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The best performing 4G cities in Europe

Next week, Barcelona hosts the biggest wireless networking show in the world, Mobile World Congress, so we thought it would be an apt time to focus on some of the more interesting 4G trends in Europe. This week, OpenSignal released its Global State of Mobile Networks report, which details mobile data speeds in countries around the world, but today we thought we'd drill down to the city level, looking at the fastest and most accessible LTE infrastructures in the European Union.

Our first chart looks at average 4G availability in 30 of the top urban areas in the EU. Rather than measure geographic coverage, our availability metric tracks the proportion of time our users can connect to a particular network. That makes it a particularly useful metric for metro areas, as geographic reach is no guarantee you'll be able to latch onto a 4G network in crowded urban canyons of our modern cities. Our second chart tracks the average LTE download speed our users experienced when they were able to establish those 4G connections. All of our data was collected between Nov. 1 and Jan. 31 by hundreds of thousands of OpenSignal smartphone users in Europe.

Budapest and Rotterdam are the obvious standouts in our measurements. They held the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in both our  availability and speed rankings respectively. Our testers were not only able to connect to an LTE signal in nearly nine out of ten attempts in those two cities, but once connected they also experienced some of the fastest 4G speeds in the world. Budapest and Rotterdam were the only cities in our analysis with an average download of more than 40 Mbps. Other cities to note are Stockholm and Amsterdam, which scored highly in both of our metrics.

MWC host city Barcelona didn't do too shabbily either. While roughly in the middle of the table in speed, the Catalan capital rated high in availability. Spain's operators supplied an LTE signal to our Barcelona testers more than 78% of the time. And though Barcelona's speeds may have only been average compared to the big EU markets, its score of 29.1 Mbps is nothing to scoff at. In fact, big European cities generally delivered fast speeds across the board. All 30 of the markets we looked at were well above the global 4G download average of 17.4 Mbps as measured in our recent State of LTE report.

Fast networks don't equate highly available networks though. In ten of the 30 metro areas, our users weren't able to maintain consistent LTE connections more than 70% of the time, and one market -- the Ruhr urban conglomeration surrounding Essen and Dortmund -- had a 4G availability of just 55% in our tests. German cities overall fared the poorest in our results. While Spanish, U.K. and Italian cities generally performed well in either the speed or availability category but not the other, German cities routinely fell to the bottom of the table in both metrics.