AT&T’s bogus ‘5G E’ icon pops up on iPhones

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No matter what your AT&T iPhone says, everyone else says “5G E” is 4G.
No matter what your AT&T iPhone says, everyone else says “5G E” is 4G.
Photo: Cult of Mac/@Siddavarapu

iPhone is getting caught up in AT&T’s controversial rebranding of its LTE network as “5G Evolution.” Some developers who installed today’s iOS 12.2 update noticed that their iPhone claims to be connected to a “5G E” network.

All of AT&T’s competitors say that this network is 4G, but that hasn’t stopped the carrier.

AT&T’s 5G E is more like 4.5G

AT&T upgraded its LTE network with 4×4 MIMO, Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (256 QAM) and other enhancements. In January, it started calling this package 5G Evolution. A number of Android models began displaying the “5G E” in place of the LTE in the row of icons at the top of the screen.

This despite broad industry agreement that 5G is a collection of much faster standards, including New Radio (NR). 

Objection, your honor!

“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,” Kyle Malady, Verizon’s chief technical officer, wrote last month.

T-Mobile and Sprint also objected. But none of these companies can stop AT&T because “5G” is a just marketing term. It’s not possible to prove AT&T is using it incorrectly because there’s no legal definition.

So iPhone users who are AT&T subscribers should expect to start seeing see “5G E” after they install iOS 12.2, which still in beta. Just know that this actually means 4G. A 5G iPhone isn’t expected until next year.