Some Android phones already claim they’re connected to a 5G network. This is the result of some fairly shady rebranding on the part of AT&T, which is pretending that improvements to its LTE network make it no longer 4G.
This is raising protests, especially from the other Big 4 wireless carriers.
5G ≠ 4G
AT&T added 4×4 MIMO, Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (256 QAM) and other enhancements to its 4G LTE network in approximately 400 markets. The carrier is calling the combination “5G Evolution.”
Improvements to LTE aren’t what any of AT&T’s competitor’s are calling 5G. To everyone else, it’s a collection of much faster standards, including New Radio (NR).
But AT&T is forging ahead. Some Android devices that take advantage of its additional LTE capabilities already display “5G E” at the top of their screens. Currently, this is limited to the Samsung Galaxy S8 Active and the LG V30 and V40, but more Android models will get the deceptive logo soon.
Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint object, to put it mildly
AT&T’s competitors quickly jumped on the bogus 5G claims.
Verizon ran a full-page ad in the The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today with the headline, “When we say ‘5G,’ we mean 5G.” In it, Kyle Malady, Verizon’s chief technical officer, writes, “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.”
T-Mobile offered a more tongue-in-cheek response. The company took to Twitter to post a video showing someone putting a sticky note over an iPhone’s LTE logo to relabel it “9G” with the caption, “Didn’t realize it was this easy.”
Sprint CTO John Saw told Engadget, “AT&T is blatantly misleading consumers — 5GE is not real 5G,”
Actual 5G phones should begin appearing this year. A 5G iPhone might not come out until 2020, though.