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Quantifying the new 5G Enhanced services in the US

In an industry first, Opensignal has analyzed U.S. users’ mobile experience when they are connected to premium 5G services on the three U.S. carriers: AT&T’s 5G+, T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G (5G UC) and Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband (5G UW). For this analysis, we refer to all of these offerings as Enhanced 5G for convenience. These services offer a markedly better experience than 5G based on lower frequency bands, which are often reused from 4G.

All three U.S. national carriers differentiate how they communicate their low-band 5G experience from their Enhanced 5G services on users’ devices. When U.S. mobile users connect to the high-performing 5G services that use higher capacity mid-band and mmWave frequency bands they see a special 5G icon

In this analysis, we found that users connecting to T-Mobile and Verizon’s 5G Enhanced services experienced very similar speeds, but users on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network had an edge in the three measures looking at multiplayer mobile gaming, over-the-top (OTT) voice services and adaptive video experience. T-Mobile’s Enhanced 5G service was seen in many more counties compared with AT&T and Verizon’s equivalent. This highlights how important it is for AT&T and Verizon to continue with mid-band 5G deployments.

Opensignal analyzed the proportion of counties where users saw an Enhanced 5G service signal. We found that our users on T-Mobile were able to connect to its Ultra Capacity 5G network in 41.9% of counties. Our users on Verizon connected to its 5G Ultra Wideband in 11.7% of counties, while our users on AT&T connected to its 5G+ network in 1.4% of 5G counties. However, the proportion of counties where users saw that at least one type of 5G was available was considerably higher on all three carriers: 69.5% on AT&T, 88.1% using T-Mobile and 51.9% with Verizon. 

T-Mobile’s wide reach of Enhanced 5G locations comes as no surprise since T-Mobile had a large head start in this type of 5G deployment. In fact, T-Mobile started to deploy mid-band 5G using its 2.5 GHz band two years ago in April 2020, while AT&T and Verizon were only able to launch mid-band 5G in January 2022 following the release of C-band spectrum.

The difference between Verizon and AT&T is because of their different C-band deployment strategies. While Verizon was targeting to cover 100 million people with its mid-band 5G by the end of January, AT&T opted for a smaller scale initial C-band launch and announced plans for a larger mid-band 5G deployment to roll out both its C-band and also its newly acquired 3.45-3.55 GHz spectrum at the same time. AT&T’s intent was to start this combined deployment during Q2 which is too late for the full impact to be visible in this analysis.

Our users saw the fastest average 5G download speed of 232.2 Mbps using T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G. However, our users’ average 5G download speed on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband was very close at 226.3 Mbps — less than 6 Mbps slower than our users’ average experience on T-Mobile’s Enhanced 5G service. When our users connected to AT&T’s 5G+ they saw an average download speed of 161.1 Mbps, which was at least 65 Mbps slower than the speed our users experienced on both Verizon and T-Mobile’s Enhanced 5G services.

All of these results are considerably faster than the overall 5G Download Speed — which included all types of 5G — in the July 2022 Opensignal U.S. 5G Experience report. AT&T users saw three times faster speeds with Enhanced 5G compared with the overall 5G Download Speed score (overall 5G was 53.6 Mbps), T-Mobile 1.36 times faster (171 Mbps), and Verizon 3.1 times faster (72.8 Mbps).

Looking at upload speeds, our users’ average 5G upload speeds on T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G and Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband services were statistically tied in the 21-21.2 Mbps range. Once again, AT&T placed behind its two competitors as our users on its 5G+ network on average saw upload speeds of 17.3 Mbps.

Opensignal’s analysis now turns to the experiential metrics measuring multiplayer mobile gaming and over-the-top (OTT) voice services. We saw Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband service had an edge over its competitors’ 5G+ and Ultra Capacity 5G services.

When connected to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network, our users saw the highest average multiplayer mobile gaming score of 81.5 points, ahead of AT&T’s 5G+ score of 78.5 points and T-Mobile’s 76.1 points on its Ultra Capacity 5G network. Our users on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network also saw the best over-the-top (OTT) voice service experience with an average score of 81.6 points, ahead of AT&T’s 5G+ and T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G networks with their statistically tied scores in the 80.2-80.7 points range. 

Out of the Enhanced 5G services on the three U.S. national carriers, our users saw the best Adaptive video experience score of 74.4 points on a 100-point scale on Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network. T-Mobile’s Ultra Capacity 5G service helped users experience a score of 71.9 points, followed by AT&T’s 5G+ users in third place that saw a score of 71.4 points.

By testing using Adaptive bitrate streaming (ABR) it allows Opensignal to quantify the experience on video resolutions up to 4K which 5G technologies enable and which especially benefit from Enhanced 5G services. It dynamically matches a video stream’s quality to network conditions, available bandwidth, and device performance. 

Taking the 5G Experience to the next level with Enhanced 5G

From this analysis it’s clear the launch of C-band from January 2022 has transformed the 5G landscape in the U.S. and made users’ experience with AT&T and Verizon more competitive with T-Mobile’s 5G and its 2.5 GHz mid-band spectrum. The results here are striking too because of the differences with the July 2022 Opensignal U.S. 5G Experience report

As the three U.S. carriers publicly differentiate their Enhanced 5G services from low-band 5G on users’ devices with the use of special 5G icons, it is important for users to be able to compare the mobile experience on those Enhanced 5G services. 

Now, Opensignal is moving the industry forward to reflect the changing U.S. 5G wireless market by quantifying the real-world experience using these differentiated Enhanced 5G services. Opensignal is able to represent, as closely as possible, the experience that U.S. smartphone users associate with the special 5G icons they see next to the 5G logo on their phone for 5G+, 5G Ultra Wideband and Ultra Capacity 5G and quantify the extent this type of 5G leads to a better user experience than other 5G services.