Is T-Mobile 5G really faster than its 4G-LTE?

Last week, I got a new OnePlus 8 phone, which is one of the very first 5G phones available in the US. Luckily, I use T-Mobile, which doesn’t charge an additional fee for the 5G network.

Maybe there is a reason why none of T-Mobile 5G’s commercials say anything about its speed. Based on my test, T-Mobile 5G is really not faster than its 4G-LTE. Therefore, the benefits for the average consumer are very limited.

T-Mobile claims only that it’s better than other 5G networks. Nowhere on its website does it say that it’s faster than 4G.

According to T-Mobile, these are the expected speeds of the 4G LTE Network (On-Device):

  • Download speeds: Typically between 9 – 47 Mbps, with minimum expected speeds of less than 0.1 Mbps
  • Upload speeds: Typically between 4 – 20 Mbps, with minimum expected speeds of less than 0.1 Mbps
  • Latency: Typically between 30 – 50 ms

For whatever reason, my 4G is much faster than the official T-Mobile speed (thank you, T-Mobile). However, 5G is not really faster than 4G, especially for download speeds.

I’m pretty disappointed with this performance. Following is what Intel claims on its website:

  • Peak 5G speeds are expected to be up to 100x faster than the speed of 4G LTE networks.
  • Reduced latency will support new applications that leverage the power of 5G, the Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence.
  • Increased capacity on 5G networks can minimize the impact of load spikes, like those that take place during sporting events and news events.

Of course, Intel is lagging behind in this 5G war, so maybe it just doesn’t know how fast it can be…

Every year at CES, I have heard multiple times that the next big thing is 5G. If the speed and latency are not that different from 4G, I guess there is really no immediate impact on consumers’ user behavior on the smartphone—at least, not the current 5G deployed in the US.

I hope 5G does have some impact on IoT and more devices will be connected to each other. Otherwise, I’m not sure how to justify the huge investment into 5G. T-Mobile alone invested $30Bn into it.

By the way, 5G in China seems to achieve much faster download speeds (300 Mbps to 1G Mbps). Maybe there are many different flavors of 5G networks. I’m glad that at least my 5G is faster than AT&T’s “5G E” connections.

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