AT&T’s controversial ‘5G E’ network is actually slower than existing LTE networks operated by Verizon and T-Mobile, according to tests in a new report

  • AT&T’s “5G E” network was tested against the LTE networks from other carriers by Open Signal, and AT&T’s network performed about the same.
  • It’s not the performance anyone was expecting from 5G, but that’s because AT&T’s “5G E” network isn’t actually 5G. It’s AT&T’s “LTE Advanced Pro” network that’s also used by other carriers, and explains for the similar results.
  • AT&T itself says that 5G E is “the first step to 5G,” and is not true 5G.
  • AT&T has been mired in controversy and even sued for including “5G” in the naming of its LTE Advanced Pro network, which is said to mislead wireless customers into believing that AT&T users are on the newer and supposedly better upcoming 5G network.

AT&T’s “5G E” network delivers about the same speeds as Verizon and T-Mobile’s 4G LTE networks, according to a report by networking research company Open Signal.

In fact, AT&T’s “5G E” network performed slightly worse than its two main competitors’ networks, but only by a small margin: it was only about 1 megabit-per-second slower than Verizon and T-Mobile’s networks, which is negligible.

For anyone who thought that 5G would bring about a revolution in network speed, however, AT&T’s “5G E” performance is disappointing. It’s not what anyone would have expected from a new network that promised significantly faster speeds.

opensignal att 5ge performance

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Open Signal

That’s because AT&T’s “5G E” network is actually 4G LTE – the network that most smartphones connect to for data. Indeed, AT&T customers who see the “5G E” symbol on their phones aren’t getting true 5G.

Rather, AT&T’s “5G E” network is the company’s “LTE Advanced Pro” network, which uses a variety of updates, upgrades, and improvements on the standard LTE network to bring faster speeds and better performance during peak times than the standard LTE network that was first rolled out in 2012.

LTE Advanced Pro networks used by most major carriers in the US are seen as a stopgap between LTE and 5G networks, as some of the methods and technologies in LTE Advanced Pro will be used with 5G networks when they fully roll out. However, that still doesn’t make LTE Advanced Pro networks the same thing as true 5G, which operates on different frequencies than LTE.

AT&T itself explains that 5G E isn’t true 5G: “5G Evolution is our first step on the road to 5G.” Even the company’s TV ads say that 5G E is the first step to 5G. Indeed, it’s the “first step on the road to 5G.” So, not 5G.

Still, AT&T has been mired in controversy for the 5G E nomenclature of its LTE Advanced Pro network from tech media and carriers. The company has been accused and even sued by Sprint for potentially misleading its customers into thinking they were getting 5G before customers on other carriers.

Ironically, it’s only because of the “5G E” naming and symbol that some AT&T users might see on their phones that brings controversy to AT&T. AT&T’s performance in Open Signal’s report wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows if the company had kept the LTE name for its LTE Advanced Pro network, or used the “LTE+” or “LTE-A” nomenclature that other carriers use.

Business Insider received a comment from AT&T regarding Open Signal’s report, stating: “OpenSignal’s note reveals their methodology is flawed. Speed test data purporting to show the ‘real-world experience of 5G Evolution’ without verifying the capable devices were tested in a 5G Evolution coverage area as shown by the indicator does not accurately represent the 5G Evolution user experience.”