AT&T has been catching a lot of flak for its 5G Evolution (5G E) nomenclature, which is the company’s consumer-facing name for LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) technology. 5G E in essence is an extension of existing 4G LTE technology and is not in fact true 5G.
Last month, AT&T started applying 5G E network logos to Android phones that support its expanded network and now Apple is joining the fray. Apple made the change with iOS 12.2 Beta 2, which is now being distributed to developers and public beta testers. If iPhone and iPad Pro users are connected to a segment of AT&T’s network that has been upgraded to support the faster LTE-A speeds, the 5G E logo will be displayed.
Right now, 5G E connections are strictly limited to Apple’s 2018 family of iOS devices, including the iPhone XR, iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and LTE versions of the iPad Pro. All of these devices feature Intel’s latest 4G LTE cellular modems with 4x4 MIMO support.
Also 5g symbol enabled pic.twitter.com/zN7nHbjTrx— P G S (@Siddavarapu) February 4, 2019
Unfortunately, AT&T’s campaign to ride the coattails of the true 5G revolution by misleading customers with 5G E labels is leading to confusion. Some customers have been led to believe that they actually have devices that are 5G compliant, when such smartphones haven’t even been announced, let alone released at this point. And AT&T’s competitors have also thrown shade at the company for its brazen actions.
"We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities,” said Verizon in January. "We will not call our 4G network a 5G network if customers don’t experience a performance or capability upgrade that only 5G can deliver."
AT&T, however, simply doesn’t care and relished in the fact that it came up with an idea to milk 5G for all its worth. "If I now occupy beachfront real estate in our competitors' heads, that makes me smile," said AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan in response.
"Every company is guilty of building a narrative of how you want the world to work. And I love the fact that we broke our industry's narrative two days ago, and they're frustrated and gonna do what they're gonna do."