The US is ranked embarrassingly low in 4G speeds and other key metrics on the eve of 5G

The US is ranked embarrassingly low in 4G speeds and other key metrics on the eve of 5G
While the US wireless industry is aiming to lead the coming 5G revolution and pave the way for a new global standard in both mobile network speeds and ultra-low latency, the latest in-depth Opensignal report reiterates yet again the nation's mediocre 4G LTE performance in comparison with top countries like South Korea, Norway, Singapore, Denmark, or Hungary.

That's right, according to hundreds of billions of measurements conducted on tens of millions of smartphones worldwide between January and March 2019, Hungary is ahead of the US when it comes to four key mobile network experience metrics. Meanwhile, South Korea and Norway managed to surpass the US in all five charts put together by Opensignal, including rigorous evaluations of global 4G availability, video experience, download and upload speeds, and latency.

The US is ranked embarrassingly low in 4G speeds and other key metrics on the eve of 5G

Somewhat surprisingly, the only area where the US wasn't crushed by dozens of smaller, less technologically advanced countries (at least in theory) is 4G availability. But that's just because the wireless coverage mapping company behind this report has a somewhat unusual definition of the word "availability", looking at the "proportion of time" its users can access an LTE connection rather than the "geographic extent of a network."

Thanks primarily to an incredibly heated rivalry between T-Mobile and Verizon, this number got a significant recent boost, reaching 93 percent, which was enough for an honorable spot among the top five countries in that specific department for the US during the first quarter of the year. That fifth-place showing is a heck of a lot better than the nation's mediocre or outright embarrassing positions on the other four charts.

The US is ranked embarrassingly low in 4G speeds and other key metrics on the eve of 5G

With an average download speed of 21.3 Mbps, for instance, the US is currently ranked 30th overall around the world, behind countries like Canada (obviously), Australia, Japan, Sweden, Qatar, Bulgaria, or Albania and a staggering 31.1 Mbps behind the average score of reigning champ South Korea. Believe it or not, things are even worse when measuring and classifying the nation's upload speed, latency, and video experiences respectively.

Namely, the US ranks 39th, 50th, and 58th of just 87 countries rated by Opensignal, which paints a pretty bleak picture on the "eve of the 5G revolution." After all, we may still need to wait several years before the next-gen cellular technology is deployed and adopted on a large enough scale to make a difference for the vast majority of today's smartphone users.

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14 Comments

1. TBomb

Posts: 1259; Member since: Dec 28, 2012

Not a technical expert, so I'd like to see a list of factors that can play into the speed and quality of 4G. Geographical interference? Population density congestion? The # of carriers? etc.

2. Macready

Posts: 1813; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

The real availability of 4G is surprisingly low on both T-mobile and Verizon, compared to a whole bunch of European countries in my own experience. More in line with the also much slower speeds.

13. tuminatr

Posts: 1114; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

No it is not T-Mobile's 4G LTE network covers 59% of the United States Verizon has the best coverage in the country, with 70% of the United States covered by their 4G LTE network To give an example UK, I could not find a just LTE coverage but combined 3g/4g was around 72% I would guess that if you could find a just LTE figure Verizon has the UK carriers beat, and yes I realize that just one of many countries.

14. tuminatr

Posts: 1114; Member since: Feb 23, 2009

This is as of a year ago but it illustrates my point https://www.opensignal.com/reports/2018/02/state-of-lte

3. VariableCheapskate

Posts: 61; Member since: May 29, 2019

History repeats itself, Clear tried to promote 4G modems in the DFW area but a meek few miles away from the entertainment districts is all they could put out. Still, AT&T is the only carrier in the Arlington district that has any sort of decent impact with 4G LTE. Everyone else is average, or ass.

4. superguy

Posts: 428; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Korea leading, with Japan close behind, isn't a surprise at all. They've always been ahead there. I remember when my friend moved there in 2004 that he could get GigE to the home for less than $100 a month. I think I was getting maybe 10Mb at the time. Korea was also running fiber to the home years before us too. Korea also has WiFi all over the place too - ubiquitous like cell service. So the networks can be offloaded. Some of the countries that were previously less developed and didn't have wired communications infrastructure were able to invest more heavily in wireless coverage and get service to more people more quickly. But let's be real here too - the vast majority of those countries listed have a fraction the population we do. Aside from Canada, most of those countries are also size of a large US state. They don't have the size of rural areas we do either. It's much easier to build a network when you don't have nearly as many vast swaths of nothingness to cover. So you have smaller networks with less people overall, with less rural area to cover, with some pretty dense population centers where it makes economic sense to put up a lot of towers, with supporting networks using other technologies to offload the 4G network. It's no wonder we're getting our lunch eaten. I'd like to see Russia and Brazil thrown in there for comparison.

7. bucknassty

Posts: 1317; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

you are very correct on the size!!!

5. Vega007

Posts: 73; Member since: May 18, 2017

The US is a huge country with incredible variations in geography. I don't suspect us ever being in the top 10 against countries the size of Texas.

8. blastertoad

Posts: 38; Member since: Jul 17, 2018

Fair statement, but your network should be closer to our Canadian speeds. This pisses me off all the time, we have high cost of service in Canada when compared to U.S.A so our customers complain, but we also have a significantly better network without throttling and have a much smaller populace to pay for it.

10. rossy

Posts: 36; Member since: Aug 23, 2013

Singapore should be compared with downtown of a large metropolitan city in the US. Otherwise it is apples and oranges.

12. Macready

Posts: 1813; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

And a huge population to pay for it. Population density is the metric to go by and the population density is still much higher than Canada, Australia, Norway, New Zealand, etc. The fact that Canada pulls it off in a country that size and with such a low density, is testament to the failure of investing in the US infrastructure.

6. bucknassty

Posts: 1317; Member since: Mar 24, 2017

this is why trump slapped huawei with restrictions... to get money and hold others back from embarrassing the US

9. rossy

Posts: 36; Member since: Aug 23, 2013

Weak.

11. Macready

Posts: 1813; Member since: Dec 08, 2014

Size isn't much of a factor by itself without taking population density into account. Because in the end it's the entire population paying for the infrastructure. In terms of density, the USA as a whole scores roughly 10 times higher than both Australia and Canada and still 2 times higher than countries like Norway, Finland and New Zealand, 50 percent higher than Denmark, etc. Even a more rural state like Arizona still has a much higher density than Australia and Canada and let's not forget that all of the countries mentioned above have large percentages of land with ultra low density too, not unlike states such as Alaska. Yet that didn't stop them from investing in good infrastructure a long time ago. Using Brazil and Russia as any form of benchmark would be rather embarrassing, considering the development of these countries, or relative lack of. Not in the least due to a relatively low household income.

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