In a move that is sure to cause confusion with consumers, AT&T will soon start replacing the 4G LTE logos that customers see on their smartphones with “5G E” in select markets. According to AT&T, its shift towards 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM and other further advances to its 4G LTE technology gives it the justification for marketing 5G Evolution, or 5G E.
AT&T's 5G Evolution service is already "operational" in select markets across the United States (400 markets will be covered by the end of 2019), and was widely panned when announced last year as being "fake 5G". 5G Evolution promises data speeds of up to 1Gbps, although the ability to reach those speeds in the real world with existing hardware remains to be seen.
“If they have one of the latest Android devices and it connects to a tower that’s enabled with 5G Evolution, they’ll soon see a ‘5G E’ indicator pop up on their screen,” said an AT&T spokesperson in a statement to FierceWireless. “Initially we’ll roll this out on a handful of devices, with more devices showing the indicator in spring 2019.”
It's likely that many customers will see the 5G E logo and think that they are getting access to the next-generation wireless standard that they've been hearing so much about in the news. Further compounding matter is that a 5G+ label will be displayed for devices that are connected to AT&T's "true" 5G wireless network.
T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray blasted AT&T in a blog post yesterday, writing that the company's efforts with 5G E amount to "duping customers into thinking they’re getting something they’re not."
AT&T's mobile 5G service became operational today in 12 markets across the United States and makes use of 39 GHz licensed spectrum band using a 2x2 MIMO design. The first and only device capable of connecting to the network is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot ($499). When AT&T's 5G service is ready for expanded availability in Spring 2019, it will offer the service for $70 per month for just 15GB of data.
"Some asked us why we aren’t clamoring to be part of this cluster. The answer is simple," added Neville. "We don’t have time or resources to waste on that BS. The other guys are gigantic corporations with money and time to burn. We’re heads down actually working on the New T-Mobile, so we can deliver 5G for all."