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Faster mobile network speeds seen as ‘indication of network capabilities to come’

Boost in network speeds seen as ‘indication of network capabilities to come’

Mobile network operators are significantly boosting their network speeds, and T-Mobile US came out on top in speed testing in two new reports from OpenSignal and Ookla.

“Operators are beginning to cross the 20 Mbps barrier for 4G download speeds, but perhaps more telling are the results we’re seeing on the regional level,” OpenSignal said in a blog post on the results of its most recent State of Mobile Networks report for the U.S. “In big cities like New York and Detroit we’re measuring 4G connections in excess of 30 Mbps, an indication of network capabilities to come.”

Ookla, which released its most recent speed testing data for the U.S., said, “5G is on the horizon, but for now LTE is still the name of the game as mobile carriers in the United States continue to invest in and fine-tune their infrastructure to improve speeds and more efficiently use existing spectrum.” Ookla added that “mean download speed over mobile in the U.S. increased 20.4% between Q1-Q2 2017 and Q1-Q2 2018 to 27.33 Mbps. The mean upload speed for mobile was 8.63 Mbps, up 1.4% over Q1-Q2 2017.”

While network speeds are getting faster, Ookla offered some global perspective for comparison, saying that in the first half of 2018, “the U.S. ranked 43rd in the world for mean download speed over mobile, between Hong Kong and Portugal, and 73rd for mean upload speed, between Laos and Panama.”

OpenSignal’s report is based on analysis of more than 8 billion measurements taken from about 386,000 test devices between mid-March and mid-June of this year. Ookla gathered data from about 2.8 million mobile users, based on 12.5 million completed tests and nearly 525,000 data points. Both companies rely on crowdsourced, device-based data for their analysis.

OpenSignal awarded its overall 4G download speed award to T-Mobile US, which also won in 4G upload speeds, 3G download speeds and overall download speeds. Verizon and T-Mo tied for LTE availability, and AT&T won the network latency category. Not to be left out, Sprint was lauded by OpenSignal for its overall progress in improving its 4G metrics — although it still lagged behind the other three national carriers in most areas, though not as far as in the past. OpenSignal note that “in this test period [Sprint] managed to pull nearly even with AT&T in our 4G availability category. Sprint also came within 600 kbps of matching AT&T’s 4G download speed of 15.1 Mbps in our measurements.”

Ookla also handed T-Mo their top spot for speed on a nationwide basis, giving the carrier the coveted title of “the fastest carrier in the U.S.”

Verizon had, shall we say, a different take on the Ookla results.

“After reading the [Ookla] report, ​it’s clear that Verizon is the winner,” said Mike Haberman, VP of network operations for Verizon, citing the fact that its network “as the fastest ​in nearly half of the 100 cities Ookla ​examined–fastest in more cities than any other wireless​​​ provider by a wide margin.” Haberman also said that Verizon had the fewest coverage caps and that its network was clocked as the “fastest when comparing performance using the iPhone X,” which was the device in more than 350,000 tests.

Ookla also made a point of mentioning Sprint’s improvements in its network performance.

“Sprint has delivered the most improved download speeds over the past year,” the company said. “While still the slowest of the four major carriers, the gap between Sprint and AT&T has been closing. In some markets, Sprint customers are experiencing faster download speeds than those on any other carrier. This development is because Sprint committed between 40 MHz and 60 MHz of contiguous 2.5 GHz spectrum to LTE and the company expanded its use of carrier aggregation across a wider footprint.”

 

ABOUT AUTHOR

Kelly Hill
Kelly Hill
Kelly reports on network test and measurement, as well as the use of big data and analytics. She first covered the wireless industry for RCR Wireless News in 2005, focusing on carriers and mobile virtual network operators, then took a few years’ hiatus and returned to RCR Wireless News to write about heterogeneous networks and network infrastructure. Kelly is an Ohio native with a masters degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, where she focused on science writing and multimedia. She has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Oregonian and The Canton Repository. Follow her on Twitter: @khillrcr

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