Why it matters: Next-generation cellular networks are almost ready for prime time, but AT&T's lies could make it difficult to determine what service plans actually include support for newer technologies. AT&T has rightfully earned scrutiny over its highly misleading use of "5G Evolution" to represent what is in fact just 4G LTE.
At the end of 2018, AT&T announced that it would begin branding some of its 4G LTE network as 5G Evolution. This is not 5G and is nothing more than LTE with the same features that Verizon and other competitors are now using.
Placing the 5G E logo on a number of Android handsets has caused outcry from the public as well as from AT&T's rivals. The practice is intentionally very misleading and is not representative of any real breakthrough in technology.
Verizon's Chief Technology Officer has now made a post that is directly taking jabs at AT&T for their false representation of what 5G actually is and what it means. According to the CTO Kyle Malady, the key requirements for true 5G are new radio technology, new hardware in connected devices, and the ability to achieve what is not possible on existing LTE networks.
T-Mobile took its own approach to roasting AT&T for their poor judgment and kept it short with a Tweet. Apparently 9G is just as easy to implement when all you are doing is changing the number on a screen.
didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating pic.twitter.com/dCmnd6lspH— T-Mobile (@TMobile) January 7, 2019
Thankfully, it appears AT&T will be the only carrier blatantly misrepresenting 5G on their devices. The addition of upgraded LTE features such as 256QAM, improved carrier aggregation, and 4x4 MIMO still do not change the fact that a network is still LTE. If AT&T were to begin using the mmWave spectrum, the story might be different. However, real 5G networking will not be useful until later this year.
This is a case where AT&T is knowingly and very intentionally misleading consumers that do not understand upcoming technology. Despite the obvious fact, there has not yet been a motion from the FTC or FCC to impose penalties on the company.