T-Mobile’s focus on expanding its 4G LTE network has paid off. While the speed of your particular 4G service will vary depending on where you live, user-generated data collected from Ookla Speedtest reveal that T-Mobile’s network provides the fastest overall network service speed, according to a recent press release published by T-Mobile last month. According to the carrier, the Speedtest results prove that T-Mobile delivers not only the nation’s highest average network speeds at 17.8 Mbps but also the most consistently fast 4G LTE speeds in the nation.
This news may have T-Mobile and Metro PCS (which uses the same network) users feeling pretty good, but it may be a bit of a buzzkill to realize that T-Mobile’s 17.8 Mbps benchmark is not so fast when compared to 4G speeds around the world; take 24.5 Mbps in Australia, 22.2 Mbps in Italy and 21 Mbps in Brazil and Hong Kong as examples. 4G LTE speeds in the U.S. are so low, the States doesn’t even qualify for the minor leagues in the game of wireless broadband.
Time on LTE by Country and Network
Chart by OpenSignal
So how did we get into this predicament? Well, it really comes down to network availability, capacity and capability.
- Availability: In order to benefit from your cellular provider’s 4G services, you have to be physically located where your device can access the 4G network. In the United States, 4G networks are currently present for most providers in the major metropolitan areas but are still being fully implemented to achieve nationwide coverage.
- Capacity: The more people using a particular network, the slower the service speed will be. Network capacity is a particular problem in markets such as New York and San Francisco where, according to the Tech Savvy Report, Verizon has struggled with maintaining optimal 4G LTE service speeds.
- Capability: Even if your carrier provides access to a 4G LTE network, your mobile device has to be wired for 4G LTE access before you can take advantage of the faster speeds. Only the newest devices can access the fastest 4G LTE speeds, meaning that until you upgrade your internet might not run so fast. Verizon, for example, launched a new 4G LTE network in December, according to Gigaom. Though download speeds as fast as 24 Mbps have been reported on the new network, only 20% of Verizon smartphones have the required hardware to access the new network, according to Fierce Wireless.
T-Mobile’s claim to provide the nation’s fastest 4G service is heavily influenced by the timing of its 4G network expansion as well as the number of 4G network devices that are currently being used by T-Mobile users. In fact your own carrier might claim connectivity similar to T-Mobile’s, and they might not be exaggerating – they’re just using different measurements. Next year the situation of wireless download speeds might be very different depending on where wireless network upgrades are made and the devices people use to connect. Regardless, the news that T-Mobile has the fastest 4G network in the U.S. downplays the fact that 4G LTE in the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world.
Do you use a 4G-enabled smartphone? If so, what is your experience with download speeds?
Photo by Omegatron