T-Mobile offers fastest average LTE speeds, OpenSignal report finds

T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) has the fastest LTE speeds among U.S. carriers, according to a new report from network testing firm OpenSignal. However, when average U.S. LTE speeds are compared with other countries, the United States is far behind in average LTE speeds.

OpenSignal shows T-Mobile providing the fastest average LTE speeds.

According to OpenSignal's new LTE report, which evaluates LTE speeds and coverage across 29 different countries, the U.S. ranks high in terms of the amount of time that customers are able to connect to LTE networks, but is ranked 25 out of 29 when it comes to LTE speeds.

The report found that T-Mobile customers experience average LTE speeds of 10 Mbps, compared to Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) at an average of 6.5 Mbps. Sprint (NYSE: S) customers had average speeds of 4 Mbps and AT&T's Cricket prepaid band was the slowest at 2.9 Mbps.

T-Mobile's performance was likely due to the carrier's deployment of 15x15 MHz LTE channels, which produce faster speeds. T-Mobile also has about half the customers of Verizon and AT&T, which means there is less pressure on T-Mobile's network and more spectrum resources to devote to customers.

Among U.S. carriers, Verizon customers experienced the most time connected to LTE networks at 86 percent, while the comparable figures were 78 percent for AT&T, 76 percent for T-Mobile, 70 percent for Cricket and 59 percent for Sprint. Verizon's LTE network covers 306 million POPs, more than any other, so that likely accounts for Verizon's edge there, though AT&T claims its LTE network covers more than 300 million POPs. Sprint's LTE network covered 260 million POPs at year-end (it covers 270 million now) and T-Mobile ended 2014 with 265 million covered LTE POPs.

In terms of global rankings, the U.S. is sixth in terms of time on LTE, behind South Korea, Japan, Kuwait, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. That is likely due to the country's widespread LTE deployments and the relatively small size of the other countries, which makes it easier to provide ubiquitous coverage.

However, the U.S. fares poorly in terms of average LTE speeds. Spain, Finland, Denmark and South Korea lead those rankings. According to OpenSignal, Spain has the fastest mobile network speeds in the world, averaging 18 Mbps. Vodafone Spain came out the fastest of the eligible networks tested, with impressive average speeds of 25.2Mbps. Last year's fastest country, Australia, fell to No. 14, with all of the networks there recording similar speeds between 12-15 Mbps, the report noted.

It's unclear why the U.S. ranks so poorly in terms of LTE speeds, though Sprint and Cricket bring down the U.S. carriers' average. However, because the U.S. has so many LTE subscribers, the sheer volume of LTE traffic likely degrades U.S. network quality relative to other countries with a smaller number of LTE customers.

The report notes that there are currently 124 countries that have deployed LTE, up from 76 at this time last year. Another 18 countries are scheduled to deploy LTE soon. Northern and Western Africa are two key regions where LTE networks have not been widely deployed.

OpenSignal said its app allows users to contribute to impartial coverage maps of mobile networks, and that it data from those of its 11 million users who have LTE plans and focused on their experience of two key metrics: download speed, and the proportion of time spent with access to the LTE network. The data in the company's latest LTE report was collected between November 2014 and January 2015.

For more:
- see this OpenSignal report

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