Sci & Tech

The Sorry State of LTE

The Sorry State of LTEThe Sorry State of LTE

Open Signal has published its latest report on The State of LTE, looking at all aspects of the new mobile technology such as speed and coverage of 4G Internet on a country-by-country basis.

The UK-based company gathers all the usual data from its large crowdsourced "sensor network" enabled through millions of people downloading its app to their smartphones. The website and the periodical refresh reports is the sole organization for independent data on the speed of mobile networks.

In the latest results from the company, South Korea remains in pole position for its level of 4G-Long Term Evolution coverage with 99.6% of the country covered by the fast Internet connection. New Zealand comes in first place for speed registering 36 Mbps, which is only overtaken by Singapore's StarHub network with 38 Mbps.

Again, South Koreans use LTE more than other countries with the time spent using LTE registering at 97%. This could be down to a number of factors, including the disconnection of older 2G networks as well as the use of VOIP LTE connected networks, rather than traditional telephone lines.

Iran, however, is a different story entirely. For download speed, MCI in a surprise move comes in first place, according to the report with 4 Mbps connectivity. In other words, the large advertising campaign that MTN-Irancell has been pushing has not entirely paid off when the results are shown.

The part South African-owned MTN-Irancell network does exceed MCI's coverage though with 49% of the country covered by LTE. The average speed attained by users in Iran of the MTN network maxes out at 3Mbps.

OpenSignal's quadrant graph provides a look into the overall performance of the world’s global LTE operators, factoring in both average network speeds and network availability.

Iran is lagging behind its East Asian and East European networks that are leading the way in terms of speed and connectivity. For instance, Romania and its 4G network accrue networks of 36Mpbs covering over 55% of that country. Taiwan Mobile also hit high in the chart with its 4G speed hitting 25Mbps covering a staggering 81% of the country.

Some Western European service providers with underperforming networks in the lower left-hand quadrant, for instance 3G operations in both the UK and Ireland as well as Italy’s telecom operator Wind.

  Iranian Coverage

This section covers the time a user has an LTE signal or LTE "time coverage," according to the group. They say it is their primary metric for looking at coverage "holistically", instead of looking by geographical reach.

Iran scores at the lower end of the charts due to the lateness in setting up their 4G telephony networks. According to Open Signal, in this category, Iran ranks toward the end of the chart just behind Chile and ahead of Costa Rica and Ireland. Iran ranks with 46% coverage between the two major networks of MCI and MTN-Irancell.

Compared with the last quarter's result, Iran is moving fairly steadily up the rank with an increase of 3% coverage overtaking Ireland that has had its 4G network much longer.

  LTE Coverage by Network

MTN-Irancell leads between the two major networks and ranks 143rd globally, with MCI at third last place ranking 179th. Both networks do come ahead of some surprising results like France's Free network that sits just below MCI and Indonesia's Indosat network.

South Korea once again leads the world in LTE availability. Customers on its networks are able to connect to LTE 97% of the time, making 4G almost as pervasive as 2G and 3G networks in that country.

What’s even more impressive is the individual performance of South Korea’s LG U+, which had an LTE time coverage of 99.6%.

  LTE by Country

In this section, Iran scores poorly against all countries attaining last place in terms of search results, pegging with Costa Rica at the end of the charts. This is while even Pakistan, where large swathes of the country do not even have 2G signals, registers a higher score and stands at third last place.  

The peculiar statistic in this chart may be due to regulations concerning the licensing of the speed of connectivity.

Although Iran's Telecoms Minister Mahmoud Vaezi has given 3G and 4G licenses to all those who has applied so far, there has been rumors that the speed of the operators is capped at 5Mpbs, which is supported by this chart.

This, however, is better than ADSL Internet that caps residential subscribers at 256 Kpbs, which rule is ignored by the operators.

The report notes a big jump in 4G speeds in many countries, which is likely the result of operators upgrading their networks. Many operators are deploying new LTE systems in new frequency bands, adding more capacity to their networks, which allows them to serve more customers without sacrificing performance.

Several operators are using new LTE-Advanced technologies to boost the speeds available to devices.

For Iran's operator,s the main goal having started on the back foot in late November 2014 has been to give 3G and to a lesser extent 4G coverage across as many cities as possible.

Case in point would be the recent announcement by MCI that it is pushing 3G signals over 4G LTE, as the majority of handsets on sale in Iran are only capable of 3G currently.