People in the UK will probably have been eyeing their American counterparts jealously over the last few years, because the USA was one of the first countries to embrace 4G networking wholeheartedly long before this type of coverage was made available to British mobile users. 4G is still in its infancy in the UK, but by the end of next year it should be available for the vast majority of the population. So when it comes to UK 4G vs US 4G, which county offers the best levels of speed and coverage and are we still justified in our envy of the Yanks?
The obvious caveat to discussing mobile data speeds is that real world performance can vary wildly and all sorts of things influence how quickly you can download data via a wireless connection. Having said that, the UK’s only 4G service available today, provided by EE, has improved since it first appeared at the end of last year and average download speeds now hover between the 8Mbps and 10Mbps mark. Peak performance of 20Mbps or more is achievable in some areas, which means that 4G is as fast as a typical fixed line broadband connection and in many cases can actually be faster.
So how fast is American 4G? A report published in February of 2013 by OpenSignal found that average download speeds on 4G networks in the US were at 9.6mbps.
Both the UK and the US are well behind current global leader Sweden, where average 4G downloads hit 22.1Mbps on a regular basis. However, the point to take away from this is that the UK and US both have fairly comparable 4G speeds at the moment.
Looking to the future, the UK actually has a chance of outpacing the US because of the way that network providers have been allocated slices of the spectrum. It is very technical stuff, but there is essentially a little more leeway for British operators to increase 4G speeds further down the line.
How does UK 4G coverage compare? At the moment just 65 towns and cities in the UK have 4G coverage, which accounts for a little over half the total population. EE will be expanding its 4G networks and will soon be joined by rivals Vodafone, O2 and Three in offering this type of platform. O2 has committed to offering 4G coverage for 98% of the population by the end of next year, which means the UK’s networking landscape will look quite different in 18 months. In the US the level of 4G coverage depends on the provider, with big player Verizon boasting LTE availability for 90% of the population.
The thing that also comes into play when comparing the American mobile market to that in the UK is that British customers can generally expect to get lower overall tariff prices. This is because there is much more competition, which helps to drive down the costs for consumers. Eventually 4G will become as widely available as 3G is today on both sides of the pond. But for now the Americans have a slight upper hand.