U.S. wireless networks are 75 percent faster than those in the European Union thanks to the rapid expansion of LTE. The faster data comes at a price, however; Americans burn through twice as much data on their mobile devices as Europeans do on average, according to a new report from the GSMA.
The U.S. hasn’t always had a mobile edge over Europe. Six years ago the EU offered widespread 3G service and boasted one of the world’s best networks. Everything changed when the U.S. began pouring money into its cellular infrastructure, increasing spending on mobile networks by 70 percent since 2007.
Today, Americans enjoy a far superior cellular network, and the GSMA predicts this disparity will only increase over the next few years. The group suggests that by 2017 U.S. mobile speeds may be twice as fast as those in the EU. The report also notes that the LTE adoption rate in the U.S. is much more rapid, adding that by the end of 2013 about 20 percent of American mobile phone owners will use LTE compared to just two percent of EU connections.
“Europe was the early leader in mobile, with a wide range of companies pioneering the innovation that now benefits more than 3.2 billion men and women around the world,” Anne Bouverot, Director General of the GSMA said. “However, this report confirms the very sobering reality that Europe has lost its edge in mobile and is significantly underperforming other advanced economies, including the United States. While there are many factors that have contributed to Europe’s current position, it is clear that enlightened policy reforms could bring improvement, creating substantial benefits for EU consumers and driving economic growth.”
The GSMA argues that Europe can catch up, but only if the fractured continent can band together (at least when it comes to a mobile network). Besides the obvious need to ramp up LTE adoption, Europe’s carriers should introduced a “harmonized spectrum” allowing phones to connect normally across the EU and institute a single mobile market across the continent in order to cut down on steep roaming fees.