WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 (Reuters) – Mobile phone companies announce high-speed 5G service with US cards splashed in pink or blue to suggest extended coverage, but latest-generation wireless technology is actually only available less than a third of the time in the best states served, new data shows.
5G technology was designed to be faster than 4G wireless, with so little latency to help make things like driverless cars possible. 5G operating on a low band spectrum is the slowest, but it has the advantage of considerable range while the mid band cannot travel that far, but is faster. The high band spectrum, which is scarce, can travel only a mile but is by far the fastest.
a analysis performed by OpenSignal published Thursday revealed that their testers only connected to T-Mobile 5G 34.7% of the time, AT&T 16.4% of the time, and Verizon only 9.7% of the time. And it’s usually not for the fastest 5G that many expect.
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The numbers stand in stark contrast to what carriers promise about 5G in their advertisements, showing how much they are betting on 5G as a selling point in the hotly contested cellular market.
T-Mobile says it has “America’s largest, fastest, and most reliable 5G network” with a map almost entirely covered in pink, suggesting wide coverage. The card doesn’t distinguish what kind of 5G a customer will get, but the fine print indicates that it’s a mix of lower performing versions. The highest performing “ultra-capacity” 5G coverage, meanwhile, is only available in “hundreds of cities and (for) millions of people” instead of most of the country.
AT&T claims to have the “most reliable 5G network,” citing a test performed for AT&T by Global Wireless Solutions, which assesses mobile networks. The company notes, however, that its 5G + broadband is “available in certain high-speed areas and sites in more than 20 states in the United States.”
Asked what appears to be a disparity between advertising and coverage, Grant Castle of T-Mobile, vice president of network engineering, said he thinks the company is doing well.
“Is our network as big and extensive as I would like? No, we’re still working on it,” Castle said.
Andre Fuetsch, technical director of network services at AT&T, said in an emailed statement that 5G “is still at the beginning of its lifecycle and is evolving and improving through continued investment and innovation.” .
BBB’s national advertising division for national programs has slammed claims made about 5G by all three companies, including one in August that prompted Verizon to change its claim that it was the “most reliable” to say it was was not specifically referring to 5G. service.
“5G is right now (in) the wrong until you do it on stage,” said Harold Feld, of the Public Knowledge advocacy group which promotes affordable communication, adding that when a new technology is developed, the advertising often precedes actual deployment.
Low-income neighborhoods, and to some extent rural areas, tend to be the last to benefit from new technologies, said Christopher Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self Reliance advocacy group.
Mitchell said what is billed as 5G in rural areas is often just “faster and faster 4G.”
“We don’t expect to see super-fast 5G in a lot of rural areas. T-Mobile has been better at it,” he said. “I feel like there has been a lot of dishonesty in the advertising.”
Internationally, the story is similar. South Korea tops the best 5G availability list 28.1% of the time, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Hong Kong all above 25%, according to an OpenSignal report in early September.
Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Sanders, Edward Tobin and Daniel Wallis
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