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AT&T's 5G speeds may not be much faster than 4G LTE

If user tests are to be believed, the initial rollout of AT&T's 5G home internet network may be disappointing to most. Download and upload speeds aren't much better than those on 4G LTE. These tests raise concerns about the viability of 5G in its current state. Numerous problems associated with wavelength penetration and power draw may not be worth the cost if the performance increase for 5G is this marginal.

As 2019 begins, we’re excited to see what new technology the new year brings. One of the most anticipated innovations expected this year is 5G, but if initial tests from one of the nation’s largest carriers are to be believed, 5G may not be the leap in performance many were hoping for.

Reddit user mwb6d posted a speed test of tests he ran on AT&T’s new 5G home internet network. The tests were run in the Indiana area and aren’t much better than what many customers already see with 4G LTE. Download speeds hit 195 Mbit/s, and upload speeds hovered around 17 Mbit/s. For reference, mwb6d ran a speed test from the same spot using AT&T’s 4G LTE home internet service and managed to hit 187 Mbit/s down and 8.14 Mbit/s up.

Keep in mind that this test is from one user and likely wasn’t set up in the most rigorous manner. Still, it may be a good indication of what to expect from the early days of 5G.

Carriers and smartphone manufacturers have recently expressed concerns about problems they’ve encountered with implementing 5G into smartphones, power consumption and barrier penetration among them. 5G modems require noticeably more power to run than 4G LTE modems.

Additionally, due to the small wavelength of 5G bands, the signal has a difficult time penetrating thick barriers like building walls. As a result, users may see their phones drop connections more often when indoors or in dense urban areas.

These tradeoffs may not be worth the cost if 5G speeds are actually this close to 4G LTE. Users would see a minor increase in connection speeds at the expense of worse reliability and greater power consumption. Many smartphone OEMs have delayed rolling out 5G-capable devices until 2020 or beyond, likely because of these issues. Maybe another year will allow 5G enough baking time for it to rise. As it stands, 5G is looking like a collapsed souffle.

Speed test from mwb6d: AT&T 5G
Speed test from mwb6d: AT&T 5G
Speed test from mwb6d: AT&T 4G LTE
Speed test from mwb6d: AT&T 4G LTE


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Sam Medley, 2019-01- 2 (Update: 2019-01- 2)