Now, it is a fact that AT&T did have mobile broadband speeds to the fastest overall mean in America in Q1 2019.
It’s a part of an upward tendency for AT&T, that has spent the last year with dramatically slower rates than rivals T-Mobile and Verizon, for a very simple reason: that the business was far slower to embrace the more recent LTE technologies (things like MIMO — several antennas arrays — and carrier aggregation) than its rivals were. Since AT&T’s network caught up, so did its speed tests, to the stage where items are once more neck and throat, as noticed in Ookla’s graph.
Compare that with the graph AT&T released last week, however, calculating weekly rates during Q1 2019. For most of the quarter, matters are still neck and neck, but AT&T’s rates take up. Was AT&T’s network suddenly dramatically faster than the competition? As Ookla explains, no.
Instead, the business notes that”At the last week of Q1, we also observed an increase in faster tests taken on AT&T’s network. Upon analysis, we found that this connected with the launch of iOS 12.2 and the roll from AT&T’s 5G E icon.” And as Ookla told The Verge past week, the increased number of rate tests came especially following the release of iOS 12.2 (which added AT&T’s 5G E icon) and specifically from iPhone XR, XS Max, XS, X, 8, and 8 Plus devices (the phones that now display 5G E support on AT&T).
But there’s just 1 problem: since Ookla has taken the opportunity to point out at a blog post, AT&T’s claim isn’t nearly as resounding of a victory as the company has announced.
In other words, iPhone clients on AT&T obtained the update, watched the new icon, did speed tests to see what sort of speeds they had been getting, which added a whole bunch of new, faster speed test data that juiced AT&T’s amounts for the final week of Q1. And, as Ookla notes, because 70 percent of AT&T’s clients are iPhone consumers — compared to 49 percent on T-Mobile and 62% on Verizon — that bump from iOS users trying to work out if 5G E was really faster than the LTE they had the day before (spoiler: it is not) was more important.
So yes, AT&T’s community was getting better, and is slightly faster as a whole now than its rivals. But it’s not as dramatic of an increase as the announcement of AT&T would suggest, and presumably, once numbers begin to normalize things will continue to look somewhat closer going forward. And no amount of 5G E marketing hype will be able to change this.