Ookla: Ignore AT&T’s claims, its 5G-E network isn't so impressive

Internet testing company Ookla has criticised AT&T’s boasts about its controversial ‘5G-E’ network.

5G-E is AT&T’s rebranding of its LTE-Advanced network and has been criticised for being misleading. AT&T defends its decision on the grounds that it will form a fundamental part of its 5G network.

Last week, AT&T issued a press release claiming its 5G-E network delivered the “fastest wireless network in the nation”.

AT&T cited speed test results from Ookla to back up its claim, but Ookla claims the results don't necessarily paint the full picture.

The operator's network did come out top with an average download speed of 34.65 Mbps in Q1 2019, while Verizon (33.07 Mbps) and Sprint (31.21 Mbps) fell just behind.

However, AT&T only recently hit the top spot after being in third place in the previous quarter. As the Verge noted, this is likely due to being “far slower to adopt the newer LTE technologies (things like MIMO—multiple antennas arrays—and carrier aggregation) than its competitors were.”

One claim by AT&T in particular, that in the last week of Q1 it hit an average download of 40.7 Mbps, was called out by Ookla.

Ookla notes that iOS 12.2 rolled out that week containing the 5G-E icon. This would have prompted users to run speed tests on their devices which skewed the results in AT&T’s favour.

In a blog post, Ookla wrote:

“In the final week of Q1, we also observed an increase in faster tests taken on AT&T’s network. Upon investigation, we discovered that this correlated with the release of iOS 12.2 and the roll out of AT&T’s 5G E icon.

We also found that the increase in tests was coming from device models that would have started to display the 5G E icon, such as the newer generations of iPhone (XR, XS Max, XS, X, 8, 8 Plus), indicating that consumers were seeing the new icon and taking a test to see what speeds they were getting.”

Ookla goes on to say these discrepancies is why it does not make conclusions based on less than a quarter's results.

However, even with that final week removed, AT&T’s network was just about the fastest. All of the nation's big four are close in terms of average performance with no standout leader(s).

Sprint is currently in the process of suing AT&T over its ‘misleading’ 5G-E branding.

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