What do you see when you look at the top corner of your phone? When upgrading to Android 11 or iOS 14, you will see "5G", "5G +" or "5G E" if you are connected to the correct network. But what exactly do these symbols mean? They not only indicate if you are using 5G, but also which type you are connected to.
3GPP (the people who made the 5G standard) chose multiple ranges of frequencies to deliver 5G. This was the best solution for carriers as they could roll out 5G in a way that was both quick and cheaper. Unfortunately, these frequencies offer a different experience on 5G, resulting in multiple icons.
The different 5G icons
If your phone has a 5G modem, you will see one of two symbols: 5G or 5G + . 5G means that your phone is currently connected to 5G NR at a frequency of less than 6 GHz. Tires in this range offer better coverage but slower speeds. The higher the frequency, the faster your download speeds.
Unfortunately, this icon will not tell you if you are connected to low band (less than 1
T-Mobile added this icon to their phones even when they are not connected to the 5G network, so if you are not sure download the Signal Spy app (on Android) or go to Field Test Mode on your iPhone to see which connection you have.
Then there is 5G + . If you're lucky enough to see this symbol in your status bar, rejoice – you have access to a multi-gigabit connection. 5G + indicates you're connected to a mmWave 5G NR tower, short range radios that deliver blazing fast speeds. If you run a speed test, download speeds of 1–3 Gbps are revealed. For context, 4G LTE averages about 0.025 Gbps on most U.S. carriers.
For those on Verizon, you will see 5G UWB in the status bar. This is the marketing name for the mmWave network and is the same as 5G +.
What about 5G E?
Sorry to tell you, but if you see 5G E you are not on a 5G network. This symbol is fake 5G, and in fact you are connected to an LTE Advanced network. You may see faster speeds than a typical 4G network, but nowhere near 5G or 5G +. Unfortunately, Android 11 had added this symbol and AT&T already contains this icon in the status bar of several phones.
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