If you’re using an iPhone or modern Android phone 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 is what it tells you about your cellular connection.
5G UC stands for “5G Ultra Capacity”
This icon indicates that you are connected to a 5G network type and will only see it on iPhones or Android phones that support 5G. (As of the end of 2021, only iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 phones support 5G.)
Specifically, this icon is displayed when you are connected to T-Mobile’s 5G “Ultra Capacity” network. The icon started to appear on iPhones in mid-September 2021 and now also appears on select Android phones.
What is 5G Ultra capacity?
5G is more complicated than you might think, and different types of 5G offer different speeds.
T-Mobile divides its 5G network into two types of 5G. 5G Extended Range is a type of 5G which will be about as fast as 4G LTE and will cover most of the country, including many less populated rural areas. “5G Ultra Capacity” is the fastest 5G that promises LTE speeds above 4G.
To distinguish between the two, you’ll see a 5G UC icon when you’re connected to T-Mobile’s better and faster 5G network. When connected to T-Mobile’s slower “extended range” 5G network, you will only see a standard 5G icon.
Technically speaking, 5G UC indicates that you are connected to 5G medium or millimeter wave (mmWave). For T-Mobile, you’re probably connected to mid-range 5G, as that makes up the bulk of T-Mobile’s faster 5G network. The standard “5G” logo without CPU indicates that you are using low-band 5G.
You can see where T-Mobile’s UC 5G network is available at T-Mobile Coverage Map Website. The card distinguishes between the two types of 5G, with the 5G UC network being dark magenta in color.
What about other mobile carriers and Android phones?
From September 2021, the 5G UC logo will only appear on iPhones connected to T-Mobile’s network.
Update: A few months after its initial appearance on iPhones, the icon now also appears on many Android phones.
If you’re using an iPhone 12 or iPhone 13 (or iPhone 12 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro), you won’t see the 5G UC logo if you’re using another cellular carrier like AT&T or Verizon.
What do “5G +”, “5G UW” and “5G E” mean?
These aren’t the first letters we’ve seen added to a 5G logo. “5G + and“ 5G UW ”are similar to“ 5G UC ”and indicate faster 5G than standard low band networks with long ranges.
The “5G +” status icon appears when your iPhone is connected to AT & T’s 5G millimeter wave network.
The “5G UW” status icon indicates that your iPhone is connected to Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network.
There’s also 5G E, an AT&T marketing term applied to its old 4G LTE network. 5G E was not the real 5G; it’s reality. Sprint sued AT&T for the practice in 2019, accusing the company of cheating on customers.
5G UC, 5G +, and 5G UW all indicate good and 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 of the United States?
Apple official support site deals with terms such as 5G UC, 5G + and 5G UW regardless of specific carriers, so you may also see these logos on other mobile carriers outside of the United States. However, if you only ever see a 5G logo, that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily using slower low-band 5G. Your mobile operator may simply not display such logos.