all intellectual property rights, data, content, graphs & analysis. Reports produced by OpenSignal, Inc may not be quoted, reproduced, distributed, published for any commercial purpose (including use in advertisements or other promotional content) without prior written consent.

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