The price of LTE in the US

A study from Europe’s GSM Association found that U.S. mobile users are paying substantially more for LTE access than users in overseas markets, according to The New York Times. While Americans account for roughly half of the world’s LTE users, they’re paying as much as three times per gigabyte (on Verizon Wireless’s network) more than the average European user, and ten times more than consumers in Sweden.

This isn’t exactly a secret, of course, and the Times piece gives several reasons for the discrepancy: U.S. carriers typically package data with comprehensive mobile service plans, and the trend away from unlimited plans has raised the price of each gigabyte for many users. The study also doesn’t appear to factor in subsidized handsets, which are far more common here in the U.S. and offset the price of mobile services.

But the biggest, most obvious reason LTE is so expensive here is the lack of competition. Verizon Wireless and AT&T not only have the largest LTE networks nationwide, they have the fastest. And they’re leveraging those advantages to expand their lead on the smaller tier-one operators as well as the prepaid guys and the regional players. Which is why I’m so excited about the prospects of SoftBank’s massive move to take over Sprint (and, to a lesser extent, T-Mobile USA’s tie-up with MetroPCS). The consolidation should go a long way in slowing the move toward a duopoly that has begun to emerge over the last few years.