U.S.’s crappy 4G service costs far more than it should


Speedtest will show you that 4G LTE service in the US is often quite slow.
Speedtest will show you that 4G LTE service in the US is often quite slow.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

Many other countries have much faster 4G service than the United States, according to a new study.  About the only places the US beat were emerging economies.

To add insult to injury, a recent study also found that Americans pay far more for mobile internet access than other developed countries.

Just how bad is it?

OpenSignal tested 4G speeds in 77 countries; the United States ranked 46. Countries with comparable service include Uruguay, Bolivia and Columbia, while Tunisia, Lebanon and Ecuador actually have much better 4G. Naturally, so does virtually all of Europe.

This testing service found that the average best speed Americans can hope for is 28.8Mbps, while the average slowest speed is 15.5Mbps. South Koreans, who enjoy the best 4G service in the world, can expect a range between 55.7Mbps and 40.8Mbps.

Paying a lot for 4G

Phone users in the United States have to shell out quite a bit more than others around the world, according to  a study conducted in late 2018 by Rewheel. “The US has the 5th highest gigabyte prices in smartphone plans and is the most expensive market in mobile broadband among the 41 EU28 & OECD countries,” wrote the study authors.

And they warned that the proposed merger of T-Mobile and Sprint is likely to increase service costs.

5G to the rescue?

The move from 4G to 5G is already underweigh, and OpenSignal sees potential for the next generation of cellular-wireless data to improve service. “5G will not only provide extremely fast speeds but also a solid bedrock of capacity, to even out the consistency issues we are seeing with current 4G networks. As part of the 5G era, new high capacity and very high frequency radio bands will be usable for the first time by mobile technology, which will increase the networks’ ability to support more simultaneous users and data at very high speeds,” wrote the authors of its study.

Of course, US wireless carriers are spending billions to upgrade their networks to 5G and will have to to pass those costs on to their custoerms, quite possibly with higher service prices.


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