The initial version of 4G networks was launched in 2009-2011. Since then, LTE-Advanced technology has created a much faster experience, but it’s still 4G.
All four major cell carriers have rolled out LTE Advanced service. However, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile accurately call it 4G, while AT&T renamed their 4G service “5GE,” which the company says stands for 5G Evolution.
5GE has no technological advantage over 4G, since they’re the same thing with different names. In fact, a new study by OpenSignal has found that AT&Ts 5GE service is slightly slower than Verizon’s and T-Mobile’s advanced 4G LTE networks. Sprint (the slowest of the four 4G carriers) actually sued AT&T, alleging that AT&T is gaining an unfair advantage by making false and misleading claims to consumers. After all, AT&T’s network name change may trick consumers into thinking they’re getting a better service than a 4G operator.
5G communication is projected to perform upwards of 1,000 times faster than 4G, making devices respond in a matter of milliseconds. OpenSignal reports that, after comparing user-initiated speed tests from more than 1 million devices, AT&T’s 5GE phones get average speeds of 28.8Mbps, falling right between T-Mobile’s 29.4Mbps and Verizon’s 29.9 Mbps, and Sprint’s 20.4Mbps. The AT&T average of 18.2Mbps on non-advanced LTE was also slightly behind T-Mobile and Verizon but ahead of Sprint. So AT&T’s 5GE speeds are typical LTE-Advanced speeds.
OpenSignal CEO Brendan Gill says, “Our analysis shows that AT&T customers with 5GE in their status bars are receiving up to a 60 percent boost in speeds over AT&T customers without it. Of course, our analysis also shows that the same is true for the equivalent Verizon and T-Mobile customers even though they don’t see a ‘5GE’ label on their device. 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.”
Previously, OpenSignal’s overall data on consumer 4G experiences, showed that AT&T lagged behind Verizon and T-Mobile in 4G availability, video quality, and both download and upload speeds.
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Brodkin, Jon. (22 Mar 2019). AT&T’s “5G E” is actually slower than Verizon and T-Mobile 5G, study finds. Ars Technica.