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LTE speeds and coverage – why it is better to be late
September 29, 2015, 2:58 pm

The state of global LTE coverage and download speeds tells some familiar stories. As we have seen in previous years, it is Asian nations such as South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong that offer customers the best coverage (97 percent, 90 percent, and 86 percent respectively), while the US lags just a little behind (78 percent) and European countries like the UK and Germany pop up towards the middle of the list. However, when it comes to download speeds on LTE networks, some countries rank surprisingly high, reflecting the fact that it is sometimes better to come a little late to the party, when all the best technology is already in place.

New Zealand is a good example. The country only launched its LTE mobile networks two years ago, but in speed tests it came out top, with average speeds of 36Mbps — ahead of both Singapore and South Korea, which were second and fourth place respectively. And which country took that number three spot? It's ‘relative newcomer’ Romania, which already has access to LTE-Advanced and 4G networks on multiple bands.

Meanwhile, some countries which introduced LTE relatively early on (including the US, Japan, Sweden, and Germany) are starting to see their data speeds suffer by comparison. The US, for example, despite impressive coverage for such a large nation, only recorded average download speeds of 10Mbps — taking a spot towards the bottom of table, sandwiched between India and Indonesia.

In the US, the introduction of LTE in 2010 resulted in a huge base of LTE subscribers in the country today. Those subscribers are all competing for the same network resources, slowing down average speeds. In comparison, newer networks in South America and Europe are more lightly loaded. This first mover disadvantage is not a hard and fast rule, though, and countries such as South Korea have managed to keep up by expanding their networks into new frequencies and upping their capacity.

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