Although 5G phones haven’t arrived yet, AT&T would like to convince you otherwise by advertising an upgraded version of its 4G network as “5G Evolution,” or “5G E.” A new study, however, confirms that AT&T’s upgrades are no faster than comparable (and more honestly-marketed) 4G improvements from T-Mobile and Verizon. In fact, AT&T’s network is a little bit slower.
Ars Technica reports that AT&T’s 5G E network clocked average speeds of 28.8 Mbps in speed tests recorded by OpenSignal. T-Mobile and Verizon, which use the same 4G LTE-Advanced tech that AT&T is marketing as 5G, averaged speeds of 29.4 Mbps and 29.9 Mbps, respectively. (Sprint fared worse than everyone, with average speeds of 20.4 Mbps.)
AT&T argues that OpenSignal’s methodology is flawed because the tests were conducted nationwide on capable phones, instead of just in markets where LTE-Advanced is available. But as Ars points out, there’s nothing technologically superior about 5G E, because it’s just LTE-Advanced with a different name. The only advantage over other carriers would be the breadth of AT&T’s coverage, which would be reflected in OpenSignal’s crowdsourced testing if AT&T had a larger LTE-Advanced footprint than other carriers. Instead, the tests confirm that AT&T has merely slapped a new name onto a comparable experience.