The first 4G network was launched in 2009 using the LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology. While 5G networks have already been introduced in many countries, LTE is currently the most widely available cellular technology worldwide. As a mobile phone user, the good thing about LTE is that it is planned to co-exist and evolve alongside the 5G New Radio (NR) technology, which means it will stay for a long time. If you have been using the 4G LTE technology on your phone for some time, you may have experienced some speed variations over the years. This post looks at the maximum and average achievable speeds with the LTE and LTE-Advanced networks.
The average download speed of 4G LTE is 15 Mbps to 20 Mbps and the average upload speed of 4G LTE is 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps; compared to 4G, the average download speed of 4G+ or LTE-Advanced (LTE+) is 50 Mbps to 80 Mbps and the average upload speed of 4G+ or LTE Advanced (LTE+) is 15 Mbps to 20 Mbps.
|4G (LTE)||4G+ (LTE Advanced or LTE+)|
|Download speed||15 Mbps to 20 Mbps||50 Mbps to 80 Mbps|
|Upload speed||10 Mbps to 15 Mbps||15 Mbps to 20 Mbps|
Average download and upload speeds for 4G LTE
If you are using LTE in 2022, at least in Europe and North America, you are likely to come across the advanced versions of LTE including LTE Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro more frequently. Depending on the maturity of the cellular industry in your country, the mobile operator you choose, and the age of your mobile phone, you are still likely to come across the standard LTE networks that offer lower average speeds compared to LTE-Advanced. If you have an iPhone, Google Pixel phone or an Android phone that does not show different symbols for LTE and LTE-Advanced, it may be hard to know which 4G network is serving you. However, Android phones from Samsung or Huawei generally show LTE+ or 4G+ symbol for LTE Advanced.
When a mobile phone is connected to the standard 4G LTE network, you can expect average download speeds of 15 Mbps to 20 Mbps and average upload speeds of 10 Mbps to 15 Mbps. The speeds may be slightly higher or lower depending on your mobile operator, phone and time of the day (e.g. peak hours).
|Speed tests for 4G (LTE)||Average Download Speed||Average Upload Speed|
|LTE||26.40 Mbps||2.54 Mbps|
|LTE||26.10 Mbps||1.82 Mbps|
|LTE||25.00 Mbps||9.70 Mbps|
|LTE||24.50 Mbps||15.30 Mbps|
|LTE||23.00 Mbps||3.56 Mbps|
|LTE||19.20 Mbps||14.80 Mbps|
|LTE||17.10 Mbps||17.70 Mbps|
|LTE||16.10 Mbps||12.70 Mbps|
|LTE||16.00 Mbps||15.90 Mbps|
|LTE||15.90 Mbps||11.50 Mbps|
|LTE||14.70 Mbps||1.29 Mbps|
|LTE||14.30 Mbps||7.83 Mbps|
|LTE||13.60 Mbps||11.70 Mbps|
|LTE||13.00 Mbps||12.70 Mbps|
|LTE||12.50 Mbps||24.60 Mbps|
|LTE||11.60 Mbps||21.50 Mbps|
|LTE||9.96 Mbps||6.88 Mbps|
|LTE||7.44 Mbps||12.80 Mbps|
|LTE||7.39 Mbps||14.60 Mbps|
|LTE||6.52 Mbps||6.97 Mbps|
|LTE||6.40 Mbps||7.07 Mbps|
Average download and upload speeds for 4G+ (LTE Advanced)
LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro are enhancements added to the standard 4G LTE networks to improve the peak and average data speeds considerably. Whether you are served by LTE Advanced, LTE-Advanced Pro or standard LTE is determined by your mobile network and your cellular device.
The average download speed with the enhanced version of LTE, LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro is generally around 50 Mbps to 80 Mbps; however, it is possible to get download speeds of over 100 Mbps also. The average upload speed with LTE Advanced (4G+) is around 15 Mbps to 20 Mbps.
|Speed tests for 4G + or LTE+||Average Download Speed||Average Upload Speed|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||89.20 Mbps||29.60 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||84.40 Mbps||18.50 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||82.50 Mbps||24.00 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||80.30 Mbps||21.10 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||80.10 Mbps||15.50 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||79.70 Mbps||15.00 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||75.30 Mbps||15.10 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||72.70 Mbps||15.10 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||64.70 Mbps||6.72 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||62.90 Mbps||5.80 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||59.00 Mbps||0.65 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||57.00 Mbps||21.10 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||44.90 Mbps||8.13 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||38.90 Mbps||18.50 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||35.70 Mbps||18.50 Mbps|
|LTE Advanced (LTE + or 4G +)||31.20 Mbps||19.60 Mbps|
What latency to expect when using 4G LTE networks?
Another factor that impacts the perceived speed of your mobile internet is latency. While the bit rate that you get depends on the size of the channel allocated to you (bandwidth), the latency is the time it takes for your download request to receive a response from the server. Latency is measured in milliseconds. 5G New Radio (NR) offer latencies of as low as 1 millisecond however with 4G networks the latencies are a bit higher. Below are some examples of latency values during our speed tests.
|Date||Cellular Technology||Latency (in milliseconds)|
4G speeds in the UK
We conducted a series of speed tests in various parts of the UK including Central London, Osterley, Slough and Reading between July and December 2021 using a pay-monthly SIM from a tier-one mobile operator. We used a 5G NSA/SA mobile phone to make sure that the phone was compliant with the latest 3GPP release to get the advantages of the most recent carrier aggregation and MIMO configurations. The tests were carried out in stationary and mobile situations.
Between July and Dec 2021 in the UK, the average 4G speed on a tier-one mobile operator’s network for LTE and LTE Advanced was 69.89 Mbps for downloads and 14.83 Mbps for uploads. The highest download speed during the test was 238.72 Mbps and the highest upload speed was 62.71 Mbps.
|Date||Download speed (Mbps)||Upload speed (Mbps)|
|Average (b/w July and Dec 2021)||69.79||14.83|
Maximum 4G speed with LTE, LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro
The maximum speed of 4G LTE networks depends on the network configuration. There can be various combinations of channel bandwidth (e.g. 20 MHz), digital modulation (e.g. QAM = Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) and MIMO configurations. 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.
Using a 20 MHz channel with a 64 QAM digital modulation, peak speeds of up to 300 Mbps can be achieved for downloads and up to 75 Mbps for uploads. 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 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, 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.
Why is my 4G so slow?
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.
Reason # 1: Your indoor 4G coverage is poor and your phone keeps switching to 3G
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+).
Reason # 2: Your mobile operator does not have enough capacity and you are not getting enough bandwidth even when you are on 4G
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.
Reason # 3: You have an older mobile phone which is not up to date with the latest LTE configurations
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 and LTE-Advanced but earlier versions of these technologies, you may struggle to access the latest antenna configurations (e.g. MIMO 8×8) or higher-order carrier aggregation. The quality or sensitivity of the antennas of your smartphone can also impact your data speeds when transmitting or receiving 4G signals.
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 extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or 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.