Verizon published a blog post today, stating that it won't be calling its 4G network a 5G network, unless it delivers a performance or capability upgrade that "only 5G can deliver". So while it's not saying that it won't completely follow AT&T's footsteps, it is mostly saying it won't. Last month, AT&T announced that it was going to begin updating its smartphones to show a "5G E" icon in its status bar instead of 4G, 4G LTE, or LTE (depending on the device). That update began rolling out this week to a few devices on its network. What AT&T is doing is essentially taking a 4G LTE smartphone and telling customers that it now runs on a 5G E network, which is completely untrue. And its competitors are letting them know.
In this blog post, Verizon is calling on the wireless industry to only label something 5G "if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities." This isn't just Verizon firing shots at AT&T though. The decision that AT&T has made to change the status bar to show 5G E is going to affect the entire industry. Imagine a customer walking in and asking about 5G E at their local Verizon store. And Verizon tells them they don't have that. The customer will think that Verizon is behind, because AT&T has it. Only to find out that 5G E isn't really a really network - just 4G LTE. That's going to make things much more confusing for customers of Verizon, AT&T and other customers. So as much as it sounds like Verizon is mocking AT&T and firing shots at their biggest competitor, it's for the good of the wireless industry.
However, we must remember that Verizon is not completely innocent here when it comes to marketing 5G. It launched 5G back in October, in its quest to be "first". But what Verizon left out of that announcement was the fact that their 5G network was a fixed network. Meaning you got 5G service in your home, but as soon as you got into your car, you were back on 4G LTE. Verizon called this the "first commercial 5G network" but it really wasn't. Not only was it a fixed 5G network, but it also was not using the 5G standard that is being used around the world. Though part of that is because the standard has not yet been finalized.
AT&T's 5G E update is the very definition of false advertising
If you ever wanted to know what false advertising looked like, well it's this update from AT&T. Updating a phone to show that it is running on a 5G E network, when it is running on the same 4G LTE network it was on yesterday, is false advertising. It's something that AT&T should definitely reverse, and if there's enough negative feedback regarding the feature, it might just get rolled back. Customers that see the 5G E icon on their smartphones may be thinking their smartphone is actually a 5G enabled device now and are expecting faster speeds, but unfortunately they won't be getting those faster speeds, since it is on 4G still.
This isn't the first time that AT&T has done something like this. Nearly a decade ago when the fourth generation of mobile networks was starting to roll out, AT&T started upgrading its network to HSPA+, which is still a form of 3G (basically, think of it as 3.5G). This was marketed as 4G by AT&T (and T-Mobile), even though it really wasn't 4G. This is a major reason why many unlocked phones show "LTE" versus "4G", to avoid this confusion, and why it's called 4G LTE versus just simply 4G. Though that was still a bit different. HSPA+ was a legit upgrade from 3G, seeing much faster speeds - up to 21Mbps versus the up to around 5Mbps that users were getting on 3G. With 5G E, there is no upgrade. It is the exact same network it was when phones showed 4G LTE. AT&T hasn't really upgraded it's network a whole lot in the past few years, so if anything it is likely slower compared to Verizon and T-Mobile's network.
T-Mobile had a bit more fun mocking AT&T's 5G E update
didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating pic.twitter.com/dCmnd6lspH
— T-Mobile (@TMobile) January 7, 2019
T-Mobile is not one to miss out on a chance to mock its competitors, replied to The Verge's Tweet about the AT&T update with a GIF. As we all know, all GIFs are great. But this one essentially showed T-Mobile taking a small Post-It note that said "9G" and putting it on an iPhone XS to upgrade the network to 9G. T-Mobile didn't want to be outdone with AT&T's 5G network, so it upped the ante to 9G - something we won't see for roughly 40 years from now.
As expected, the tweet got a whole lot of attention from T-Mobile customers, and general consumers in the industry. It was the perfect reaction to AT&T's new updates for some Samsung and LG smartphones. Of course, this was likely the doing of T-Mobile's CEO, John Legere, who has made a career during his tenure at T-Mobile, to mock his competitors. When he first started in Bellevue, he would mock Sprint quite a bit, but now he has moved onto AT&T and Verizon. It's a bit surprising to see T-Mobile and Verizon essentially join forces to mock AT&T, but that happened this week.
This isn't the first time that T-Mobile has mocked AT&T over its 5G plans. Last year at Mobile World Congress, T-Mobile's CTO Neville Ray was speaking about the carriers plans for 5G, and said that they won't be releasing any 5G pucks, because that's not what people want. AT&T had announced that it would first launch some "pucks" for its 5G network, which are essentially 5G hotspots. Instead of launching smartphones first. T-Mobile is going to launch smartphones instead. It hasn't said anything about launching any 5G pucks, but there are some 5G hotspots announced at CES that would work with T-Mobile and Sprint's 5G networks - which have yet to roll out.