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4G speeds are on the rise in US cities

The Motor City had the fastest LTE speeds in our new U.S. report (Photo courtesy of Flickr user pparasurama)The Motor City had the fastest LTE speeds in our new U.S. report (Photo courtesy of Flickr user pparasurama)

Today OpenSignal published its State of Mobile Networks report for the U.S., breaking down the network performance of the four major operators both nationwide and in cities across the country. While the report explores general 3G and 4G trends in the U.S. – including the ongoing battle between Verizon and T-Mobile over speed – I thought this would be a good opportunity to explore some of the more specific trends we’re seeing on the local level.

In the report we looked at 36 different cities in the U.S., comparing 4G availability and 4G speed among the four operators, but here I’ll dive a little deeper into comparisons across these cities. One thing to note is that the average 4G speed we recorded in most cities is significantly faster than the average nationwide speed. For instance, in 25 of the cities on our list, one or more operators delivered average LTE speeds greater than 20 Mbps in our tests, and in eight of those markets at least two operators surpassed the 20 Mbps bar. That’s quite a bit faster than national averages of all four operators which topped out at 16.9 Mbps in our measurements.

Now let’s compare the city-by-city speed results in our August report. In that report, 18 cities had one or more operators with an LTE speed of 20 Mbps or better, and three cities had two operators with 20 Mbps or greater averages. We’re obviously seeing 4G speeds increase in our major metro areas, so what’s the cause? Verizon recently began upgrading its networks with LTE-Advanced technology, which definitely explains some of the big jumps in Verizon's speed we’ve seen in the last six months in cities like New York and Orlando. But we see speeds improvements from other operators as well as the industry goes through the methodical process of tweaking LTE performance across the country. For instance, AT&T and T-Mobile have been deploying LTE in new frequency bands and in many cases are using old spectrum they no longer need for 2G or 3G services.

If you’re looking for the fastest 4G city in the U.S., that honor goes to Detroit. Both Verizon and T-Mobile averaged more than 25 Mbps in our LTE download tests there. There were two other cities where we found one operator with average 4G speeds of 25 Mbps or greater: Minneapolis and Chicago. We’re still a long way away from having a consistent national average of 25 Mbps, which has become the norm in dozens of other countries. As has long been the case, U.S. consumers enjoy widespread access to LTE signals, but the speed at which they’re connecting is still relatively slow.