Average 4G LTE and LTE+ (4G+) download and upload speeds

4G LTE is the primary cellular technology that we use today for our day-to-day mobile needs. Even though we already have the new 5G NR networks in many countries, it will take some time before the 5G networks gain enough penetration to become the main network technology. The 4G networks are planned to co-exist with the 5G networks and we are therefore expecting to see the LTE networks for a long time. LTE networks today can offer high-speed mobile data services that were previously only possible through fixed broadband networks. However, it is important to note that having a 4G connection doesn’t automatically guarantee that you will definitely get the superior 4G data speeds. It is also worth making a distinction between peak data speeds and average data speeds.

The average download speed of 4G LTE is between 15 to 20 Mbps; the average upload speed of 4G LTE is between 10 to 15 Mbps. The average download speed of the enhanced version of 4G, LTE-Advanced (4G+), is between 50 to 80 Mbps; the average upload of LTE Advanced (4G+) is between 15 to 20 Mbps.

What is the difference between peak and average speeds?

The average 4G data speed is what you normally get on your mobile device, whereas the peak speed is the maximum data rate the network can theoretically generate. So, the peak speed of a mobile connection is the maximum data rate that can be extracted from the radio signal when using the highest possible network configuration. For example, with LTE networks, we can combine multiple channels through carrier aggregation, configure different levels of QAM modulation in LTE/LTE-A/LTE-A-Pro, and employ various antenna settings to get the maximum possible bit rate. The maximum bit rate is what is sent through the cellular towers based on the network configuration. The bit rate received at the other end (e.g. on the mobile phone) is subject to the nature of the radio signal, including obstacles, other radio signals, and the number of simultaneous users etc. These factors reduce the overall achievable data rate that mobile phone users get. The best chances of getting the maximum speed would be if you were located right next to the cellular tower of your mobile operator to avoid signal fading, and if your device was the only device being served by one of the LTE radio units with that tower. Since the likelihood of that happening isn’t high, especially in busy hours when many people use the network simultaneously, the real-life speeds (average speeds) are considerably lower. First, let’s check the maximum speed that 4G LTE networks can offer before diving into the real-life speeds.

What is the max speed of 4G LTE?

The maximum speed of 4G LTE networks depends on the network configuration. There can be various combinations of how the channel bandwidth and modulation techniques can be used. When a 20 MHz channel is used with modulation of 64 QAM ( Quadrature amplitude modulation), top speeds of up to 300 Mbps can be achieved in the download and up to 75 Mbps in the uplink. The downlink data rate helps with downloads, and the uplink data rate supports the uploads. LTE is more efficient than 3G technologies, and it also offers lower latency than 3G UMTS and CDMA2000 networks. LTE networks have seen various enhancements over the years including major updates like LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro. LTE-Advanced can support peak download data rates of up to 1 Gbps and LTE-Advanced Pro can provide maximum data rates of up to 3 Gbps. The average achievable speeds are considerably lower, which is what we will look at in this post.

How fast is 4G speed in Mbps

Let’s now look at the average 4G LTE speeds that we tested primarily on two of the top UK mobile operators’ networks. Our speed tests used pay-monthly SIMs from five (5) randomly selected mobile operators around the world. However, most of these tests were carried out in the UK in Berkshire, Reading. The first table shows the download and upload speeds we got on LTE-Advanced (4G+) in various locations within Reading UK and Scarbrough, Canada. The other table shows the download and upload speeds on the basic LTE network (4G). As you can see in the table below, the best download speed we got was just under 90 Mbps on LTE-Advanced and 58 Mbps on the normal LTE network. The average download speed for LTE-Advanced (4G+) was around 66 Mbps and 17 Mbps for LTE (4G).

#LTE TechnologyDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)Latency/Ping (milliseconds)Country/City
1LTE+/4G+89.20 Mbps29.60 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
2LTE+/4G+84.40 Mbps18.50 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
3LTE+/4G+82.50 Mbps24.00 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
4LTE+/4G+80.30 Mbps21.10 Mbps19.0 msUK, Reading
5LTE+/4G+80.10 Mbps15.50 Mbps3.0 msUK, Reading
6LTE+/4G+79.70 Mbps15.00 Mbps24.0 msUK, Reading
7LTE+/4G+75.30 Mbps15.10 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
8LTE+/4G+72.70 Mbps15.10 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
9LTE+/4G+64.70 Mbps6.72 Mbps29.0 msUK, Reading
10LTE+/4G+62.90 Mbps5.80 Mbps41.0 msCanada, Scarborough
11LTE+/4G+59.00 Mbps0.65 Mbps26.0 msUK, Reading
12LTE+/4G+57.00 Mbps21.10 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
13LTE+/4G+44.90 Mbps8.13 Mbps47.0 msCanada, Scarborough
14LTE+/4G+38.90 Mbps18.50 Mbps23.0 msUK, Reading
15LTE+/4G+35.70 Mbps18.50 Mbps21.0 msUK, Reading
16LTE+/4G+31.20 Mbps19.60 Mbps20.0 msUK, Reading
4G LTE Advanced average download/upload speeds measured by Commsbrief – July 2020
#LTE TechnologyDownload Speed (Mbps)Upload Speed (Mbps)Latency/Ping (milliseconds)Country/City
1LTE58.40 Mbps17.90 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
2LTE26.40 Mbps2.54 Mbps42.0 msCanada, Scarborough
3LTE26.10 Mbps1.82 Mbps47.0 msCanada, Scarborough
4LTE25.00 Mbps9.70 Mbps4.0 msUK, Reading
5LTE24.50 Mbps15.30 Mbps30.0 msUK, Reading
6LTE23.00 Mbps3.56 Mbps31.0 msUK, Reading
7LTE19.20 Mbps14.80 Mbps26.0 msUK, Reading
8LTE17.10 Mbps17.70 Mbps24.0 msUK, Reading
9LTE16.10 Mbps12.70 Mbps29.0 msUK, Reading
10LTE16.00 Mbps15.90 Mbps32.0 msUK, Reading
11LTE15.90 Mbps11.50 Mbps33.0 msUK, Reading
12LTE14.70 Mbps1.29 Mbps3.0 msUK, Reading
13LTE14.30 Mbps7.83 Mbps74.8 msPakistan, Karachi
14LTE13.60 Mbps11.70 Mbps3.0 msUK, Reading
15LTE13.00 Mbps12.70 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
16LTE12.50 Mbps24.60 Mbps4.0 msUK, Reading
17LTE11.60 Mbps21.50 Mbps3.0 msUK, Reading
18LTE9.96 Mbps6.88 Mbps34.0 msUK, Reading
19LTE7.44 Mbps12.80 Mbps34.0 msUK, Reading
20LTE7.39 Mbps14.60 Mbps2.0 msUK, Reading
21LTE6.52 Mbps6.97 Mbps3.0 msUK, Reading
22LTE6.40 Mbps7.07 Mbps77.9 msPakistan, Karachi
4G LTE average download/upload speeds measured by Commsbrief – July 2020

We recently did another set of speed tests in various parts of Reading UK using a pay-monthly SIM from a particular mobile operator and a 5G capable mobile phone. The speed tests were for both 5G NR and 4G LTE networks, and below is the summary of what we found for LTE and LTE-Advanced networks. These tests were randomly carried out mostly outdoors between July 2021 and December 2021. As you may note, it is not uncommon to get download speeds of well over 50 Mbps with LTE networks. Based on the seventy readings that we got for LTE and LTE-Advanced combined, the mathematical average for the download speed was 94.5 Mbps, and the average for upload speed was 16.2 Mbps.

4G LTE download and upload speeds in Reading UK between July and December 2021
4G LTE download and upload speeds in Reading UK between July and December 2021

Why does the actual 4G speed vary so much?

Your mobile device has to do a lot of work to help you perform basic tasks, e.g. searching for something on Google or making a call. The mobile device connects to the cellular tower closest to your location, connecting you to the rest of the mobile network to help you enjoy the services you are entitled to. There are many variables in this process that can impact your service quality and hence the data speeds.

Network Coverage

Mobile operators install cellular towers nationwide to provide you with the best possible coverage. However, that doesn’t mean that aren’t any coverage holes. If you live in a not-so-urban area where there aren’t that many cellular towers, you may sometimes experience poor network coverage. When the signal quality on your phone starts to get worse, the network can decide to put you on the next available cell (transceiver) with better signal strength. As a result, you may end up on a cell with less superior speed, e.g. 3G network (with 3G, H or H+ symbol) or even a 2G network (G or E symbol).

In situations when you are not stationary, e.g. watching an online video during a train journey, your serving cell keeps changing as you change locations. In that scenario, there is a possibility that you start watching the video in a busy city with LTE-Advanced (4G+) and as your train enters a 2G-only area, your video streaming starts to become challenging. Also, just because you are in a 4G coverage area doesn’t mean that you will necessarily have the best 4G speeds. For example, it could be that your operator has 4G (LTE) but not LTE Advanced (4G+).

Network Capacity

In addition to the network coverage, the other very important aspect is the network capacity. Network capacity is basically the ability of a mobile operator to have enough resources to serve the customers on its network. You may notice in busy hours that sometimes you see the 4G or LTE symbol on your phone, but the data speeds are still not as expected. This usually happens when the network is fully loaded, and capacity is stretched. Mobile operators do have network monitoring systems in place to keep track of these issues. However, if you find yourself in this situation often, you may contact your service provider to get professional advice.

Mobile Device

Sometimes the speed can also be linked to your device, especially if you are using a relatively older phone. For example, if you are using a phone that supports LTE but not LTE+ or if you have a 4G SIM but not an LTE compatible phone. The quality or sensitivity of the antennas of your smartphone can also impact your data speeds when transmitting or receiving 4G signals.

Conclusion

The average download and upload speeds of the 4G LTE networks can vary considerably depending on network configurations and device categories. In our speed tests carried out primarily in the UK in July 2020, we got an average download speed of around 17 Mbps and an average upload speed of 12 Mbps on 4G LTE networks. With LTE Advanced (LTE+ or 4G+), the average download speed increased to 66 Mbps, and the average upload speed moved up to 17 Mbps. In a more recent set of speed tests carried out between July and December 2021, we found the average LTE & LTE-Advanced download speed to be 94.5 Mbps and the average upload speed to be 16.2 Mbps.

Average 4G LTE and LTE Advanced (LTE+) download and upload speeds
Average 4G LTE and LTE Advanced (LTE+) download and upload speeds

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy, which explains the network nodes, e.g., BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience, which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if you work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on the product overview and product roadmap.

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