South Africa’s LTE has a long way to go compared to the rest of the world

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Long-Term Evolution, or LTE for short, has been billed as the next best thing in mobile internet speeds.

But while the world has been pulling ahead in connectivity, the southern tip of Africa still has a lot to do if we want to compete effectively.

According to OpenSignal’s State of LTE report, which looks at LTE speeds and coverage across the world, the fastest connections are in Singapore with an average of 36 Mbps. South Africa, on the other hand, is low down the list with an average speed of 8 Mbps.

“For this report, we drew data from the hundreds of thousands of OpenSignal users that have LTE-capable phones and connect to operators with live 4G networks,” Open Signal said. “That data was collected in the three months between October and December, but we also included our results from the previous three months for comparative purposes.”

While only including two of South Africa’s mobile operators, the report noted that MTN had an LTE average download speed of 4Mbps, while Vodacom is pulling ahead with 11 Mbps.

This places MTN at number 172 globally, while Vodacom is sitting at number 127.

Chart by OpenSignal

It is not all bad news though, as OpenSignal notes that speeds across the world has been improving over the last couple of years.

“We continue to see average 4G speeds trend higher across the world. In the fourth quarter, Singapore had the fastest networks by far, averaging 37 Mbps, and two of its operators SingTel and StarHub joined Canada’s SaskTel in vying for the title of world’s fastest operator (though we calculated different speeds for all three, due to the margin of error it was a statistical tie),” it explained.

In terms of coverage, South Africa isn’t doing too badly when taking a look at the overall picture, but it still ranks rather low. With an average coverage of 60%, it noted that both MTN and Vodacom had coverage of 62% of the coverage.

Chart by OpenSignal

That percentage itself isn’t that bad, but the number one country on the list, South Korea, has LTE coverage across 97% of the nation.

South Africa’s coverage rate would have been higher if it had a denser population, which is partly why the Asian nations score so high.

“Many of the top performers in network availability were in geographically small yet densely populated countries, particularly in East Asia – Hong Kong, Singapore and South Korea – but also the Netherlands and Kuwait,” OpenSignal said.

South Africa is not the only African country on the list, as Morocco has been included as well. Morocco beats us on average download speed, but is on par with coverage.

North African country has three LTE providers included in the list, and has an average download speed of 11Mbps. In terms of coverage, it also covers 60%.

But even with South Africa’s average download speed of 8Mbps and Morocco’s 11 Mbps, it is still slower than the global average – which is 13.5 Mbps. That is almost a full Mbps faster than when the last State of LTE report was published in September.

From the report, it is clear that while some nations are still at the bottom of the list and have a lot of work ahead of them, the standard of LTE has increase since LTE became available five years ago.

“At 13.5 Mbps, LTE is far from the 25 Mbps bar that many governments use to define broadband. It may not be until the 5G age that mobile data connections truly become mobile broadband connections.”

Charlie Fripp

Charlie Fripp

Charlie started his professional life as a motoring journalist for a community newspaper in Mpumalanga, Charlie explored different journalistic angles since his entry into the fast-paced world of publishing in 2006. While fostering a passion for the arts, Charlie developed a love for technology – both which allowed him to serve as Entertainment and Technology Editor for an online publication. Charlie has since been heavily involved in consumer technology for various websites and publications. He thoroughly enjoys World War II films and cerebral documentaries; aviation; photography and indie music. Oh yes, and he also has a rather strange obsession with collecting coffee mugs from his travels.