UK based mobile analysis firm OpenSignal, have recently released their latest report on the current state of LTE worldwide. The report took into account actual data gleaned from more than 350000 active users during the latter part of 2015. Both performance and coverage were measured which reveal interesting findings, at a time when AT&T is planning to leap ahead with 5G tests by the end of this year.
The report shows Singapore leading the pack with the most impressive nationwide implementation and coverage. And as far as the race for speed dominance goes South Korea is at the top of the ladder boasting the world’s fastest download speeds. In comparison, the UK pales in terms of both speed and coverage and certainly has some catching up to do.
Taking maximum active connections into account across all of its major operators, findings place the UK’s coverage of LTE at number 55 out of 69 countries. And average LTE speeds of 15Mbps leave the UK at position 29 in the global standings.
In Europe, the highest average speeds range from 23 to 28Mbps, and countries like Hungary, Romania, Denmark and the Netherlands claim the top spots overall. The Netherlands at the national rate of 84% coverage also features as the highest among countries in this region.
EE and Three, leading operators in the UK, both showed dramatic improvements in speeds, from 11Mbps to 18Mbps by the end of last year. EE still boast wider coverage of LTE at 60% while Three competes in second place with 40%.
Findings from the US tell quite the opposite tale. While the US features as one of the world’s highest ranked nations for an LTE coverage of 81%, it sits way below at number 55 for average network speeds.
OpenSignal’s report gives definitive clues as to why some operators internationally have experienced significant gains in speed and network throughput. As LTE technologies are adopted on an increasing scale, the number of actual users of LTE on a network trail behind in comparison. This leaves the network largely underutilised allowing existing users to enjoy smoother and faster connections.
The report goes on to say: ”A year ago, an average 4G speed of 20 Mbps would have been a truly impressive feat, but today there are 15 countries and 52 individual networks that meet or exceed that mark. This inflation of speed is really two distinct trends. On the one hand established LTE countries like Singapore, South Korea, Denmark, Hungary and Australia are plowing more resources into their networks. They’re adding capacity by deploying LTE on new frequency bands, and bonding those disparate bands together with new LTE-Advanced technologies. The result is not just greater capacity – allowing more users to tap consistently fast connections – but a big increase in peak speeds as users get access to more of a network’s overall bandwidth.”
Another factor to consider is how initially newly established networks have few subscribers and then the number starts to climb rapidly as they sign on more customers. This has the effect of generous speeds experienced by customers when the network begins rollout, and then over time, the speeds decrease as the customer base expands. The is obviously due to the fact that a larger amount of digital devices now demand more out of the LTE infrastructure which does have its limitations.
It is clearly evident that LTE/4G Advanced in its truest form still has many strides yet untaken on a global scale. At the same time, this by no means halts the demand for newer and fancier technologies to start rearing their heads. AT&T is determined to lead the way with testing 5G capabilities towards the end of this year.
Wireless technologies and 5G, in particular, are all the buzz these days, as the world’s top networks vie one with another in expensive R&D. AT&T claim that once they have their own 5G network firmly rooted, they will be able to offer users speeds which are between 10 and 100 times even faster than typical LTE and 4G.
John Donovan, who is the Chief Strategy Officer and Group President at AT&T had this to say about the exciting potential 5G has to offer: ”New experiences like virtual reality, self-driving cars, robotics, smart cities and more are about to test networks like never before. These technologies will be immersive, pervasive and responsive to customers. 5G will help make them a reality.”
Aicha Evans, corporate vice president and general manager of the Intel Communication and Devices Group says: ”As early 5G development and trials get underway, industry collaboration is necessary to implement new network architectures and prepare for commercial availability. At Intel, we know that working with partners like AT&T and Ericsson are essential to bringing faster and more efficient wireless networks that will bring new and richer experiences to our lives.”
It all sounds impressive, but as we have seen with 4G and LTE, implementation is another challenge altogether. More importantly, we have to consider the implications of increased costs to consumers for being able to enjoy the latest iterations of wireless technologies. Although according to industry experts, it looks like we’ll have to wait until 2020 for 5G to become widespread. No doubt there is a veritable demand for faster and more reliable networks. Even more promising are the new technologies that will be made possible when 5G finally becomes mainstream.