AT&T’s 5G E slower than some 4G networks, says study

AT&T 5G E indicator (AT&T)
AT&T launched its 5G E-branded network across 400 markets late last year. (AT&T)

Open Signal has found that AT&T’s controversial 5G Evolution (5G E) network is not as fast as some 4G LTE Advanced networks. Open Signal published the study last Friday.

AT&T launched its 5G E-branded network across 400 markets late last year. The network is actually a 4G LTE Advanced network that uses 256 QAM, 4x4 MIMO, and three-way carrier aggregation—technologies that all four major carriers in the U.S. now leverage as part of their own 4G LTE Advanced networks. AT&T describes the network as its “first step” on the road to 5G and said it could deliver a peak theoretical wireless speed of 400 Mbps. As part of the rebrand, AT&T pushed software to its customers in those markets to change the icon that appears on their smartphones from “4G” to “5G E.”

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Open Signal’s analysis shows that customers with 5G E-capable smartphones receive a better experience than other AT&T customers, particularly those with smartphones in an LTE category below 16. But overall, 5G E customers receive speeds that are in line with customers using the same phones on other carriers’ 4G LTE Advanced networks, according to the report.

In tests conducted between Jan. 28 and Feb. 26, 2019, Open Signal found that AT&T’s 5G E network delivered speeds slightly slower than Verizon's and T-Mobile’s advanced LTE Advanced networks. AT&T 5G E smartphones received average speeds of 28.8 Mbps, while phones on Verizon’s LTE Advanced networks received speeds of 29.9 Mbps, and phones on T-Mobile’s LTE Advanced network received speeds of 29.4 Mbps.

AT&T’s 5G E branding elicited some interesting responses from its competitors. Verizon pledged in a blog post that it would not call a 4G network 5G, while T-Mobile CEO John Legere called the 5G E network a “flat-out lie” in a tweet.

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AT&T launched its commercial mobile 5G service in parts of a dozen cities in December 2018. The company has branded the network, which uses millimeter-wave spectrum, as “5G+.”