AT&T’s Misleadingly-Branded 5GE No Faster Than Verizon, T-Mobile LTE

Gerald Bowen
March 24, 2019

New OpenSignal data suggests that smartphone speeds on AT&T's "5G E" network are just 4G LTE speeds.

Despite all the ridicule and negative press AT&T received for deceiving customers with its "5G Evolution" service, the mobile carrier has stood its ground.

AT&T's "5G" network was uncovered recently as bogus, pertaining merely to the network's "5G Evolution" which, while a bit of a step up from 4G, still isn't true 5G. Tests by OpenSignal found that AT&T's performance in its 5G E service areas offers no improvements over other areas with equivalent LTE service.

AT&T may have been quick to launch "5G E" branding on its subscribers' smartphones, but the network itself is nowhere near as fast.

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Now, thanks to OpenSignal, we have some good data. If you see a 5G E indicator on an AT&T phone, that means you're connected to a portion of AT&T's 4G LTE network that supports standard LTE-Advanced features such as 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation. To make matters worse, the enhancements of 4G LTE aren't exclusive to AT&T - other carriers also use these enhancements, although none of them use the 5G E moniker. Though there wasn't a raging gulf, 5G E clocked in slower than services from Verizon and T-Mobile that use the comparable enhanced 4G technologies. "Bottom line, if one service is offering a meaningful boost over another, it probably should be labeled differently, just not with a name that confuses customers". Verizon's phones, meanwhile, saw 29.9 Mbps on average, and T-Mobile's saw 29.4 Mbps. An OpenSignal representative subsequently added that "with confidence intervals, T-Mobile was actually tied with AT&T".

The new results are consistent with OpenSignal's previous testing. Critics, as well as rivals Verizon and T-Mobile, argued the network was more of a 4G LTE upgrade than anything else. 'The 5G E speeds which AT&T users experience are very much typical 4G speeds and not the step-change improvement which 5G promises.' Image Source: Opensignal As you can see in the chart above, the LTE download speed on 5G E-capable phones is almost identical across the top three USA carriers. OpenSignal's "5G E" figures come from measurements on phones carrying OpenSignal's tracking software between January 28, 2019, and February 26, 2019.

These are industry standards available to-and deployed by-other mobile network operators, though only AT&T is engaging in confusing advertising practices to describe them.

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