back to article Stop whining, America: Your LTE makes Europe look slow

US consumers love to moan about their internet providers, but in reality they enjoy superior LTE speeds to Europe. A vendor’s global survey of mobile broadband performance highlights some intriguing trends - and tips India to leapfrog into the future. For years the US was a poor relation of Europe when it came to mobile. …

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I wasn't aware that the US had a problem with speed, I always thought the issue was cost and competition. While it's great to have high speed access if you are getting shafted for the privilege because there is only one provider you'll still not be happy.

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Megaphone

Don't forget coverage.

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Yep, although my European 300mbps LTE is a little limiting, so the 390mbps in America would be welcome. ;-)

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Speed, coverage, or cost.

Pick any two.

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I live in the states and the situation varies wildly from location to location and provider to provider.I was shocked upon first moving here just how poor the coverage was in rural areas. Even the much vaunted Verizon had large swathes of the state uncovered or the service was so poor so as to be useless. Speed was also poor, tmobile (the 'cheap carrier') actually had some of the best speeds due to their hspda service although their coverage was the worst.

The advent of mobile video seemed to bring att, verizon and sprint to their knees, at least here. I got a verizon tablet and the speeds were pathetic on lte (sub 1mbps) even when close to and in clear sight of a verizon tower. When they had ~35m subscribers tmobile also had great speeds, now with nearly double that number they are slowing down. The poster child for speed is usually sprint where they have rolled out their 3xCA EBS\BRS network although that speed is usually only evident during offpeak hours.

I know they love to boast of having the best everything here but with cell service it just isnt the case. Things are improving but not quickly. Use is outstripping capacity expansion and valuable spectrum is tied up supporting legacy (less spectrally efficient) technologies.

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Speed, coverage, or cost.

Pick any two one.

This is the States so FTFY.

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Coverage

"I was shocked upon first moving here just how poor the coverage was in rural areas."

The size of Europe is 3.9 million square miles. The size of the contiguous US (everything except Alaska, Hawaii, and its territories) is 3.1 million square miles. In Europe, 100 miles is a holiday. In the US, 100 miles is a daily commute. In the plains of the central US you can drive for miles and miles and only see corn. There is a lot of area to cover in this country. This is why rural coverage is so poor.

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If

If only the bright young things at brand new country could get together and invent a way of forcing TV and Radio to use the Internet I'm pretty sure you'd be writing nonsense.

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Re: Coverage

Wade, I live on an island maybe 100 miles long with 160000 people on it. Theres gaps in coverage in the middle of town, out of town it gets even worse. Partially its the geography but mostly a half assed approach and a network density setup for voice in sub 1 GHz spectrum thats struggling with data related issues like lte cell breathing.

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My O2 LTE, 4G or whatever we are calling it now in the UK is as quick as it needs to be where it's available. I guess it could be made quicker, but everything I need to do works really quickly already My biggest problem is with O2 network somehow decides I don't need 4G even when it's available and drops the connection to EDGE. I need to cycle mobile data off and on to get the 4G back.

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FIA
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Might be worth asking for a replacement SIM, I had similar problems; a new sim fixed it.

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Speed not the problem

Local monopolies or duopolies for vast swathes of the country and cartels for what's remaining are the fundamental issue. 2 phones, unlimited calls, unlimited texts and 1GB data shared $118 per month, no alternative coverage in this area.

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Re: Speed not the problem

That is about $80 more than we pay for the same thing! :-O

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Re: Speed not the problem

And in Canada, an average plan with 300 daytime minutes, unlimited evenings, and 2.5GB of data costs around $75

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Re: Speed not the problem

What monopoly? the vast majority of the country has access to at least 3 if not 4 major national carriers and a multitude of mvnos and regional carriers. The wireline business is a cartel, you usually only have one option the wireless is not (although there is an argument for some collusion between the big two). As for service I have 2 lines with unlimited calls, texts, lte data and calls the a bunch of other countries for 105 plus taxes a month.

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Re: Speed not the problem

Depends on where you live.

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Re: Speed not the problem

> Local monopolies or duopolies for vast swathes of the country and cartels for what's remaining are the fundamental issue.

How did the free-traders let that happen?

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Re: Speed not the problem

£25 -£27? month here (glass fibre.) Never had so much as a glitche.

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But at what cost?

In the US, a T-Mobile 14 GB/mo data-only contract costs $65/mo. In the UK, an EE 15 GB/mo data-only contract costs £20 ($30). That's less than half the price.

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Re: But at what cost?

But that data contract works throughout a much larger area (more towers to support), plus free international data at 2G/3G is included at no cost. Plus if you have a phone that can do WiFi Calling, you can use it abroad to call as if you're back in the states, at no additional charge.

Anyway, deals come up now and then. I'm on one now: 2 lines, completely unmetered (including the LTE data) for $100/mo.

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Re: But at what cost?

I use T-Mobile when in the US and pay only $30/mo for unlimited data and includes 100mins, and 5GB at 4G LTE speed.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: But at what cost?

I pay 70 Euros/month for 20Gbyte, unlimited voice, mms & sms including international calls which also includes roaming in the EU and N. America. And that includes the fixed line DSL.

Boy, the US & UK consumers get screwed.

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Re: But at what cost?

In the US, nobody but T-Mobile quotes a T-Mobile contract. Because only their 3 users care about their prices.

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Re: But at what cost?

T-mobile rocks if you live on the coasts but the coverage is pretty shitty in between for most part.

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Re: But at what cost?

The problem with T-Mobile in the US is that their coverage is very limited to the major metropolis areas. When you live in smaller towns, or visit smaller towns you are out of luck

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Re: But at what cost?

Exact same deal here, except I have an old 3G Moto G, and the 3G speed is just fine for me. When there's a decent non-Sony, non-Samsung Android LTE phone in the US for <$200, I'll buy it...

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Re: But at what cost?

You should check out the selection at Walmart, then. They do a lot of prepaid phone carriers there these days (including their own, a T-Mobile MVNO), but the point is that last I checked they carry a wide range of phones, many of which aren't from Sony or Samsung and some of which can even do LTE with the right plan. I think I recently say an LG, pretty big, right at the $200 mark, and I think it even had Lollipop.

Having said that, read the bands carefully, as most of the ones you find in that lot that can do LTE likely won't be able to to do it outside the US (ones based on T-Mobile or AT&T will usually carry bands IV and XVII due to a cross-spectrum agreement; consider yourself lucky if they also do bands I and VII. Getting band III in a US phone usually means going with a recent high-ender (I know the S5, an octo-band, can do it).

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Re: But at what cost?

On the 3 network, genuinely unlimited data (including 4GB tethered), all the calls and texts I want, in the UK and many other countries, SIM-only for £20/$30 month. That's not a few hundred MB, not a poxy GB or two, it's an unlimited pipe to 4G speed data. I don't need home broadband/Wi-Fi.

Sounds like a pretty hot deal compared with you chaps over pondleft.

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Re: But at what cost?

"In the US, nobody but T-Mobile quotes a T-Mobile contract. Because only their 3 users care about their prices."

If T-Mobile is so bad, how come SimpleMobile and Walmart both use T-Mobile as the backbone for their MVNO's?

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Re: But at what cost?

Still remember the days of paying £5 per megabyte with o2! Had an HTC XDA 2 with GRPS. Sadly it looks like with all the telecoms mergers that have been approved recently that prices are going back up again.

I pay £15 per month (4 year old legacy 'One' contract) for unlimited 4 g data (including tethering) and unlimited calls and texts.

It also gives me free data and minutes in a lot of countries.

I'm dreading the day they move me to another tariff as it's going to at least be double the price.

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Re: But at what cost?

---------------

1980s_coder

On the 3 network, genuinely unlimited data (including 4GB tethered), all the calls and texts I want, in the UK and many other countries

The data is only unlimited whilst in the UK.

In roaming it's capped at about 20 Gb, which is admittedly virtually unlimited, but technically the limit exists.

-----

its 12GBs now and you can only roam for free for 2 months per every 12 months (feel at home 21 locations) for £20-33 a month (AYCE)

ID mobile does even more at 29 places (but only 10GB of data for £25)

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There are two Americas

In the big cities coverage is indeed excellent and there is competition. Outside the cities and it can be a very different story: shitty mobile coverage and ISPs with monopoly coverage.

For most people the 3G+ speeds that you can get in most of Europe are adequate for most tasks. This is why "pay more for LTE" failed to get any takers, unlike stateside where it was LTE or EDGE.

LTE was designed for gradual rollout.

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Re: There are two Americas

I think you're saying that the _average_ population density in the US is much lower than it is in western Europe, which is self-evident. Absent government subsidies (as were given in ages past for rural free mail delivery), there is no economic incentive for the telecoms to build out in the great empty.

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Re: There are two Americas

I think you're saying that the _average_ population density in the US is much lower than it is in western Europe, which is self-evident.

Well, yes. Except poor coverage in the US starts a lot closer to the built-up areas than in Europe. Even in Silicon Valley, coverage is very poor once you get away from the main centres of population and the motorways.

Absent government subsidies (as were given in ages past for rural free mail delivery), there is no economic incentive for the telecoms to build out in the great empty.

Whereas it was a requirement of the licences awarded in Europe that at least 90% of the population / area (varies from country to country) are covered. Part of the cost of providing this more or less universal coverage is also holding back the buildout of LTE.

Then again, the stubborn refusal of us European to pay US prices – doesn't matter whether it's telephone, internet or pay TV – has led to a more competitive and more advanced business model with more and more specialisation and joint ventures with the equipment makers.

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Stubborn Refusal

Indeed, the EU had driven down mobile costs again and again by statue, high roaming call surcharges are almost gone, data is going the same way, and then the operators are voluntarily extending this scheme to other places they have presence, eg 3 in Australia.

I've no doubt it's better value for an American to buy a SIM from 3 in the UK and use it roaming in USA than use your own providers!

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I visit the US a lot and the speed and coverage of LTE is always exceptional, whereas here in Glasgow its hard just to get a signal and when it does the speed is always slow and unresponsive. Just the other day I gave up on submitting a Yelp review because it just got stuck submitting and eventually timed out. This was indoors in a reception area in a building on Glasgow University campus. We might have nicer stone buildings with thick walls but the lack of quality LTE must be hurting our economy as its not a good networking environment for innovation.

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Re: I visit the US a lot

Flying in and out of a major city doesn't count. You have to go somewhere that includes the instructions "turn onto the dirt road". THEN you've visited the US and you can tell your friends about how great our coverage is.

I live in the DC metro area. In theory we're one of the good places for LTE data coverage. I turned in my Sprint phone because the data signal died too often on my commute to work, making it pointless for what I intended to use it for. These days I have a disposable phone that I add months to every so often. No, I don't worry about minutes.

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but the lack of quality LTE must be hurting our economy as its not a good networking environment for innovation.

That sounds like a plea for a handout!

I like the idea of being able to submit Yelp reviews as a litmus test for the digital economy. How much data do you actually need on the move? Assuming you have some local storage for maps and media I think you'll find that you'll be fine with the occasional hotspot.

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Re: I visit the US a lot

I live in the DC metro area (Maryland). No problems with Verizon coverage at all. LTE pretty much everywhere.

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bring on the 5G

They are already really pushing for 5G. No surprise because that way you can go over your monthly data allocation in 9 seconds instead of the several minutes it now takes. The shareholders sure love them some overage charges.

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Sounds like if you want decent coverage in the US you need to get a satellite phone and it doesn't work out as that expensive compared to standard phone contracts.

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Decent coverage in the rural US. That's to be expected when the middle of the US Great Plains is basically the poster child for "The Middle of Nowhere." Thing is, you're usually going to have a hard time getting a good signal anywhere this sparse.

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You don't have to be that far from populated areas to get questionable signal and be reduced to a single carrier. I live about 20 miles from the state capital and only have a single carrier to choose from and frequently lose signal, I'm lucky to get 2 bars in my house and frequently get missed missed calls, i.e. calls that have been made, that are not picked up by the receiving handset and are not transferred to voicemail.

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I tend to get voted down by the Euros when I say this but if the US was GSM only (forget LTE voice argument for now) it would be far worse in the sticks. There is a reason why Verizon tends to have the best network in the boonies. CDMA requires fewer base stations to cover a given area. GSM works well in western Europe where the population density is significantly higher.

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" I'm lucky to get 2 bars in my house and frequently get missed missed calls, i.e. calls that have been made, that are not picked up by the receiving handset and are not transferred to voicemail."

Sounds like a network issue to me. If the network can't reach your phone, it's supposed to throw the call directly to voicemail.

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In built-up areas with cable service you can get decent speeds in the US, although it is overpriced compared to UK offerings. It has behaved itself so far, and they're advanced enough to offer IPv6, which wasn't true last time I had Virginmedia cable.

I was pleasantly surprised by how good LTE is, to the point where I never bothered to hook my phone into the work guest wifi because I got better performance from the LTE side of things. I can't compare with the UK equivalent because I never had LTE when I was living there and we were out in the sticks where even GSM feared to propagate.

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