AT&T’s fastest network claims: Reading between the (signal) bars

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Cellphone utilization demographics can skew the outcomes of pace exams, and T-Cellular claims AT&T’s victory lap entails deceptive advertising and marketing.

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Drama is brewing between cellular community operators within the US and third-party networking pace testing teams. On April three, AT&T breathlessly introduced that it had the quickest wi-fi community within the US with a median obtain pace of 40.7 Mbps, based on Ookla, which in earlier experiences had discovered T-Cellular to be the quickest.

AT&T’s press launch additionally acknowledged that “shoppers overwhelmingly select Ookla as one of the simplest ways to test their community pace,” offering no proof that sentiment towards pace testing suppliers was surveyed, nor rationalization of how they decided that Ookla was used greater than different pace testing companies. Ookla owns Speedtest.internet, which for naming causes is more likely to be close to the highest of the search outcomes when in search of networking pace testing apps. The declare shouldn’t be essentially fallacious, it is simply odd.

SEE: Particular report: How 5G will remodel enterprise (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

A consultant from Ookla instructed TechRepublic that the outcomes had been generated from “5 million consumer-initiated exams taken with Speedtest on over 1.5 million distinctive gadgets throughout all main carriers in the course of the quarter,” although Ookla has but to publish a separate editorial report on the US cellular marketplace for Q1 2019.

In the meantime, representatives from T-Cellular instructed Mild Studying, in what editorial director Mike Dano referred to as an “unsolicited e mail,” that “We predict it is essential to acknowledge that these outcomes are skewed by AT&T’s deceptive 5G E advertising and marketing,” including that “Naturally, seeing ‘5G E’ on their telephones, AT&T clients had been curious and plenty of ran pace exams, giving AT&T disproportionately extra exams in LTE Superior areas.”

The “5G E” branding refers to AT&T’s deployment of LTE Superior. It’s not a part of the 5G NR customary, and isn’t thought of 5G by the trade requirements physique 3GPP.

OpenSignal ranked AT&T third simply two weeks prior

On March 22, a report from OpenSignal discovered that of LTE Class 16 telephones—able to using the options of LTE Superior—Verizon’s community carried out greatest on common, with a obtain pace of 29.9 Mbps. T-Cellular was in second at 29.four Mbps, and AT&T in third at 28.eight Mbps. For traditional LTE telephones, T-Cellular and Verizon had been tied at 19.four Mbps, with AT&T at 18.2 Mbps.

OpenSignal’s report measures the speeds of all 4 US community operators as slower than Ookla’s, although the methodology is totally different between the 2. OpenSignal makes use of an app that runs within the background and passively exams speeds, reasonably than counting on customers to proactively take a look at their pace.

Missing a full report from Ookla, drawing significant conclusions to clarify the discrepancy is considerably difficult. Mild Studying’s Dano casts doubt on the apply altogether, noting that “just about each wi-fi community operator can level to information displaying that it is the greatest, quickest or most dependable,” and that a wide range of components can influence a consumer’s precise community pace, together with congestion, variations between telephones, consumer proximity and geographical topology, amongst others.

Subjectivity and demographics cloud measurement reliability

Telephones that assist LTE Superior are able to reaching quicker speeds, so if the typical pace of networks is measured with uneven numbers of LTE Superior-capable telephones, the outcomes could be skewed. OpenSignal’s report separates LTE-A gadgets from others, although the publicly obtainable numbers from Ookla cited by AT&T don’t.

An Ookla consultant instructed TechRepublic that the agency “did do extra evaluation the place we broke out gadgets able to LTE-CA and located the end result to be the identical with AT&T having the quickest community in Q1.” (LTE Service Aggregation, or LTE-CA, is a characteristic of LTE Superior.)

That stated, AT&T does have a disproportionately excessive variety of iPhone customers, based on the testing quantity of their database. Some 70% of exams of AT&T’s community had been carried out on iPhones, in comparison with 49% on T-Cellular, 54% on Dash, and 62% for Verizon.

Due to OpenSignal’s reliance on background scanning—a operate that Ookla contends shouldn’t be supported on iOS gadgets—”there isn’t a true method for OpenSignal to ever totally account for the precise efficiency of their community, as a result of they can not truly take measurements the majority of gadgets that use the community,” based on the Ookla consultant. The OpenSignal app is on the market on iOS, although the assist of particular performance couldn’t be verified by TechRepublic.

Moreover, the Ookla consultant highlighted the variations between their methodology and that of OpenSignal:

OpenSignal’s measurements are primarily based totally on background scans and the scans themselves usually are not truly a direct measurement of throughput. The pace measurement taken by a background scan, which is greatest used for measuring areas like protection and many others, is under no circumstances as correct as a devoted Speedtest that’s flooding a reference to information to evaluate what that connection can assist on the time an individual initiates a take a look at. Given our extremely massive consumer-initiated take a look at depend in the course of the interval coupled with the shut geographic proximity of our server community, our information set is an correct reflection of the real-world efficiency shoppers have on every service.

Moreover, OpenSignal is basing their evaluation off a single month of knowledge. We don’t enable nationwide stage claims for a time interval lower than 1 / 4, as a result of we discover that longer durations of time management for any anomalies and present a leveled out view of typical service pace in the course of the interval.

Whereas Ookla’s claims about pattern time have benefit, it isn’t abundantly clear that “flooding a reference to information” is a helpful measure of common, real-world efficiency (although it could make sense in figuring out the quickest pace). Likewise, the “shut geographic proximity” could be nearer to a best-case situation, as not all companies utilized by shoppers have a geographical CDN.

Basically, these two experiences use totally different methodologies to aim to establish what “real-world efficiency” is, although declaring supremacy from both and calling it the ultimate phrase isn’t going to be accepted with common consensus.

Be taught extra in regards to the guarantees that (actual) 5G affords. Try “T-Cellular and Dash promise low-cost 5G protection for rural America, aiding distant employees,” and TechRepublic’s cheat sheet for 5G cellular networks and for 5G smartphones, in addition to “Testing Verizon’s new 5G speeds uncovered three main points with the next-gen community” at CNET.

Additionally see

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HICKORY, NC, USA-1/three/19: A neighborhood AT&T retail retailer for wi-fi communications and gadgets.

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