US vs Europe – who has the best mobile networks?

May 30, 2013
21 54 57

GSMA

As someone who pays a fair bit of attention to the mobile industry, it’s clear to see that there are glaring differences between mobile markets throughout the world. Here in the UK, we’re still waiting on the full rollout of our LTE networks, but, on the other hand, I’ve often thought that US prices seem a little steep compared with here in the UK.

But rather than looking at small individual case studies, the GSM Association (GSMA) has released a report that looks deeper into the quality and usage differences between mobile networks in the US and European markets. The verdict — there’s a growing disparity between the two, and it’s the US which appears to be pulling out further ahead.

For starters, on average, US consumers spend more each month than their EU counterparts, which in and of itself isn’t necessarily a good thing, but they are consuming five times as many voice minutes and twice as much data than consumers in the EU.

But perhaps the biggest lead however comes in the form of network speeds. According to GSMA’s findings, the US is far ahead when it comes to next-generation networking technologies, with nearly 20% of all connections in the US set to be on LTE networks come the end of 2013, compared with less than a measly 2% in Europe.

To top off the embarrassment, the average mobile data connection speed in the US is now 75% faster than those in Europe, and this trend is set to continue. GSMA estimates that, by 2017, US data speeds will be more than twice as fast at the speeds available in European countries.

Anne Bouverot , Director General at GSMA, summed up the report:

Europe has lost its edge in mobile and is significantly underperforming other advanced economies

Look back a few years though, and you would have found the tables reversed. Europe was far quicker at rolling out widespread 3G access when the standard first appeared, and carriers were also quick to improve on their services with HSPA and HSPA+ rollouts shortly after. However, in more recent years, the US has increased infrastructure spending by 70%, whilst European spending has dwindled, resulting in a much better rollout of LTE in the US and a lack of investment in many European countries.

But there’s always the opportunity to turn things around, and the report has quite a few recommendations to bring Europe back up to par. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, Europe could certainly do more to improve business opportunities across countries. For a start, Europe could ease its network sharing restrictions, improve co-ordination across borders on issues like consumer protection, and could help kickstart broadband investments.

EU regulatory policies have resulted in a fragmented market structure

The European Commission should also immediately address the slow progress being made on spectrum allocations and harmonisation, according to GSMA. Europe is supposedly facing a significant spectrum shortfall, as network demand continues to grow, which needs to be addressed sooner rather than later to ensure that future mobile broadband services have adequate space allocated.

Finally, there’s the obvious option to remove, or at least further reduce, expensive European roaming fees. By taking advantage of the European free trade area, there is little reason why companies shouldn’t be able to operate more easily across borders.

Looking at GSMA’s findings there appears to be a lot of work to be done in Europe, but on the other hand the lack of investment could simply be due to a lack of demand for such services. I’m personally not desperate for 4G networking, and consumers in Europe could simply be more sensitive to cost rather than caring about having the latest technologies at premium prices.

How do you feel about your nation’s networks?

Comments

  • spitfire55

    USA! USA! USA!

    • MasterMuffin

      EUROPE! EUROPE! EUROPE!

      I’ll get so much hate because of this :)

      • Ivan Myring

        EUROPE FTW!
        UK FTW EVEN MORE!

        • SeraZR™

          UK! FTFW!

          • http://twitter.com/demlasjr Laszlo Demeter

            Europe and China ftw, because they made the antennas lol

          • SeraZR™

            LoL!

        • MasterMuffin

          FINLAND FTW MOST? :D

      • SeraZR™

        +1!

    • Rotorhead

      USA! Back-to-back World War Champs!!!

  • Matthew Brown

    In the UK I am pretty happy too be honest. I pay £160 a year and get unlimited 3G/HSPA+ plus like 600 texts and 3000 minutes. Can you get that kind of thing in the US i’m not sure. But when 4G does come out. i can get a free upgrade anyway.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005583823144 Anthony Evans

      for 160 (186 dollars in US money) in the US you get unlimited texts minutes and data if your on sprint or tmobile on AT&T and Verizon 3 or 4 gb but most people dont need that much

      • Fervid Vervet

        $186/year, seriously? Curses, I must have skimped on my research when I was plan shopping: I ended up paying $45/month to StraightTalk for calls, text, and unlimited data which wasn’t really unlimited (they cut you off after an unspecified amount, usually 1-2GB apparently). I’d be grateful if you can provide some links to better deals so I don’t get ripped off again next time I’m in the US… looking at AT&T’s site now, but they seem to want $45/month for 1GB…

        • Mike Palmer

          That’s 186 a month I believe

          • Joey Colclough

            €20/mth Prepay. 20GB data, 3000 any network texts and unlimited calls to any network at the weekends on 3 IRL

          • Mike Palmer

            Yeah I pay allot more but I do have 4G just about everywhere I go :)

        • http://www.AndroidAuthority.com/ Darcy Alexander LaCouvee

          Hey Fervid,

          We have a ‘Best prepaid smartphone plans in the USA’ piece which we update monthly.

          Check it out here:

          http://www.androidauthority.com/best-prepaid-plans-usa-2012-132352/

    • Lex

      I have unlimited 3G, 3000 sms/mms and 360 minutes in one month! It’s cost for me about £10 or $15. Welcome to Russia =)

      On the other side – terrible coverage of strong 3g signal and LTE only for usb-modems in some major cities =(

      Sorry for my english =)

    • Ivan Myring

      With or without a phone?

    • Mike Palmer

      It’s probably less then I spend in a month lol

    • Matthew Brown

      I am now un-happy :/ Haha it was the best deal I could find! Even with the threaten to leave trick!

  • MasterMuffin

    Why is it USA vs Europe? Why isn’t it Northern America or even America vs Europe?

    • Thomas Richard

      MERICA! That’s why

      • MasterMuffin

        You mean ‘murica? :D

  • Ugo Marceau

    There’s no way that can be a fair comparison. And even without LTE, I’d rather stay in France and keep paying what I currently pay.

    20€/month ($26) = unlimited calls, text, mms, Internet and also unlimited International calls (from france). Also, as long as I’m in France, no roaming fees and a pretty good coverage (even if it’s only H+). Compared to the US where you can lose signal for 100 miles and it’s normal.

    Also, the EU is made up of 27 countries, and not all have the same budget as the US : if France, Germany and the UK can spend a lot of money on mobile networks, I doubt countries such as Poland, Greece or Lithuania have the ability to roll out LTE networks like the US or North-Western European countries can.

    • davidlt

      Lithuania here. We have LTE networks deployed since 2010-2011 depending on provider. A high number of Lithuanian people are mobile internet users, not to mention mobile phones in general (1.5 phone per man).

    • Rotorhead

      When and where did you travel a “100 miles” without cell phone coverage? And I don’t know, nor have I ever heard, that losing signal for a 100 miles is normal anywhere in the U.S. Having lived and traveled all over the country with a cell phone for years I can say that coverage is very good, especially Verizon’s. I can almost guarantee my upcoming drive from Florida to Louisiana to Virginia will include 3G/4G data the entire time. I don’t know how France’s coverage is having only visited a couple times, but I’m not going to make blind, blanket, ignorant comments about it either.

      • Willie D

        You ever use T-Mobile or Sprint?

      • Ugo Marceau

        When I look at maps showing the coverage of your major providers, there are gaping holes in them. So maybe you switch to roaming between two coverage zones.
        http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/support/coverage-locator
        Look at the interactive map and the white parts that represent the no-coverage parts. The whole Western USA is just a no-coverage riddled zone.

        And Verizon is more or less your major service provider.

    • marino

      We have LTE in Poland. It has been available since 2011. As far as I know only one provider offers it and others will join after spectrum auction. In my opinion real road block for LTE is lack of available spectrum and government isn’t interested in providing it fast. At least it’s case of Poland.

      • Ugo Marceau

        Ok, my bad, I was just citing the “poorer” countries in the EU and was more or less basing my guesses on your train system which I had the “joy” to use last summer for over a week =D

        • marino

          Yep It’s probably biggest disaster in modern Poland. Hopefully next time you visit us you will have totaly different experience.

  • Michael Johnson

    Agreeing with @mastermuffin:disqus and going further … “Europe”, “USA”, what are these constructs? Wireless service in most of the central United States is far below the coastal and urban experience, and one suspects that service in eastern agrarian regions is less satisfactory than urban western Europe. And, what about India, Hong Kong, Japan? Further still — which matters most for cultural progress, largely unnecessary and overpriced bandwidth increases for the few, or pervasive affordable service for the many?

    • MasterMuffin

      Good :))

  • Soonershooter

    I would have thought the EU would be overall better than the USA on this. However, USA is so much bigger than even all the EU countries, this is still an iffy comparison.

    • Mike Palmer

      We have had 4G as the norm here for a while so our mobile system is advanced compared to the rest of the world but trust me when I tell you this, we pay for it and I mean we pay a crazy amount for it lol I pay 300 a month for my family’s plan.

      • Soonershooter

        are you in usa or eu (uk)? $300 is pretty steep..

        • Mike Palmer

          USA here and my carrier is Verizon Wireless

          • Soonershooter

            usa also..att premier…

          • Mike Palmer

            Ahh, yeah Verizon is very high but the service is perfect

  • eu

    Take a look at northwest Europe and lets see. Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Belarus, whatever, Mixing with Sweden, Norway, UK and the likes, wtf?

    • TJ

      I am taking a look at you from my Galaxy S4 running at 21Mbps on HSPA+ in Albania….

    • http://www.facebook.com/dusan.doroski Dusan Doroski

      That is true, not a chance southern European countries can come up with Scandinavian internet speed.

      • Ben

        Yeah you are absolutely right. Albania, Kosova, Macedonia, Belarus all are situated in the South of Europe…

        Here near Lisbon that actually is in the South of Europe, I am on LTE and my speedtest indicates 22Mbps up and down. Yes it is far from the maximum 150Mbps they advertise with. But what are te scores in Scandinavia?

  • Alex

    4G its only to eat our batery, we don’t need that.
    The 3.5G/HSPA+ its more than enough for a phone/tablet.

    • Thomas Richard

      Have you actually used LTE? It’s so much better than HSPA+

      • Willie D

        Depends. Verizon LTE is now slowing down, where as AT&T and T-Mobile HSPA+ is keeping up and often in many areas exceeding Verizon’s LTE speed. AT&T LTE sure is faster than say their own HSPA+ but all in all, HSPA+ is still making strides and has the capability to easily upgrade to HSPA+42 (as T-Mobile has done) and HSPA+84 if needed to meet and exceed current LTE speeds in this nation.

        • Thomas Richard

          I just got AT&T LTE where I live and it makes a difference in every app that uses data. Maps load faster, news apps don’t take as long to load, and it doesn’t hurt my battery life more than expected, although Power Saver mode on my HTC One X helps a ton.

  • Alfredo Manuel Gonzalez II

    What would be more interesting don’t get me wrong this is nice to know that the US is faster since I live in the US but I would think that Areas like China or Japan I bet are way ahead of the US Since most of this Technology is created there. Robert could you do some research and look how Asia is compared to the US that would be interesting as well.

    Thanks

  • 윌 스튜어트

    4G is nice but data limits are not. In the UK, only 2 networks ( Three & GiffGaff) offer unlimited data (and are pretty cheap too) the rest of the networks are Sh*t. Plus, the only 4G network here, EE, has ridiculous data limits and most of its rivals like o2 & Voda are expected to have similar 4G deals. I’d rather have slow & unlimited data than fast & limited.

    • Willie D

      Careful what you wish for.. I have Sprint (unlimited data) in the USA and the name does not represent the speed. With Sprint, you can average 50kbps-500kbps on 3G and its 4G LTE (where it is shoddily available) sometimes is even slower, but often 2mbps. When you see competitors have up to 50mbps and averaging 15mbps-20mbps on 3G (not even 4G) then you may rethink wanting unlimited data over speed. T-Mobile provides up to 42mbps (average is 15mbps-25mbps over 3G) and it too is unlimited.

      • 윌 스튜어트

        50kbps :s Ouch. The unlimited data UK networks are slightly better I get an average of 4Mbps on 3G. I heard about T-Mobile USA, they have good and different deals from other US carriers. But I read somewhere that you can’t get the fast speeds you’ve mentioned & coverage everywhere is the US…

  • Doru Zamfir Dejeu

    Romania is ranked third in the world at internet speed, but you had not even heard of Romania.

    • David

      Nadia Comaneci and Count Vlad the Impaler (a.k.a., Dracula). :P

      just joking, of course I know Romania.

      • Doru Zamfir Dejeu

        i feel better now. :) thank you

  • http://www.KamilGPhotography.com/ KamilG

    This comparison is so awkward for me. I live in the US and people have a good point that data limits suck…but I don’t have one with Sprint. People then tell me that I have awful service with Sprint, but my entire city is covered in amazing 4G everywhere I go. Finally, it MUST drain my battery significantly. Well, with the Note 2 I really have not worried about battery life a single time yet. I guess the moral of the story is, it really doesn’t matter WHERE you live…what matters is that you make the best decisions with service, speeds, pricing, and phone availability for YOU.

  • Zypher16

    I am in uk on 3… i pay £18 a month and get 2000 minutes 5000 text and unlimited internet….Speeds of about 25 to 28mbps….on DC-HSDPA…. I don care when 3 launch lte because i still wont be paying anythin extra for like the other cariers… and my usage is a good 15 to 20 gb per month…..

  • JimAlaska

    You may be correct when it comes to mobile networking, but I believe the Us is lagging in non – wireless.