Despite competitive LTE coverage, the United States drops toward the bottom of the list when it comes to speeds, ranking 55th out of 68.
LTE is still growing, evolving and expanding, but it seems that other countries are racing ahead of the United States. A comparison of LTE coverage and speeds in different countries worldwide puts the United States at the top in terms of coverage, but towards the bottom in terms of speeds.
OpenSignal has officially released its latest report on the state of global LTE coverage and download speeds for the third quarter of 2015. It comes as no big surprise that Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong still boast the best LTE coverage with 97 percent, 90 percent and 86 percent, respectively, while the United States ranks fourth with 78 percent LTE coverage. Big European markets such as the UK and Germany rank somewhere in the middle of the list.
When it comes to LTE download speeds, however, the report tells a more disappointing story for the United States. New Zealand, Singapore and Romania are the top 3 countries to offer the best download speeds with 36Mbps, 33Mbps and 30Mbps respectively, but the United States drops to the No. 55 spot out of all 68 countries listed.
The United States was among the first to introduce 4G LTE, along with Japan, Germany and Sweden, but early adoption can only get you so far. Adopting the technology later on, when it was already more advanced, apparently allowed others to shine in download speeds even if they arrived late to the party.
New Zealand, for instance, started offering LTE only a couple of years ago, yet it now ranks No. 1 in OpenSignal's LTE speed test. Romania hasn't been in the LTE game for long either, yet it already boasts LTE-Advanced technology and 4G networks on multiple bands and ranks third in this speed test, trailing behind Singapore but outshining South Korea.
The United States, meanwhile, offers solid LTE coverage, but it comes toward the bottom of the list in speed tests because it offers download speeds of just 10Mbps on average. That's more than 3.5 times slower than New Zealand's. In OpenSignal's list, the United States trails India, which also has average download speeds of 10Mbps on LTE, and comes ahead of Indonesia, which has average LTE download speeds of 9Mbps. Still, the United States may have some extenuating circumstances, at least to some extent.
More specifically, OpenSignal explains that early adopters of LTE are also "suffering from their own success." LTE first launched in the United States back in 2010 and the nation has amassed a whopping base of LTE subscribers since. All of those subscribers are drawing from the same network resources, which translates to slower download speeds. For newer networks in Europe and South America this problem is not as severe, because they're not as heavily loaded and fewer subscribers compete over the same resources.
On the other hand, OpenSignal also points out that the United States "failed to keep up with the rest of the world in both spectrum and technology." All four major U.S. carriers - AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint and T-Mobile - have been adding more frequency bands, but all of them failed to keep up with what countries like South Korea and Singapore offer in terms of capacity. Moreover, the United States has also been dragging its feet when it comes to moving to LTE-Advanced technology, while others moved notably faster.