The state of 4G LTE networks worldwide in 2014 and the US’s poor performance

“LTE. Usually quicker than its predecessor, 3G, the 4G standard is being heavily marketed to consumers as carriers around the world upgrade their networks and infrastructure to accommodate higher data consumption and increased connectivity,” Charlie Osborne reports for ZDNet. “However, even as subscribers adopt the new technology — and pricing to match — there is a broad range of experiences when it boils down to download speed, the proportion of time spent using LTE, and overall customer satisfaction.”

“Network monitor OpenSignal has released new data examining the state of LTE networks worldwide, reminding us that just because next-generation wireless networks are established does not mean they remain stable or constant,” Osborne reports. “According to OpenSignal’s data, as operators roll out new areas and make improvements, an increase in subscribers can make networks creak under the strain — lowering average download speeds.”

Osborne reports, “According to OpenSignal, 4G networks provided by U.S. carriers vary wildly in both speed and time spent on the networks.”

Read more in the full article here.

16 Comments

    1. As load goes up, a service provider can add more capacity, serve more customers, and make more money, with out any loss of profit margin or service quality. Imagine that.

      When most businesses have difficulty meeting demand they expand for their benefit and everyone else’s. Only a business that thinks they have customers trapped lets service levels go down as customer usage goes up.

      1. Without loss of profit margin?

        Apparently you don’t understand that adding capacity involves hardware purchases, installation costs, software integration, etc. They don’t just send Bob over to turn up the Data Capacity Dial.

        1. I am assuming Nevermark thinks that by serving more customers more income will be generated offsetting the incurred cost and maintains margins. This assumption is vastly oversimplified as the capital and time are a substantial investment that take years to payback before profit is realized. During this time other technology is being developed and the cycle continues.

        2. At this point in time, very few companies bother to invest in infrastructure. It’s the usual ‘short term thinking, long term failure’.

          There are a few reasons why.

          – We here all know the mania from Wall Street that demands scouring out the customer market for cash and profit, as opposed to actually improving the business or, gawd help us, benefiting the annoying customers.

          – We are STILL stuck in the 2007 global worldwide economic depression. That obviously doesn’t offer much incentive for investing in any of that inconvenient ‘future’ stuff.

          I suspect all this is related to why actual 4G LTE Advanced mobile technology is stalled.

    1. I am soooo tired of my friends in Denmark taunting me about their terrific bandwidth, for both mobile AND wired Internet bandwidth. USA bandwidth is that of a third world country in comparison. OMFG that’s lame.

      Blame the self-destructive US Corporate Oligarchy. Maximize profits, minimize quality. Good going, dummies. Piss off and die already.

  1. I don’t really understand the appeal of LTE if you don’t have unlimited data, which, I believe, most people don’t. I could download a DVD to my phone in 5min, but there goes all of my data. The biggest benefit I can think of is that maps load slightly faster. If you have a bad connection, you should be able to get more data in less time, minimizing traffic and minimizing the time your phone needs to negotiate for Tx/Rx time. Still, in my experience, a good 2G connection trumps a poor LTE connection.

    1. The purpose of going to higher speeds like LTE and LTE-A (aka, LTE-Advanced, the next generation of LTE that is just barely starting to come onto the scene) are more than just raw speed. Being able to connect more quickly, download faster and disconnect more quickly allows a more fluid implementation for many applications above just pure speed. However, the biggest advantage most don’t readily recognize is that being able to accomplish the download faster — even if the slower 3G download is a fraction of a second — is that accomplishing this saves battery life. And we should all be for lower drain on our cell phone batteries.

      To show this try this simple experiment.

      A. Go to an area with strong LTE connections.
      B. Note your battery charge level.
      C. Drive around and actively use Apple maps to give point to point directions with constant updates and in the “Hybrid” view (showing both a classic map view and satellite view combined). (Do this as the passenger. Don’t drive watching *any* app!)
      E. After 20 minutes or so of doing this, note your battery charge level.

      Now go into your iPhone’s settings and turn off LTE.
      Repeat steps B., C., D., and E. in the process above.
      In virtually all cases, you’ll notice a significant difference in the drain on the battery between the two test cases.
      The battery will have drained less when you used LTE.

      I would agree that a good 2.5G connection (NOT 2G) can trump a very bad LTE connection. As they say, “Your Mileage May Vary.” The only absolutes in any of this are the theoretical peak performance numbers — and as the term states, those are only theoretical.

  2. If you haven’t read the original article, take a look. The U.S. speed rates are pretty pathetic. So much for any of the carrier’s claims about how good their 4G/LTE performance is.

  3. Imagine, Australia is the best at something! Hmmm… Things were pretty abysmal in Brisbane. They must have done the testing right next to a tower in Sydney in the CBD on a Sunday.

    The other thing that surprised me was Russia is so much faster than the US.

    I am sure the explanation about increased capacity during stage two of LTE is part of the reason for the numbers, but it is still difficult to understand why the telcos don’t get on with it. Oh, the FCC is in the way. Hmmm, blindsided again by the Govt. Oops. 😉

  4. My usual complaint:
    the 4G standard is being heavily marketed…

    There are two versions of ‘4G’:

    1) The baloney marketing term that has been foisted on the public in various forms since 2008, which should actually be called 3G LTE.

    2) The actual 4G standard that was specified in 2008, but has NOT been widely deployed anywhere on the planet. It continues to be in the prototype stage of deployment.

    I’ll skip all the gory details and simply point you to this ever evolving, ever useful article at Wikipedia:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4G

    My best guess:
    We’ll have REAL ‘4G’ available when we start seeing advertisements for ‘LTE Advanced’. That’s the real thing, if they ever get it deployed. It’s YEARS behind schedule. (0_o)

    1. I should add, quoting from the Wikipedia article:
      The 4G standard sets …peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).

  5. The biggest problem for the US is that your country is huge and population densities vary wildly. You don’t have to erect anywhere near as many antennas in a small densely populated country.

    1. no doubt, small countries like denmark, mentioned previously have the edge, in that compact size department as you correctly point out.

      however i think that the earlier comments referring to how modern day capitalism is operated for short term gain, rather then long term investment and return, is more on point as to why we are lagging behind.

      just to put things in perspective, back in the days of yore, as a youngster i was earning 4% interest on my savings account and home mortgages ran about 6 to 7%. banks were content with that 2 to 3% level of return on their loans in comparison to what they were paying out in interest.

      not any more. our passbook savings interest is in the low 10ths of a percent, plus the banks are now even discussing charging us interest to keep our savings account money in their institutions.

      things seem to be going badly off the rails around here.

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.