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AT&T’s controversial fake 5G network isn’t even as fast as T-Mobile and Verizon’s 4G

Published Mar 22nd, 2019 2:42PM EDT
AT&T 5G E slower
Image: Justin Lane/EPA/Shutterstock

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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. The “5G E” symbol that indicates an AT&T subscriber is in range of a network that supports that fastest LTE technologies is still in tact, but a new report from Opensignal this Friday is about as damning an indictment of the misleading practice as we’ve seen since its introduction.

According to Opensignal, while AT&T users with 5G E-capable devices are receiving “a better experience than AT&T users with less capable smartphone models,” T-Mobile and Verizon users are getting better speeds on average with the same devices. 5G E isn’t just equivalent to 4G on other networks — it’s slightly worse.

“[…] AT&T users with a 5G E-capable smartphone receive similar speeds to users on other carriers with the same smartphone models that AT&T calls 5G E,” Opensignal’s Ian Fogg explains. “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 nearly identical across the top three US carriers. In fact, AT&T brings up the rear at 28.8 Mbps, while T-Mobile comes in second at 29.4 Mbps, and Verizon sits at the top with 29.9 Mbps. Sprint, of course, fails to even compete at 20.4 Mbps.

It is worth noting that Opensignal opted not to “differentiate between the times when 5G E is shown and when it is not,” as it was looking to compare AT&T’s supposed 5G E experience with the experiences of the same devices on other networks that support “the equivalent LTE Advanced Pro technologies.” 5G E simply isn’t always available on compatible AT&T devices, and neither is LTE Advanced Pro on T-Mobile or Verizon.

The ultimate irony here is that every major carrier will begin to roll out 5G service in 2019, and while it will take some time before a majority of us can access it, the upgrade will be remarkable. Download speeds surpassing 600 Mbps could become the norm, but, for whatever reason, AT&T decided to jump the gun.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.