Telecommunications coverage mapping company OpenSignal has released its LTE report for Q3 2016, revealing that Australia is now in 13th place worldwide in terms of 4G availability, and 8th place in terms of download speeds.
According to the report, 4G in Australia has an availability of 79.34 percent. OpenSignal tracks availability not by overall population or geographic coverage, but rather by the proportion of time that users have access to 4G networks, including when indoors and during times of high congestion.
South Korea led the availability metric, at 95.71 percent, followed by Japan, with 92.03 percent; Lithuania, at 84.73 percent; Hong Kong, with 84.52 percent; Netherlands, with 84.1 percent; Singapore, with 82.61 percent; Norway, with 82.42 percent; Kuwait, with 81.77 percent; Sweden, with 81.37 percent; the United States, with 81.3 percent; Qatar, with 81.29 percent; and Hungary, with 79.77 percent.
New Zealand trailed in 55th place worldwide, with 57.88 percent availability.
In terms of speeds, Australia placed 8th worldwide, with an average download connection speed of 32.5Mbps. Singapore was the leader in this category, with 45.86Mbps speeds on average, followed by South Korea, with speeds of 45.77Mbps; Hungary, at 40.61Mbps; Romania, at 35.61Mbps; New Zealand, at 34.94Mbps; Bulgaria, with 34.26Mbps; and Netherlands, with 33.84Mbps. New Zealand's average speed was 34.94Mbps.
OpenSignal noted that it has changed its metrics somewhat since its last report, and is no longer publishing specific telecommunications operator statistics.
"Instead, we're focusing our global reports on how countries perform overall, while delving into operator-specific rankings in our State of Mobile Networks country-level reports," OpenSignal explained.
"Second, OpenSignal has made some adjustments to both the way we collect data from our smartphone apps and the methodology we use to parse that data. The update allows us to make more measurements, examine new types of network metrics and hone the precision of the measurements we've always collected, helping us isolate the typical consumer mobile experience more effectively."
A year ago, OpenSignal reported Australia's average download speed as being 21Mbps, in ninth place worldwide, and availability as being 74 percent, in 14th place.
At the time, Australian telecommunications carriers claimed their 4G network coverage was respectively above 90 percent.
Optus claimed that its 4G network covered 90 percent of the population, Vodafone Australia said it covered 96 percent of the population, and Telstra laid claim to covering 94 percent of the population. According to OpenSignal, at the time Vodafone covered 77 percent, Telstra 76 percent, and Optus 70 percent.
A year later, the Optus 4G network now covers 95 percent of the Australian population. By comparison, Telstra's 4G network reaches 98 percent, while Vodafone Australia's reaches 95.3 percent.
Optus announced the expansion of its 4G network in Canberra last month, using the 1800MHz spectrum it secured during the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) auction earlier this year.
Optus said the 1800MHz spectrum band is being delivered early in Canberra thanks to the telecommunications provider gaining approval from the ACMA for early access commercial licences ahead of the spectrum's May 2017 national availability date.
Optus spent AU$196 million -- the most out of all Australian telcos -- during the 1800MHz spectrum auction in February.
Earlier in October, Vodafone Australia also announced concluding a "major network upgrade" on its 4G service in Canberra using its 1800MHz spectrum.
Using the spectrum, Vodafone upgraded 84 network sites to 1800MHz 4G to increase capacity fourfold, and said it plans to upgrade another 19 sites over the next year.
"Through our investments, we have been able to drive a wide range of upgrades to deliver greater reliability, speed, and performance," Vodafone CTO Kevin Millroy said at the time. "If you look at where people live and work, Vodafone is on par with major rivals."
Australia's incumbent telco Telstra in July also announced using its own 1800MHz spectrum to boost its 4G network by up to 50 percent across 200 sites in North Queensland and South Australia.
The Australian government recently announced its decision to auction off 2x 15MHz of the 700MHz spectrum band that went unsold during the 2013 digital dividend auction, following Vodafone Australia's proposal to buy the spectrum outright.
The 700MHz spectrum, auctioned off by ACMA in 2013, is used for additional 4G mobile broadband capacity, particularly over long distances.
Vodafone had in May proposed to the Australian government that it be permitted to acquire 2x 10MHz in the 700MHz spectrum band for either AU$571,814,450 upfront, prior to the licence's commencement; or in three instalments of AU$274.5 million on January 31, 2018, AU$159.9 million on January 31, 2019, and AU$159.9 million on January 31, 2020, for a total of AU$594.3 million.
Optus, Telstra, Vodafone, and TPG have all expressed interest in bidding for the 700MHz spectrum.