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Reports: User Experience Differs Little Between 5G, 4G

Multiple reports from Tutela, a company with access to network quality information, indicate that users, in many cases, are unlikely to notice differences between 5G and 4G based on data collected from 10 urban areas.

a 5G logo suspended over a digital background
Shutterstock/Alexander Supertramp
Are people with 5G devices likely to notice a significant improvement over 4G technology in terms of reliability and speed? A series of reports from data company Tutela suggests the answer might be "no" or "it depends."

The reports use data from 10 U.S. urban areas to evaluate offerings from Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T. Each report first analyzes whether 5G and 4G devices differ in terms of "excellent consistent quality," which is defined as "how often a connection is able to support everyday use cases, like 1080p video streaming, group HD video calls or multiplayer online gaming."

For all three companies, the data shows that 5G and 4G devices achieve a similar score for excellent consistent quality, which means customers, for the most part, aren't likely to notice improvements in performance while using popular applications.

Next, the reports examine the user experience for devices connected to a 5G network versus a 4G network across three categories: excellent consistent quality, median download throughput and median latency. Here, the findings are mixed and vary depending on which company networks are under the microscope.

With Verizon, excellent consistent quality is only 2 percentage points higher with a 5G network, while median download throughput is slightly slower with a 5G network. However, median latency fares better with a 5G network by at least 6 percentage points.

With T-Mobile, excellent consistent quality is similar to the situation with Verizon at 2 percentage points higher with a 5G network. But when it comes to median download throughput, there is a 25 percent jump in quality from 4G to 5G, though Tutela notes that "many consumer applications do not require the peak throughput speeds that 5G [T-Mobile] can offer." Finally, median latency fares slightly worse with a 5G network.

With AT&T, excellent consistent quality on a 5G network scores higher than in the two cases above at 5 percentage points. Here, median download throughput increases by more than 8 percentage points with a 5G network. On the other hand, median latency fares worse than in the two cases above, with the 5G network scoring about 8 percentage points less than the 4G network.

The reports did find one clear advantage for 5G users across all three companies: When high network traffic is introduced, 4G is clearly the loser, with more download tests falling below a speed of 1.5 Mbps during peak usage times when compared to the results for 5G download tests.

Tutela also indicates that it expects 5G to separate itself more from 4G in terms of user experience after the three companies carry out their plans to beef up their 5G networks.

According to its website, Tutela acquires "anonymized network quality information" through partnerships with companies that make gaming, dating and other apps.
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