AT & T's "5G E" Study Actually Slower than Verizon and T-Mobile 4G, Study Finds


Screen capture of an AT & T advertisement showing a text that reads,
Enlarge / Screen capture of an AT & T advertisement.

An OpenSignal study found that AT & T's "5G E" service is slightly slower than Verizon and T-Mobile's advanced 4G LTE networks.

As Ars readers know, AT & T has renamed much of its 4G network, which it calls "5G E", for "5G Evolution". If you see a 5G E indicator on an AT & T phone, this means that you are connected to part of the AT & T 4G LTE network that supports standard LTE-Advanced features, such as 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO and three-way aggregation. The four major carriers deployed LTE-Advanced. But while Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile call it exactly 4G, AT & T calls it 5G E.

Sprint sued AT & T, alleging that AT & T was gaining an unfair advantage in making false and misleading claims to consumers.

The AT & T network name change may well mislead consumers into believing that they are getting better service than a 4G operator, but that is not the case. We already knew that the 5G E had no technological advantage over the LTE-Advanced technology, because it's the same with different names. But the actual speed tests could reinforce this point.

This data now comes from an OpenSignal report that needs to be posted on this link today at 9:00 am ET. After comparing the user – initiated speed tests of more than one million devices, OpenSignal found that AT & T's "5G E" phones achieved average speeds of 28.8 Mbps, which is less than 29.4 Mbps of T-Mobile and 29.9 Mbps, but higher than 20.4 Mbps of Sprint. The average AT & T of 18.2 Mbps on non-advanced LTE networks was also slightly lower than T-Mobile and Verizon, but ahead of Sprint:

For each network, this indicates the average speed of LTE-Advanced (

For each network, this indicates the average speed of LTE-Advanced phones ("5G E") compared to the average speed of other 4G phones.


In other words, the AT & T 5G E speeds are typical of LTE-Advanced speeds. This is a real upgrade over the old parts of the AT & T 4G network, but that is true for all four operators.

"Our analysis shows that AT & T customers whose status bar indicates 5G E see their speed increase by 60% compared to their AT & T customers without this," said OpenSignal's CEO, Brendan Gill, in a statement. "Of course, our analysis also shows that the same goes for equivalent customers of Verizon and T-Mobile, even if they do not see the" 5G E "tag on their device In the end, if one service offers a significant advantage over another, it should probably be labeled differently, but not with a name that confuses customers. "

Outsourced tests

OpenSignal data is based on crowdsourced speed tests that can be performed by anyone using OpenSignal applications for iPhone and Android. OpenSignal told us that today's report is based on tests conducted on 1,057,522 aircraft across the country, on all four carriers, between January 28 and February 26.

The tests do not automatically distinguish between conventional LTE-Advanced and 4G LTE networks. But OpenSignal is able to distinguish between phone models and compared phones that are compatible with AT & T's 5G E to those that are not. The resulting data therefore compares the LTE-Advanced phones to the non-LTE-Advanced phones, regardless of whether the tests were performed in a location where the network supports LTE-Advanced features.

When Ars made contact with him, AT & T argued that this limitation invalidates the results.

"The OpenSignal rating reveals that their methodology is flawed," AT & T told Ars. "Speed ‚Äč‚Äčtest data meant to illustrate" the actual experience of 5G Evolution "without verifying that capable devices have been tested in a 5G Evolution coverage area, as shown by the indicator, only represent not exactly the user experience of the 5G Evolution. "

But the four operators were measured in the same way, and the resulting data can reflect the extent of each operator's LTE-Advanced deployment. Operators who have deployed more LTE-Advanced coverage in the United States would likely get faster speed test results than those who did not upgrade their networks in the same way.

We do not know exactly what the LTE-Advanced coverage of each operator is. However, AT & T has repeatedly boasted about the size of its 5G E / LTE-Advanced footprint, claiming that it covered more than 400 markets across the United States. If the AT & T 5G E was significantly faster or more widespread than the LTE-Advanced service of other operators, the OpenSignal tests would probably have revealed a big difference in speed in favor of AT & T. Instead, the results showed higher average speeds for Verizon and T-Mobile.

AT & T has offered no other comment.

The new results are consistent with previous OpenSignal tests. OpenSignal's global data on consumer 4G experiences, released in January, showed that AT & T was lagging behind Verizon and T-Mobile in terms of 4G availability, video quality and data rates. download.

The OpenSignal tests do not tell us yet how fast customers can expect when they get a real 5G. But the data shows "how far LTE networks, or 4Gs, have improved since the initial launch of LTE," writes OpenSignal in today's report. The deployment of LTE-Advanced technology has created "a much faster experience than the initial release of 4G launched in 2009-2011", but no real benefit for AT & T compared to its major competitors.

If you follow the story of AT & T 5G E, the OpenSignal results will not surprise you. But if you know anyone who is confused by the misleading marketing of AT & T, you now have some data to help you clarify things.


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