AT&T customers will start to see a 5G logo in the corner of their smartphone next year, yet their phones won’t actually be connected to the more advanced network.
AT&T will display an icon reading “5G E” on newer phones that are connected to LTE in markets where the network has developed speed boosting 4G technologies, FierceWireless reported. The “E” will stand for “5G Evolution”, the carrier’s term for networks that aren’t quite 5G but are still faster than traditional LTE.
This is not the first time AT&T has pulled such a stunt. During the transition to LTE, the company rolled out a speed-boosting 3G tech called HSPA+, but a 4G logo was shown when on that connection. Such a trick is designed to win the coming advertising wars around 5G. Introducing such a “5G” network allows the company to stay ahead of their competitors even though the network doesn’t yet meet the criteria.
The “E” in the “5G E” icon will offer a degree of clarification, supposedly indicating that the network is not actually 5G. T-Mobile CTO Neville Ray wrote that AT&T was “duping customers into thinking they’re getting something they’re not.” The “E” is easy to miss, too, judging by a mock-up AT&T sent out.
AT&T told FierceWireless that the “5G E” logo would initially come to “a handful of devices, with more devices showing the indicator in spring 2019.”
According to FierceWireless, AT&T’s 5G network will be available in over 400 markets by the end of 2018, with “potentially millions” being able to see the new logo. Considering the fact that actual 5G technology is still rare and its availability limited, the “5G E” scheme could potentially confuse users about next-generation wireless technologies.