LTE speeds have slowed this year on fastest networks worldwide, OpenSignal finds

The average LTE download speed worldwide inched upward to 16.6 Mbps since the first quarter

LTE speeds in the world’s most advanced wireless markets have slowed since the beginning of the year, according to fresh data from OpenSignal.

The company, which uses crowdsourced data to gauge the speeds of wireless networks around the world, said the number of countries that with average speeds in excess of 20 Mbps fell from the first quarter of 2017 through the third quarter, and no new country “has joined the 40-Mbps club” since its last report.

The global average 4G download speed increased from 16.2 Mbps to 16.6 Mbps during that time, however. And 4G users in 50 of the 77 countries examined were able to access an LTE signal in at least 70% of attempts, up from the 33 countries that demonstrated such high accessibility 6 months ago.

South Korea users enjoy the fastest LTE speeds in the world, averaging 45.9 Mbps, and Singapore was the second-fastest at 46.6 Mbps. The United States was one of the worst-performing LTE markets in the world, finishing well outside the top 50 countries with an average speed of 13.98 Mbps. U.S. consumers enjoy solid availability of LTE, though: Americans can access LTE 86.94% of the time, marking the fifth-highest accessibility score.

OpenSignal’s latest report may indicate that many carriers have shifted their focus away from LTE download speeds and toward increasing capacity and coverage in advance of the transition to 5G.

“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,” the company wrote.

“We're tracking two distinct trends in LTE,” the company continued. “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," the company added. "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.”