U.S. has some of the best LTE coverage in the world, but still lags behind in speed

OpenSignal has released the latest version of its "State of LTE" report, which combines data on LTE networks in 75 countries around the world to give us insightful metrics into how countries are performing and compare to one another. OpenSignal compiles this data from over 550,000 users of its mobile app (opens in new tab), which calculates network speed and availability in real-world settings rather than theoretical or controlled tests — this report is based on nearly 20 billion data points collected in the first three months of 2017.

In order to rank countries, OpenSignal focuses on two metrics that are important to the way we use devices: LTE network availability across the country (not just geography covered, but actual real-world data availability), and the average speeds you can get when connected.

A plot of network availability and speed.

LTE availability worldwide has taken a solid jump thanks to Jio's emergence in India — 16 monitored countries now have 80%+ LTE availability, and just 19 have less than 60%. When it comes to speed, some of the top performers continue to impress: Singapore, South Korea, Hungary and Norway all average over 40 mbps download speeds, while 15 countries average over 30 mbps.

Network speeds around the world.

U.S. average network speeds continue to be weak on the world stage.

Looking at the U.S. in particular, improvements have been made but the country is still behind many. Since the November 2016 report, the U.S. has moved up six spots in LTE availability across the country, landing in 4th place with LTE being available to users 86.5% of the time — that's just barely above Hong Kong, but underneath Norway (86.96%), Japan (93.48%) and South Korea (96.38%). The biggest gulf remains in LTE download speeds, where the U.S. averages just 15 mbps — that's in the bottom quarter of the list, and just one-third the speed of the leader, Singapore.

The U.S. (86.5%) bests its neighbors Canada (81.1%) and Mexico (69.04%) in terms of LTE availability, but comes in well behind both countries in terms of average LTE speeds: Canada averages 30.58 mbps, while Mexico averages 22.36 mbps, on the download.

If you're at all interested in how these networks operate around the world, be sure to read the full State of LTE report from OpenSignal — it's filled with troves of great insight into how people around the world are staying connected using LTE.

Andrew Martonik

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

  • Your carriers concluding against you
  • I assume you mean *colluding against you. I don't think the carriers have any incentive to keep speeds artificially low ... perhaps they have incentive to keep prices artificially high, but that's another discussion.
  • Eh? Of course they do, less work for them.
  • Have you seen advertisements for U.S. carriers? They're constantly trying to one-up each other on claims of coverage and speeds.
  • Exactly. SwiftKey doing its thing ;)
  • Colluding
  • Well not going to increase with all the capped speeds they have on many plans these days 
  • Agreed. Capped bandwidth, 2G limited streaming, and the mess that is our wireless spectrum.
  • Your obviously not referring to T-Mobile, people on T-Mobile know nothing about "called streaming", lol I get 30 days of high speed LTE data, and use it for exactly what it's designed for, Xfinity, Netflix, YouTube...
  • Maybe we should go back to getting charged $10 or $15 per GB used? Sounds about right. I miss getting charged so much! I hope they bring it back. 2G speeds is so dumb. 23GB cap in a month? Psh I wanna go back to my 6GB plan for the same price I pay now and if I want to use the rest I dont mind paying an extra $300+
  • How many plans really have constant capped speeds though? Some prepaid plans have fixed max speeds, but postpaid plans have full speeds — it's only at certain data thresholds that they throttle you.
  • T-Mobile only does what they call "prioritization", I have never been effected by it, it all depends on data traffic on a particular tower.
  • All networks have QoS (quality of service) standards applied to optimize the network. The only difference is how transparent they are about what they're doing, to whom, and when.
  • .....But why? This article does not explain why the speeds offered in the United States are what they are in comparison to what they are in the rest of the world.
  • This! Is it because of congestion? Carriers not providing bandwidth? Smaller bandwidth for each carrier's LTE? FYI, this site is killing performance on my pixel for some reason. That shouldn't be possible. Something's is very wrong.
  • There's an absolutely massive number of factors that go into average speeds being lower in the U.S. — most of which only known by the carriers themselves. Including, but not limited to: uneven backhaul distribution around the country, average age of tower tech nationwide, amount of spectrum currently allocated to LTE by the carriers, etc.
  • Tower age and backhaul are especially problematic on Verizon. Some areas I hope I'll get greater than 10Mbits. They were first, and it shows, sometimes.
  • Did a speed test, barely 13mb. Heartbreaking.
  • Carrier aggregation needs to be more widely deployed, as in every single cell tower, not just some....tri-band carrier aggregation!!! I live in Houston (T-Mobile) carrier aggregation is not deployed on every cell tower!
  • We are to busy buying retardedly expensive flagship phones to actually care about this. Sure the network is slower but it's ok because my iPhone is $1000.
  • I cant even get reliable voice call with LTE near NYC.
  • I just did a test for the first time in probably three years, and I'm really quite happy with it. 77.39Mbps down, 31.53Mbps up. It's faster than my cable internet, but that's because I don't pay for the fastest cable internet.
  • For me, it really depends on time of day. I can do a speed test at one moment and get, say, 50-60Mbps. 8 hours later, same sitting in the same location, and I can be lucky to get 5Mbps.
  • I would rather have great coverage than great speeds...
  • Agreed. Obviously this will change in the future, but for now, mobile data speeds hit a point of diminishing returns at around 20 Mbps.
  • Reason we don't have near 100% coverage is we have some areas that have very low population density. North Dakota is a good example, entire state has a fraction of the population of most major US cities. Than because it's so flat there is no high ground to build a tower and maximize it's range. Carriers would literally be building and maintaining towers for as few as a dozen people in some areas, it just isn't cost effective. Montana has more cattle than people, and some other states are similar.
  • Cows need fast Lte speeds also
  • 🐮👍
  • Well the U.S. ranks 4th in network availability across the country, behind 3 countries that are a fraction the size of the U.S. ... I'd say we're doing pretty well.
  • And an amazing 2.00 Mbps down and 3.30 Mbps up in Wilmington, NC from Verizon! It's usually around 8 / 4 during the months with less leaves on the trees.
  • Why are you comparing the United States to those tiny ass little countries? I would much rather have coverage than speed why do you need 40 down on a cell phone?
  • Because comparing by country is a good way to see how the network infrastructure is handled in different areas that can be addressed by a single or many companies? As you can see in the chart, there isn't necessarily a trade-off between coverage and speed. There are many countries with high coverage and high speed, as well as those with low coverage and low speed. We wouldn't have to give up our #4 coverage rank to be higher than the bottom 25% in speeds.
  • Just did a speed test at the weakest part of my house... 117mbps. My peak speed though has exceeded 200mbps. My legacy plan also is unlimited data and doesn't have pesky restrictions like 10-15gb mhs or de prioritization in high load areas after xxGB.
  • Where do you live, and who is your carrier?
  • I live in LA and am using Verizon.
  • Yeah and our prices are among the worst in the entire first world. Crap speeds, awful protections, high prices, bleh.
  • Yeah. Tonight ran a speed test on Verizon out here in Puyallup and barely pulling down 2Mbps on Verizon LTE band 13. But hey, it's unlimited... Absofrigginlutely ridiculous!
  • Not exactly fair to the US because they have to include Sprint's horrible speeds and coverage.
  • Believe it or not, other counties often have the same situation of some carriers being better than others.
  • I thought we had the Holy Lance in our possession..... So much for the ark of covenant...a sip from the Holy Grail anyone
  • Misread this and wondered what holly valance had to do with mobile signal.
  • These stats are wrong. Example, true stats for the Netherlands 4g coverage by inhabitants: 98%, by surface 96%.
  • That means we are getting an average of 15% of LTE 100mbps theoretical speed. So whenever 5G comes out we can get 150mbps. Also why do we still have 2G? Why has it not been phased out for 3G. And whenever I get throttled you can't do anything with 2G. With the most limited 3G you can stream decent music and watch 480p on YouTube.
  • 185Mb/s down and 28Mb/s up on TMobile southeast Florida. No complaints here.
  • The US is pretty big. I can see why it would be hard to cover the entire thing in the fastest speeds available.
  • I just came back from Toronto (I live in the USA) and using T-Mobile basically gives you full LTE over there for free. I couldn't believe how fast some of my speed tests were. I got even faster but this is the only link I can pull up at the moment. Good luck seeing that in the states... http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/a/2903893573
  • Lol this is sorta asinine in away. All of south Korea square area would fit roughly between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I would hope that they would have better speeds then compared to United States. And Japan is slightly smaller then California and Japan's population is around 127 million and 75 million of the population live in 5 cities And Norway is slightly larger than the state of New Mexico. And out of about 5 million people that live in Norway over 1 million live around Oslo. Just the amount of towers that the United States would have to have compared to the other top three is mind-boggling
  • After reading this I did a speed test on verizon with my Note 5. Couldn't believe my eyes! 53Mbps down and 63Mbps up! Must have been in a perfect spot. 😂 Never seen that before!
  • Did test again. 113 down, 63 up. Unfortunately that doesn't reflect every day experience.
  • I fail to see how this is an issue. Most people aren't using LTE as their primary broadband internet service, and if it ever gets to that point, carriers will start charging for tethering again (T-Mobile already has limits on theirs, for unlimited plans, I think). Unless you're streaming 4K over LTE, and I have no clue why anyone would want to do that... I don't see it as a problem. Coverage is way more important than speed. Also, what is considered 4G, these days? Does this also include HSPA+, or JUST LTE? If HSPA+ is included in that, then it's likely that it's dragging down the average speeds, as well. Even without HSPA+ factored in, the coverage would still be quite impressive. I don't think many people realize just how massive this country is, and how impressive the coverage is given the vast geological diversity within it... It's a lot easier to pack towers in and achieve extreme 4G speeds in tiny countries like Great Britain and South Korea than the US. It's a lot easier to achieve higher average speeds in lower population (even if still large) countries like Canada than in the US, when smartphone penetration is so high here...
  • Inside Walmart just now... Got 102mbps down. I have seen over double that though this is still very good.