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Seoul and Singapore top OpenSignal's list of East Asia's fastest 4G cities

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In the last year, OpenSignal has ramped up its coverage in East Asia, introducing new State of Mobile Networks reports for Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand. While we've done plenty of analysis within specific countries in the region, it's high time we took a broader look at the region as a whole. In the first of a series of blog posts looking at East Asia, we've decided to examine the 4G download and upload speeds of the major cities in the region to see how they compare.

For this analysis, we looked at 12 cities, each representing the big economic centers of their respective countries or territories, drawing on data from the March-May test period. You can see the results in the chart below.

When it comes to 4G download speed, we're seeing three distinct groupings of cities. Seoul and Singapore are in a class of their own, offering average download speeds greater than 45 Mbps. That makes them not just the fastest cities in East Asia, but among the fastest cities in the world.

Below Seoul and Singapore, we find a group of cities with impressive 4G download speeds over 25 Mbps, indicative of powerful LTE networks (just not quite as awe-inspiring as the networks in Seoul and Singapore). Here we also encountered a few surprises. While we would expect Taipei and Tokyo to be LTE powerhouses, given their early adoption of 4G, Yangon and Ho Chi Minh City are holding their own. Both Vietnam and Myanmar only launched commercial 4G services within the last two years, which perhaps explains why they're delivering such fast connections. As countries ramp up their first LTE networks, they initially have few customers and large amounts of capacity. As consumers adopt 4G phones and 4G service plans, they begin filling up those networks, causing speeds to gradually decline.

Our final grouping of cities all had average 4G download speeds at or below the global average of 16.9 Mbps. Hong Kong joins the Southeast Asian metropoles Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Jakarta in this category. While their speeds are nothing to brag about, Southeast Asia has other 4G priorities at the moment. A notable trend we're tracking in the region is the intense focus on 4G availability over 4G speed. As 4G connections are far superior to 3G connections, Southeast Asia's operators seem intent on making LTE services accessible to the vast majority of their customers before they turn their attention to raw speed.

That brings us to LTE upload speeds, where we see much more parity across the region. While in 4G download the difference between the fastest and slowest city was nearly 40 Mbps, in upload the gap was about 10 Mbps wide. The fastest city of the 12 was Singapore with a 4G upload speed of 15.4 Mbps, which is yet another testament to the power of the city-state's LTE networks. But even the slowest cities in the region, Phnom Penh and Jakarta, averaged decent 4G upload speeds of 4.9 Mbps.

In the coming weeks, we'll take a second deep dive into our 12 cities, focusing instead on 4G availability. In the meantime, if you happen to live in one of East Asia's big hubs, we'd love to hear about your own experiences with 4G speed. Let us know about them in the comments section below.