Report Shows Global Variations in 4G

A new report from OpenSignal, The Sate of LTE, shows that 4G speeds and availability are increasing across the globe, but that there are huge regional variations. Some countries are just starting out with 4G, while others have well established networks and extensive coverage – but this doesn’t necessarily correlate with the performance of their 4G networks.

4G global coverage

The report, which used anonymous crowdsourced data collected from over three hundred thousand OpenSignal users across the world between June and August, shows huge variations in 4G coverage and speeds including some surprising trends. Exceptional results were seen in some eastern European countries such as Romania that were late adopters of 4G but have recently invested heavily in the technology, while some of the first countries to embrace 4G, such as the U.S. are starting to lag behind.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Fastest Country With LTE: New Zealand (36 Mbps)
  • Fastest Network With LTE: StarHub (Singapore) 38 Mbps
  • Network With Best Coverage: LGT (South Korea) 99.6% LTE coverage
  • Country with Best Coverage: South Korea (97% time on LTE)

Operator performance was found to be highest in Asian countries. The best overall performance was recorded in South Korea, where download speeds of over 25 Mbps were common and 4G coverage is almost ubiquitous. Korea Telecom’s Olleh delivered one of the world’s quickest networks and an active signal 96% of the time. Singapore’s major operators were close behind, offering high speeds but lower levels of availability.

European operators delivered mixed results. While TDC in Denmark and KPN in the Netherlands recorded impressive performances, other networks such as Wind in Italy and Three in the UK and Ireland lagged behind.

Results for the UK showed EE in the lead with LTE coverage of 59% and download speeds of 18 Mbps. EE was followed by Vodafone with LTE coverage of 51%, O2 with LTE coverage of 50% and Three with LTE coverage of 36%. All three 4G networks recorded download speeds of 12 Mbps. During the previous quarter Vodafone had been slightly ahead of O2 and Three for download speeds, but the two networks appear to have caught up.

Overall LTE coverage was also recorded by country. The top ten countries for 4G coverage are South Korea with 97%, Japan with 90%, Hong Kong with 86%, Kuwait with 86%, Singapore with 84%, Uruguay with 84%, Kazakhstan with 81%, Netherlands with 80%, Bahrain with 79%, and the United States with 78%. The UK was at the lower end of the list with 50% coverage.

The results were slightly different when it came to download speeds by country. A previous OpenSignal report indicated that 4G speeds were decreasing but many countries and operators are upgrading their networks, using new frequency bands and carrier aggregation to add capacity and increase download speeds. The top ten are New Zealand with 36 Mbps, Singapore with 33 Mbps, Romania with 30 Mbps, South Korea with 29 Mbps, Denmark with 26 Mbps, Hungary with 25 Mbps, Austria with 24 Mbps, the United Arab Emirates with 22 Mbps, Greece with 21 Mbps, and Australia with 21 Mbps. Again the UK was near the bottom of the list with just 13 Mbps.

The overall theme of the report seems to be that while countries that adopted 4G early, such as the U.S. are providing higher levels of coverage, countries that have invested in new technologies such as carrier aggregation are able to deliver much faster speeds. New Zealand and Romania are both relatively new adopters of 4G, yet they have some of the fastest speeds globally. Countries that are leading the way are those such as South Korea that are able to embrace new technologies and deliver fast speeds, while also providing high levels of availability and reliability.