5G smartphone

Opensignal’s assessment of 5G performance in five U.S. cities points to great differences in speeds from one carrier to another. Researchers also noted some significant challenges involving 5G upload speeds.

The firm looked at downtown areas in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. Verizon, which has focused on mmWave technology, dominated in the download category. It sent data to devices at 508.3 Mbps in Atlanta, 374.9 Mbps in Houston, 473.2 Mbps in Los Angeles, 442.5 Mbps in New York and 338 Mbps in Washington.

In each case, T-Mobile was second and AT&T third and, in each case, Verizon was in the neighborhood of three to four times as fast as its competitors.

An important caveat is that the measurements were taken before Verizon launched 5G in lower frequency bands, which will not support such fast speeds. That means that the statistical gap will tend to narrow, according to Opensignal.

The 5G upload speeds present a more mixed picture. In two cities — New York and Washington DC — T-Mobile and Verizon were statistically tied for the lead, ahead of AT&T. But in Houston, AT&T tied with T-Mobile for the top spot, with Verizon lagging.

In Atlanta and Los Angeles, T-Mobile had the highest upload speeds. Opensignal points out that average upload speeds are considerably slower than average downloads and that the gap between the two is widening.

The special upload challenge is that users’ device and not the network must do the heavy lifting.

“But there is a difference in the reach of 5G for uploading data compared with downloading,” according to the post. “This is because uploading is dependent on the more limited ability of a smartphone’s cellular radio power to create a strong signal to send data because of the constraints of a small smartphone battery and antennas. As a result, a smartphone needs a stronger 5G connection, and likely be closer to a 5G cell site, to be able to use 5G to upload data than it is to use 5G for download.”

In the five cities studied overall, all carriers had substantially faster download speeds in comparison with their upload speeds: AT&T is at 108.5 Mbps downloads/16.8 Mbps uploads, T-Mobile is at 225.7 Mbps/33.5 Mbps and Verizon is at 437.5 Mbps/27.1 Mbps.

In July, Opensignal found that T-Mobile and Verizon were considered the top two mobile carriers with three mobile network experience awards each.

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