AT&T’s “5G Evolution” service provides a better LTE experience — but it’s not 5G, although it does highlight just how much Long Term Evolution has indeed evolved since it was first deployed.
According to new analysis by crowdsourced testing company OpenSignal, user experience of AT&T’s 5GE — a collection of features more commonly known in industry parlance as LTE Advanced Pro — is on par with LTE-A Pro provided by T-Mobile US and Verizon (provided you have a phone that supports it, of course).
“AT&T users with 5GE-capable smartphones receive a better experience than AT&T users with less capable smartphone models, for example those with an LTE Category below 16. But AT&T users with a 5G E-capable smartphone receive similar speeds to users on other carriers with similar 5G E smartphone models,” wrote Ian Fogg, head of OpenSignal’s analysis team, in a blog entry. “The 5GE speeds which AT&T users experience are very much typical 4G speeds and not the step-change improvement which 5G promises.”
Looking at OpenSignal’s data, it’s pretty clear that there’s much more of a difference between the experience of users on the same network who do and don’t have LTE-A Pro devices, than there is between users with LTE-A Pro devices on different carriers — with the exception of Sprint, which lags in LTE-A Pro performance compared to the other three national carriers. Verizon clocks the fastest user speeds on LTE-A Pro-capable devices, according to OpenSignal’s data, with download speeds of 29.9 Mbps.
OpenSignal noted that its analysis is based on the smartphone models that are capable of displaying 5GE when they connect to it, and that it chose “not to differentiate between the times when 5GE is shown and when it is not, because we wish to compare the 5GE experience with the users connecting to the other U.S. carriers that do not show 5GE but offer the same 4G technologies. … Just as 5G E is only available some of the time, so is the equivalent LTE Advanced Pro technologies on the other three networks.”
Fogg went on to write that the company’s data highlights “the extent to which LTE, or 4G, networks have improved since LTE’s original launch” and that LTE-A Pro “[offers]a much faster experience than the initial version of 4G that was launched back in 2009-2011.”
“AT&T’s 5GE example highlights the extent to which 4G experiences differ,” the company continued. “Perhaps carriers should show a different icon for smartphone users when experiencing the latest 4G technologies like LTE Advanced Pro?”