If you haven’t heard, some AT&T phones recently started displaying “5G E” in a few areas. You can even find a page dedicated to “5G E” service on AT&T’s website. There are a few problems though. It isn’t really 5G service. Also, recent tests have shown that 5G E isn’t as fast as advertised.

5G E Seems To Be Missing 5G

In reality, AT&T hasn’t rolled out 5G service for phones yet. In fact, no network has fully launched 5G either. Verizon now offers 5G in a handful of cities, but it only works if you have a Moto z3. Nearly every network plans to launch the service this year, but full nationwide service isn’t expected until 2020. You can learn more about 5G in our previous article about 5G phones. In short, 5G is fast. Really fast.

So What Is 5G E?

5G E stands for 5G Evolution. According to AT&T, they are “enabling faster speeds on our existing LTE network—up to 2x faster than standard LTE.” If you do a little research, you’ll find out that every other network offers something strikingly similar. It’s called 4G LTE-Advanced.

Basically, 5G E is AT&T’s name for LTE-Advanced, but it’s still 4G. Every major network now supports standard LTE-Advanced for compatible phones. Every other network aside from AT&T still accurately calls the service 4G.

How Fast Is 5G E?

OpenSignal recently released a report titled Quantifying the real-world experience of 5G E. Over 1 million users submitted speed test data. As the graphic shows below, AT&T’s 5G E performed slightly slower than network speeds for both T-Mobile and Verizon but ran faster than Sprint. Not only is 5G E not “2x faster than standard LTE”, it’s not even faster than LTE-Advanced on T-Mobile or Verizon.


According to OpenSignal, “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.”

AT&T’s only response simply states, “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.” They offered no further comment.

Speed Is Good; Fake Names Are Bad

Don’t get us wrong. LTE-Advanced does represent a significant speed bump compared to standard 4G. This is a good thing. However, relabeling 4G as “5G E” seems a little dishonest. Sprint seems to agree. They’re suing AT&T claiming that AT&T is gaining an unfair advantage and misleading customers. No matter which network provider you use, enjoy the faster speeds. Just realize you’re not getting 5G speeds quite yet.

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