Global 4G LTE Speeds Stagnated, Coverage Improved In Q4 2017

The world's fastest 4G LTE networks plateaued in the fourth quarter of the year in terms of speeds, according to the latest "The State of LTE" report from OpenSignal. While Singapore still has the fastest network on the planet, its average speeds actually dropped by approximately 2Mbps to 44Mbps since the research firm's November report, whereas the previously second-placed South Korea dropped to the fourth place on the list after experiencing a significant 5Mbps decline in average speeds. According to the newly collected data, the Netherlands has the world's fastest 4G LTE network after Singapore and is followed by Norway, with both of them recording well over 40Mbps download rates on average.

The United States showed some signs of improvement over the last three months of 2017, having increased its average 4G LTE speeds from around 14Mbps to over 16Mbps, though its overall performance still isn't particularly high relative to the rest of the planet. Guatemala, Brunei, Georgia, Armenia, and Lebanon are just some of the countries whose wireless carriers are still offering higher average download speeds than what stateside networks can provide on average, the study found. The U.S. fares much better in terms of 4G LTE availability, a least when OpenSignal's methodology is employed; instead of tracking geographical coverage, the company measures the proportion of time users have access to 4G LTE networks so that uninhabited areas don't skew the results, which the firm believes is an accurate way to measure consumer-facing wireless coverage in developed countries. In this aspect, over 90-percent of all cellular usage in the U.S. amounts to 4G LTE traffic, which is the fifth best coverage result in the world. South Korea is still topping the list in this regard, with more than 97-percent of its mobile data being sent over 4G LTE networks in Q4 2017, according to the study.

Three more countries now boast 4G LTE coverage of over 90-percent compared to the previously observed period, with that milestone now being surpassed by five of them in total. While the global download speeds stagnated in recent months, parts of Europe and the U.S. still saw significant performance improvements, with the latter case being attributed to Verizon and AT&T's ability to recover from the strain their unlimited plans placed on their infrastructure a year ago. Still, the overall trend indicates the majority of telecom giants in the world are now increasing their focus on expanding 4G LTE coverage instead of investing in raw speeds even though the technology is more than capable of being pushed over the 50Mbps average mark, the study indicates.

While some wireless carriers market certain technologies like HSPA as 4G, OpenSignal's methodology only recognizes LTE as such. Going forward, the LTE-Advanced technology can push national networks over 50Mbps, the new report suggests. While the fifth generation of mobile networks is likely to lead to unprecedented performance improvements, consumers in many countries won't have to wait for 5G in order to benefit from improved connectivity as the LTE specification still has unused technologies wireless carriers can leverage in order to further boost the efficiency of their infrastructure and deliver a 4.5G solution of sorts, the research concludes, specifically pointing to LTE-Advanced Pro as one such promising platform.

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