Apple

If you use a modern iPhone on T-Mobile’s cellular network, there’s a good chance you’ll see the “5G UC” icon on the status bar instead of “5G.” Here’s what it tells you about your cellular connection.

5G UC Stands for “5G Ultra Capacity”

This icon indicates you’re connected to a type of 5G network, and you’ll only see it on iPhones with 5G support. (As of late 2021, only iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 phones have 5G support.)

Specifically, this icon is displayed when you’re connected to T-Mobile’s “Ultra Capacity” 5G network. The icon began appearing on iPhones in mid-September 2021.

What Is 5G Ultra Capacity?

5G is more complicated than you might think, and different types of 5G offer different speeds.

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T-Mobile divides its 5G network into two types of 5G. “5G Extended Range” is a type of 5G that will be roughly as fast as 4G LTE and blankets most of the country, including in many less built-up rural areas. “5G Ultra Capacity” is the faster 5G that promises greater-than-4G LTE speeds.

To distinguish between the two, you will see a 5G UC icon when you’re connected to T-Mobile’s better, faster 5G network. When you’re connected to T-Mobile’s slower “Extended Range” 5G network, you’ll just see a standard 5G icon.

Technically speaking, 5G UC indicates that you’re connected to either mid-band or millimeter wave (mmWave) 5G. For T-Mobile, you are likely connected to mid-band 5G, as this makes up the bulk of T-Mobile’s faster 5G network. The standard “5G” logo without a UC indicates you’re using low-band 5G.

You can see where T-Mobile’s 5G UC network is available on T-Mobile’s Coverage Map website. The map distinguishes between the two types of 5G, with the 5G UC network colored dark magenta.

What About Other Cellular Carriers and Android Phones?

As of September 2021, the 5G UC logo will only ever appear on iPhones connected to T-Mobile’s network.

If you’re using an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 (or an iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro), you will not see the 5G UC logo if you’re using another cellular carrier like AT&T or Verizon.

If you’re using a 5G-enabled Android phone on T-Mobile’s network, you also won’t see the 5G UC logo. (However, this may change in the future.)

What Do “5G+,” “5G UW,” and “5G E” Mean?

These aren’t the first letters we’ve seen added to a 5G logo. Both “5G+ and “5G UW” are similar to “5G UC” and indicate faster 5G than the standard low-band networks with long ranges.

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The “5G+” status icon appears when your iPhone is connected to AT&T’s 5G millimeter wave network.

The “5G UW” status icon indicates your iPhone is connected to Verizon’s Ultra Wideband 5G network.

There’s also 5G E, a marketing term AT&T applied to its older 4G LTE network. 5G E wasn’t real 5G; that’s the reality. Sprint sued AT&T over the practice back in 2019, accusing the company of misleading customers.

5G UC, 5G+, and 5G UW all indicate good, fast 5G signals. (This is different from 5G E, which was worse than seeing a 5G icon and not 5G at all.)

Will These Logos Appear Outside the USA?

Apple’s official support website discusses terms like 5G UC, 5G+, and 5G UW without respect to specific carriers, so you may also see these logos on other cellular carriers outside the USA. However, if you only ever see a 5G logo, that doesn’t indicate you’re necessarily using slower low-band 5G. Your cellular carrier may just not be displaying logos like that.

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Chris Hoffman is Editor-in-Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for over a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read nearly one billion times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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