Well this is extremely satisfying.
A new report from OpenSignal has found that AT&T’s “5G Evolution” (“5G E”) actually delivers slower service than Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s advanced LTE network. The report, released Friday, provides some hard data to illustrate what we already knew: that 5G E is a marketing ploy that has little to do with the promised high speeds of true 5G.
OpenSignal is an independent mobile analytics company that uses crowdsourced data to establish industry-accepted statistics about cellular data and WiFi speeds. In an interview with Ars Technica, an OpenSignal representative said that it used the data generated from over 1 million devices between January 28 and February 26 of this year in order to assess 5G E and determine whether “one service delivers a better or worse experience than another.”
The biggest takeaway, according to OpenSignal, is that LTE (aka 4G) itself has come a long way. 5G E is AT&T’s name for its service that actually runs on an “advanced” 4G network, which includes technical improvements over original 4G networks launched between 2009 and 2011. Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint also run on these advanced networks now — they just don’t claim that it has anything to do with 5G.
“At Opensignal, we are not distracted by technology claims or marketing decisions,” the report reads. “What Opensignal’s data shows is the extent to which LTE, or 4G, networks have improved since LTE’s original launch.”
The report compares the cellular data speeds between devices running on 4G advanced networks, and older 4G networks. It found that devices that can connect to advanced networks are significantly faster than those that just have access to older LTE.
But not all advanced networks are necessarily created equal.
To the delight of anyone frustrated with AT&T for muddying the 5G waters (lookin’ at you, Sprint), the report also found that 5G E is slightly slower, on average, than the advanced LTE networks of Verizon and T-Mobile. Sprint, sadly, is still in last place.
One caveat to this report: OpenSignal recorded these speeds by comparing phones that have advanced LTE/5G E capability with those that don’t. In other words, it was testing the cellular data speeds of the phones with advanced connectivity capability at all times, and not just when these devices are connected to the advanced networks. Advanced networks aren’t available at all times, so OpenSignal says this gives a fuller picture of the experience of connectivity for 4G advanced (or 5G E) phones. Here’s OpenSignal’s explanation:
Opensignal is choosing not to differentiate between the times when 5G E is shown and when it is not, because we wish to compare the 5G E experience with the users connecting to the other US carriers that do not show 5G E but offer the same 4G technologies. In other words, just as 5G E is only available some of the time, so is the equivalent LTE Advanced Pro technologies on the other three networks.
In addition to being a nice gotcha moment for AT&T’s claims, the report does show that LTE/4G networks are improving. That’s good news, especially since 5G will likely have extremely limited coverage — and potentially limited usability, thanks to data caps — for the next couple years.
Meanwhile, 5G E is still BS.