Report: America's 4G LTE is really slow

The U.S. ranked 15th out of 16 countries when it comes to average 4G LTE speeds.

image alt text

Credit: OpenSignal

It's hard to look at the news lately and not come to this conclusion - the internet in the U.S. just plain stinks compared to the rest of the world. Today is the most recent example.

A recent study published by OpenSignal, which uses iOS and Android apps to measure performance on its users' devices, shows the U.S. posted an average wireless connection speed of 6.5 Mbps in 2013. That ranked 15th out of the 16 countries examined in the study, edging out only the Philippines' 5.3 Mbps average. Australia led the list at 24.5 Mbps, followed by Italy, Brazil, Hong Kong, Denmark, and our neighbors to the north, Canada, which boasts connection speeds more than three times faster than those in the U.S.

This, of course, was a significant decline for the U.S. from the last time OpenSignal recorded this kind of data a year ago, in which the U.S. posted an average speed of 9.6 Mbps. Only two other countries saw a decline in that same period: Sweden, which declined from 22.1 Mbps to 19.2 Mbps, and Germany, from 14 Mbps to 13.6 Mbps. Australia saw an increase from 17.3 Mbps to 24.5 Mbps, and Japan increased from 7.1 Mbps to 11.8 Mbps in that timeframe, marking the two biggest speed increases across the last two studies.

Broken down by network, AT&T fared the best among U.S. carriers, with an average speed of 8.9 Mbps, followed by Verizon at 7.6 Mbps. Seven of the 10 slowest networks measured in the study are in the U.S., and no U.S. carrier ranked higher than ninth-worst. MetroPCS brought up the rear, with just 2.4 Mbps average speeds. OpenSignal addressed any concerns about measuring a network that was acquired by T-Mobile at the beginning of the year in question.

"While Metro PCS was acquired by T-Mobile early in 2013, we still recorded a high volume of tests coming in on Metro PCS LTE for the full duration of 2013, as there is a legacy network still active. This is the reason the Metro PCS network is included in this report."

That makes sense. The acquisition didn't close until early May 2013, and MetroPCS didn't start selling devices that connected to T-Mobile's network until mid-June. The acquisition probably didn't have much of an impact on users until at least late 2013.

Although none of it was all that good, it wasn't all terrible news. The U.S. did rank fifth in 4G LTE coverage, which was a new metric in the study. Based on the amount of time that users have access to LTE networks, the data showed users in the U.S. averaged 67% of time on 4G, which tied with Canada and was within range of Japan's 68% and Hong Kong's 74%. South Korea and Sweden, at 91% and 88%, respectively, were far and away the tops in the world for this metric.

Add this study to the continued negativity surrounding the broadband industry, particularly the challenges facing net neutrality, the cable lobby's successful efforts at thwarting municipal broadband projects, and the latest allegations that ISPs are responsible for the recent degradation of Netflix streaming, and the outlook for internet in America is pretty bleak these days.

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Must read: 10 new UI features coming to Windows 10