AT&T is planning to replace the "4G LTE" logo on some smartphones with a "5G E" logo when they are connected to faster portions of its network, a decision that has caused a bit of an uproar on social media, and by the wireless carrier's competitors. The company's response to all that criticism essentially boils down to 'Sorry, not sorry'.
"If I now occupy beachfront real estate in our competitors' heads, that makes me smile," AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said at CES.
What AT&T calls "5G Evolution," or 5G E, is not true 5G. It's still LTE, but with some optimizations to speed things up, otherwise known as LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro. From the outside looking in, it appears AT&T is intentionally trying to deceive customers by playing loosey-goosey with the 5G nomenclature. AT&T calls it "building a narrative."
"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," Donovan added.
What they're actually doing is calling out AT&T's misleading branding. T-Mobile, for example, trolled AT&T with a video clip on Twitter that shows someone placing a "9G" sticker on their smartphone. "Didn't realize it was this easy, brb updating," T-Mobile said.
Verizon also took at shot at AT&T and called for the wireless industry at large to not misuse the 5G label.
"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. Verizon is making this commitment today," Verizon said.
"We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5. 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," Verizon added.
Quite frankly, T-Mobile and Verizon are right. AT&T's 5G E branding is confusing at best. Donovan's comment about creating a narrative suggests the company is well aware of this. In light of this, real 5G can't arrive fast enough.