In a recent ZDNet interview at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, AT&T Business CEO Thaddeus Arroyo claimed that its customers love the 5G Evolution branding because they want faster speeds. At the same time, the CEO also reiterated that 5GE and 5G are two separate platforms and that 5GE is the evolution platform upon which its 5G infrastructure will be built.
AT&T claims that it wants its customers to know whenever they are in an area capable of providing 5G Evolution connectivity, which is why it introduced the 5GE icon to a number of smartphones that are technically incapable of 5G networking.
Customers love it, because they want faster speeds, according to the CEO, but in reality, 5G Evolution does not offer higher speeds compared to LTE Advanced. 5GE is, in essence, AT&T’s LTE Advanced infrastructure rebranded into 5GE. Surely, customers do want faster speeds but changing the name of the product won’t offer that.
It’s only natural for the carrier to want and inform users that they are located in a faster, LTE Advanced area, but realistically the same result could have been achieved by using an LTE-A icon or basically any other pictogram. Branding itself has no actual effect on the characteristics of a product, it only servers for marketing. Calling a tomato an orange won’t magically change the tomato’s atomic structure, but it might draw some attention. And if AT&T claims that customers are happy with the 5GE icon, then it must mean that the carrier’s marketing strategy worked to a degree.
In truth, however, 5GE still has the same capabilities and constraints as the LTE Advanced networks owned by the other carriers. The other three major U.S. carriers are well aware of this, and they have all responded to AT&T’s move in different ways.
T-Mobile mocked AT&T in January by uploading a short video on Twitter showing an iPhone being “upgraded” to "9G" by applying a sticker on the screen, while Verizon stated that it won’t label its network 5G unless it’s actually based on 5G technologies.
Sprint went as far as filing a lawsuit against AT&T, claiming that the 5GE icon is misleading. Its claim was backed by a survey revealing that 54-percent of participants believe 5G Evolution is equal or even better than true 5G.
All of this controversy aside, AT&T will continue to expand its true 5G network, which presently is only available in a handful of areas in the United States including Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco. The carrier is expected to expand the 5G network in the first half of 2019 to include Chicago, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and San Jose.
Meanwhile, the carrier expects to be able and deliver nationwide mobile 5G coverage by early 2020, and it’s collaborating with Nokia, Ericsson, and Samsung to deploy the necessary 5G equipment, as the company is trying to deliver on its promise. 5G is coming, and carriers are doing their best to provide it to consumers as soon as possible, as 5G smartphones are already being announced.