4G mobile networks in the United States had an overall dip in performance last year, but in 2015, they are expanding and even faring better. At least, according to a study made by OpenSignal, a company that specializes in mapping wireless coverage.
OpenSignal collects information from its 11 million users in order to chart mobile networks worldwide. Last year in the report it published in February 2014, OpenSignal reports that the US had average download speeds of 6.5 megabits per second (mbps). This year, however, the average download speed has increased to 7 mbps.
7 mbps may not trump the 9.6 mbps average download speed that OpenSignal reported two years in 2013, but is a definite improvement over last year's performance. In terms of reach, 4G networks have expanded to more people according to the firm's report this year. In last year's report, OpenSignal found out that American mobile users spent 67 percent of their time on 4G networks. In this year's report, that percentage has increased to 77 percent.
In recent years, mobile networks have displayed the most growth in wealthy nations, where mobile users' extensive use of social media often blurs boundaries between personal life and professional life. Still, we have not really realized 4G's full potential yet -- in Spain, the top-ranked country, the average download rates are only 18 mbps, which is still so far from the maximum speed promised by 4G (150 mbps).
Spain may have scored the fastest average download speed but it may not be the country with the best overall 4G performance. Other countries like South Korea, Denmark, and Finland average download speeds of 17 mbps and offer better coverage, allowing more of their customers to spend more time on 4G. South Korea is at a remarkable 95 percent, while Denmark and Finland are at 65 percent. Spain only scored 52 percent.
Among the wireless carriers in the US, Verizon Wireless is the leader in terms of network coverage, scoring 86 percent (followed by AT&T, T-Mobile, Cricket Wireless, and Sprint). In terms of speeds, T-Mobile is the winner, with 10 mbps (trailing behind are Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, and Cricket).
4G networks, shortened from fourth generation networks that use Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology, are increasingly becoming more commonplace as wireless carriers continue to upgrade their network infrastructures and as more users purchase 4G-compatible handsets. But 4G is mostly only available in major metropolitan areas, not in outlying regions where 3G or 2G is much more common.
Carriers also spend a lot in transitioning to 4G. Not only do they have to upgrade their towers and network equipment, they also have to license new radio spectrum from the federal government.
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