Verizon ties T-Mobile for U.S. LTE speed crown, OpenSignal finds, but overall U.S. lags rest of the world

Verizon Wireless (NYSE: VZ) tied T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) for the fastest U.S. LTE data speeds, according to a new report from network testing firm OpenSignal. Yet, as past reports from the firm have shown, the U.S. is not anywhere close to being the world leader in LTE coverage or speeds, even if it is ahead in LTE subscribers.

According to the report, Verizon and T-Mobile each posted average speeds of 11 Mbps downlink in the period from June to August. T-Mobile has contended that using crowd-sourced data from Ookla's app, its average speed is actually higher than that, close to 20 Mbps.

OpenSignal said that AT&T Mobility (NYSE: T) and T-Mobile's MetroPCS posted average LTE speeds of 8 Mbps, C Spire Wireless had an average speed of 6 Mbps, while Sprint (NYSE: S) and U.S. Cellular (NYSE:USM) had speeds of 5 Mbps. Sprint has been busy deploying carrier aggregation (CA) technology and has said that with capable devices accessing two-carrier CA technology in the 2.5 GHz band, customers can experience peak downlink speeds of 100 Mbps.

In general, OpenSignal said that the U.S. carriers offer "below-average speeds but decent coverage" compared to the rest of the world. South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong offer the most LET coverage, covering 97 percent, 89 percent and 85 percent of the population with LTE, respectively. The U.S. ranks No. 9 out of the 56 countries measured in terms of LTE coverage, but was also behind Kuwait, Singapore, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Uruguay.

In terms of raw speed, New Zealand was actually the winner, with an average speed of 36 Mbps, followed by Singapore (33 Mbps), Romania (30 Mbps) and South Korea (29 Mbps).The United States was ranked at the back of the pack, with average speeds of 10 Mbps.

OpenSignal noted that New Zealand first launched LTE just two years ago and though LTE Advanced deployments have not yet taken off in New Zealand, Spark and Vodafone have launched LTE on two frequency bands each, delivering significant LTE data capacity.

"Conversely some of the earliest adopters of LTE -- like the U.S., Japan, Sweden and Germany -- are starting to fall behind in terms of data performance. In part, these older networks are suffering from their own success," OpenSignal noted. "In the U.S., for instance, LTE's introduction in 2010 resulted in a huge base of LTE subscribers in the country today. Those subscribers are all competing for the same network resources, slowing down average speeds. In comparison, newer networks in South America and Europe are more lightly loaded."

However, OpenSignal claims "the U.S. has also failed to keep up with the rest world in both spectrum and technology. All of the four major U.S. operators have been expanding into more frequency bands, but none have been able to match the capacity countries like South Korea and Singapore have plowed into their networks. The U.S. has also been much slower in moving to LTE Advanced."

Open Signal said the data in its latest report comes from 325,221 global OpenSignal app LTE users, who have contributed data during the period June to August 2015. All of the data comes from users of the OpenSignal Android app, and iOS data is not currently included. Networks for which the firm had data were only included if the volume of collected data was above its threshold for statistical confidence, and networks below this threshold were excluded from the rankings. For each country, OpenSignal included all valid tests from within that country, including tests from networks it excluded from individual operator analysis. That explains why the countrywide averages may not appear to match up with the displayed networks from that country, the firm said.

For more:
- see this OpenSignal report
- see this TheNextWeb article

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