Good news for millions of users who are consuming vast amounts of media on the internet in the United States: speeds are getting faster, especially in cities like Kansas City, Austin, Phoenix, Seattle and San Francisco.
But while the first six months of data for 2016 show improvement, the U.S. still lags when compared to other countries according to a new Speedtest Market Report released Wednesday.
The report, from Speedtest by Ookla out of Seattle, found that fixed broadband customers saw the biggest jump in performance so far this year with download speeds achieving an average of over 50 Mbps for the first time ever. The improvement is more than a 40 percent increase since July 2015.
Based on our reading of the report, Kansas City — which boasts great BBQ and Google Fiber — leads the nation with an average fixed broadband download speed of 135.39 Mbps. Austin, Texas, one of seven cities where Google Fiber is in place, is second at 103.49. Phoenix ranked third at 84.07 Mbps thanks to a push by Cox to introduce G1GABLAST service in select areas, followed by Seattle at 83.14 Mbps and San Francisco at 72.92 Mbps.
For mobile internet customers, performance improved by more than 30 percent since last year with an average download speed of 19.27 Mbps.
Speedtest called the increase in broadband speed for the typical American consumer a “laudible milestone,” especially for everyday activities like browsing the web or streaming video content. But it says 50 Mbps is a small fraction of the speed offered from gigabit fiber optic internet.
On top of that, many internet users are being left behind, as 10 percent of Americans lack access to the FCC-target speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. The number increases to 39 percent when looking at rural populations, the Speedtest report says.
Speedtest’s targeted look at Seattle-area average fixed broadband download speed (83.14 Mbps) and upload speed (51.65 Mbps) is shown below, as well as the mobile average downloads (23.54 Mbps) and average uploads (10.47 Mbps).
Wave G is far and away the fastest ISP in Seattle, outpacing CenturyLink, Xfinity and Wave broadband. Bellevue, Wash.-based T-Mobile is faster than Verizon, Sprint and AT&T, according to Speedtest’s findings.
The numbers for fixed broadband for the state fall more in line with the nation as Xfinity takes over the top spot.
T-Mobile is still Washington’s fastest mobile carrier, but in the U.S. as a whole, it is barely edged out by Verizon on download speeds. T-Mobile is No. 1 nationally for upload speeds, with Speedtest calling the so-called Un-carrier a “good choice for consumers who are sharing lots of content from their mobile phone.”
In its conclusion, Speedtest notes that optimists will see the increase in fixed broadband and mobile internet performance as a step in the right direction, while others will lament the U.S. trailing other countries — currently ranking 20th in fixed broadband and 42nd in mobile internet performance globally.
In fixed broadband, a slow, steady march toward fiber optic networks has the potential to bring a quantum leap in speeds to many U.S. markets in the coming years. However, while ISPs are competing on speed, many consumers in the U.S. still only have a single high speed choice available in their homes. Additionally, provider consolidation presents a big risk that ISPs won’t be motivated to invest in performance gains.
Mobile internet in the U.S. is faster than ever before, but performance growth during the first half of 2016 has been largely flat. Carriers are aggressively focusing on network capacity to combat the insatiable data usage of U.S. mobile consumers; people are using mobile internet more and more. The coming arrival of 5G looms on the horizon with the promise of huge performance gains, but we likely won’t see those networks turn up until at least 2020.
Check out the Speedtest Market Report for much more detail on market consolidation, growth in fiber optic, ISP analysis, and the increased use of mobile internet among consumers that is driving wireless carrier competition and network investment.