If you thought the U.S. was a leader in mobile technology, think again. A recent survey from OpenSignal found that mobile internet speeds in the United States fell near the bottom of the charts compared to other countries around the world. That's despite fierce competition in the country's wireless market as carriers battle each other for customers.
In the countries with the fastest mobile internet, download speeds top 40 megabits per second on average -- nearly three times faster than the paltry 15 Mbps average American consumers get from their carriers. If you want lightning-fast mobile internet access, your only option may be to travel to one of these countries.
1. Singapore: Average download speed of 45.62 Mbps
Singtel, M1, and Starhub make up nearly the entire telecom market in Singapore. All three continue to push the boundaries of 4G as they develop 5G technology. This year, Singtel, which covers nearly half of all cellphone users in Singapore, started rolling out new technology that can produce download speeds of up to 800 Mbps. At the beginning of the year, M1 demonstrated download speeds of 35 gigabits per second (that's 35,000 megabits per second) with its 5G technology.
2. South Korea: Average download speed of 43.46 Mbps
SK Telecom is the largest wireless carrier in South Korea, servicing about 50% of all customers in the country. In September, the company announced that it has expanded its latest LTE technology to 75 cities and 31 counties in Korea. The network can reach speeds between 700 Mbps and 900 Mbps under the right conditions.
South Korea also boasts the best LTE coverage of any country. The latest OpenSignal survey found wireless customers have a 4G LTE signal 96.4% of the time. Japan is the only other country with over 90% availability.
3. Hungary: Average download speed of 42.61 Mbps
Hungary's wireless providers are making a significant push to expand high-speed wireless internet to rural areas. By the end of last year, Telenor, the country's second-largest carrier, said its 4G LTE service was available in 2,100 villages with 6,000 or fewer residents each. Download speeds can reach as high as 150 Mbps, making wireless service an excellent alternative to relatively expensive fixed-line service in those parts of the country. These rapid expansion efforts have led Hungary to move up the charts in both speed and overall availability.
4. Norway: Average download speed of 41.36 Mbps
Telenor is a dominant force in Norway, controlling about half of the mobile communication market. The second-largest carrier is Telia, which takes 37%. Despite this market duopoly, Norway boasts some of the world's fastest and most widely available mobile data delivery. Last year, Telenor removed caps on its mobile speeds, allowing its customers to take full advantage of its robust wireless network. The move spurred Telia to improve its network and increase its speeds, propelling Norway up the charts of the world's fastest mobile internet speeds.
5. The Netherlands: Average download speed of 38.36 Mbps
The Netherlands has three main wireless networks: KPN, Vodafone, and T-Mobile. All three continue to improve their LTE networks, but T-Mobile has increased its network availability and speed significantly over the last two years. A recent survey from P3 found the average download speed on T-Mobile's network was 77.72 Mbps in cities and 86.33 Mbps in towns. Ninety percent of downloads were at speeds higher than 30 Mbps and 35 Mbps for cities and towns, respectively. KPN, the country's largest service provider, has taken steps to increase its mobile internet speeds and availability in light of competition from T-Mobile.
And in 59th place, the United States: Average download speed of 14.99 Mbps
Maybe instead of spending money on commercials to tell customers how fast their networks are, wireless carriers in the U.S. could spend it on improving their network speeds. The United States ranked near the bottom of the 75 countries OpenSignal analyzed -- just ahead of Georgia and Malaysia and right below Jordan.
The recent shift to unlimited data plans has put pressure on wireless networks, leading to a slowdown in average speeds for AT&T and Verizon, the two largest network operators in the country. Fierce pricing competition has led these companies to lose customers, which can discourage investment in network quality.
Even so, U.S. wireless carriers have a lot of room for improvement, and providing better service can go a long way toward keeping customers happy and increasing their willingness to pay a bit more each month.
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