LTE speeds dive in the US as users crank up the video

Late last week OpenSignal ( reported a dramatic decline in LTE speeds, as experienced by users, across all the LTE networks, in the US. This news hasn’t exactly been top of the pile at Mobile World Congress for obvious reasons and because I’ve mentioned to a few people by way of opening a conversation and they hadn’t heard (especially WiFi people), I thought I’d retail the story now even though it’s gone a bit whiskery.

OpenSignal is a crowdsourced network metrics operation. It claims 6 million people have downloaded its app which gathers performance stats from the handset’s point of view (throughput, geo location, time of day/week/year, jitter etc), sends the data back to OpenSignal which compiles some meaningful statistics about comparative network performance, in this case LTE.

We all know that any method of measuring network performance will draw fire from one quarter or another, usually because the results don’t support a particular world view. OpenSignal points out that the usual measuring method might involve testing the actual network by driving a test car about to record congestion, signal strength and so on. That runs a measuring tape over the network, but not necessarily over the all-important user experience which, of course, is often considerably different. Measuring from the phone must be the best way to do meaningful comparisons.

So there was considerable surprise when OpenSignal’s latest figures summary (released in the run-up to Mobile World Congress) gave the US a disappointing speed average in LTE when compared to other territories. Far from ‘leading the world’ in mobile broadband, as we’re often told, according to these figures the US is in reality a laggard in user experience. It came 15th out of 16 countries surveyed, with the average data rate dropping to 6.5 Mbit/s from 9.6Mbit/s. This is LTE we’re talking about.

The reason for the drop, of course, is almost certainly from user numbers and video consumption going up fast as users learn to flex the new speeds but end up Easter Islanding the network.

Verizon and Sprint were lowest with 7.6 Mbit/s and 4.2 Mbit/s respectively. T-Mobile was best at 11.2 Mbit/s and AT&T next at 8.9 Mbit/s. All these speeds were well below the other country averages.

Leaders were the familiar line-up of South Korea, Hong Kong and Sweden.

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