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‘Fake it until you get it’: 5G marketing surpasses the reality of service

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WASHINGTON – Mobile carriers advertise high-speed 5G service with maps of the US dotted with pink or blue to suggest widespread coverage, but next-generation wireless technology is actually only available less than a third of the time. in better-served states, new data shows. .

5G technology was designed to be faster than 4G wireless technology, with so little latency to help make things like self-driving cars possible. 5G running in low-band spectrum is the slowest, but has the advantage of considerable range, while the mid-band cannot travel that far, but is faster. High-band spectrum, which is scarcely available, can travel only a mile, but is by far the fastest.


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An analysis by OpenSignal published Thursday found that its testers connected with T-Mobile 5G only 34.7% of the time , AT&T 16.4% of the time and Verizon only 9.7%. And that’s generally not for the faster 5G that many expect.

To view a graph, click here

The numbers are in stark contrast to what carriers promise about 5G in their ads, showing how much they are betting on 5G as a selling point in the disputed cellular market.

T-Mobile announces it has “America’s largest, fastest and most reliable 5G network” with a map covered almost entirely in pink, suggesting extensive coverage. The map does not distinguish what kind of 5G a customer will get, but the fine print indicates that it is a mix of lower-performing versions. Meanwhile, high-performance “ultra-capacity” 5G coverage is only available in “hundreds of cities and (for) millions of people” rather than most of the country.


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AT&T says it has the “most reliable 5G network,” citing a test conducted for AT&T by Global Wireless Solutions, which assesses mobile networks. However, the company notes that its high-speed 5G + is “available in select high-speed areas and locations in more than 20 US states.”

When asked about what appears to be a disparity between advertising and coverage, Grant Castle of T-Mobile, vice president of network engineering, said he thought the company was doing well.

“Is our network as big and broad as I would like it to be? No, we’re still working on that, ”Castle said.

Andre Fuetsch, AT&T Network Services Technical Director, said in an emailed statement that 5G “is still at an early stage in its lifecycle and is developing and improving through continued investment and innovation. “.


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BBB’s National Advertising Division of National Programs has criticized claims made about 5G by all three companies, including one in August that led Verizon to change its claim that it was the “most reliable” to indicate that it was not specifically referring to. to 5G. Service.

“5G right now is bogus until you put it on the scene,” said Harold Feld of the advocacy group Public Knowledge, which promotes affordable communication, adding that when new technology is developed, advertising often gets ahead of the game. actual deployment.

Low-income neighborhoods, and to some extent rural areas, are generally the last to get new technology, said Christopher Mitchell of the advocacy group Institute for Local Self Reliance.

Mitchell said that what is touted as 5G in rural areas is often simply “incrementally faster 4G.”

“We don’t expect to see super-fast 5G in many rural areas. T-Mobile has been better at that, ”he said. “I feel like there has been a lot of dishonesty in advertising.”

Internationally, the story is similar. South Korea tops the list of best 5G availability with 28.1% of the time, with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Hong Kong all over 25%, according to an OpenSignal report from early September.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Chris Sanders, Edward Tobin, and Daniel Wallis)



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