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LTE coverage getting better for the four U.S. major carriers

April 1, 2014

For the past few months, it appears that, on average, LTE coverage may be improving somewhat for the 4 major U.S. carriers. However, data transfer speeds on 4G networks are on their way down over the last year, according to data collected from subscribers. OpenSignal, whose app users can track to monitor their own coverage, shows that T-Mobile has the fastest data transfer speeds over the last three months, averaging at about 11.5 mbps.

Overall, AT&T was placed a near second at 9.1 mbps, Verizon was in third at 7.8 mbps, and Sprint was the slowest at 4.3 mbps. But those network speeds dropped over the last year, as measured by the 103,025 OpenSignal users that reported the data in the first place.

Verizon customers are most likely to have an LTE network available, judging by data gathered by OpenSignal over the last three months.

"Mobile service operators are constantly upgrading their technologies and rolling out to new areas, while increased user load on LTE networks combats these improvements," OpenSignal said. "Consequently it can be seen that all four networks trend downwards over the past year."

The United States has leapfrogged Europe in adopting 4G, but the benefits for consumers are counterbalanced by high expenses for wireless carriers. Verizon said it'll spend between $16.5 billion and $17 billion on capital expenditures in 2014, for example.

That type of spending, along with steep fees to license wireless radio spectrum, is driving consolidation efforts such as AT&T's failed bid to acquire T-Mobile and Sprint's current push to acquire T-Mobile.

The percentage of time users could get LTE networks has steadily increased over the last year. By the percentage of time LTE is available, Verizon is at the top of the list at 83 percent.

Next comes AT&T at 71 percent, then T-Mobile at 61 percent, and Sprint again is in last place at 57 percent, OpenSignal said.