AT&T customers will soon see it appear on the top corner of their Android smartphone. Not because they are connected to a true 5G network but because AT&T will simply pretend that its most advanced 4G LTE tech is 5G.
As FierceWireless reports, AT&T will begin displaying a "5G E" icon next year to indicate that the phone is connected to its LTE network, particularly in areas where the carrier has deployed speed-boosting technology. The "E," here, refers to "Evolution," which is what AT&T calls networks that aren't 5G but still offer speeds that are faster than typical 4G LTE connections.
AT&T Is Faking 5G
Doesn't this all sound familiar? It does, actually. AT&T pulled something like this before. Remember when 4G was just starting to get buzz and carriers were jumping on the bandwagon and making bold claims? Well, AT&T was one of the most egregious examples.
At the time, the company rolled out a speed-boosting 3G tech called HSPA+ then convinced its partner manufacturers to display a "4G" icon when the phone is connected to that network. Even Apple wasn't immune to AT&T's antics back then.
Now, it's happening again, and likely without much backlash. Not only is it confusing, but it also treads the territory of deception. A customer might be convinced to buy a phone from AT&T or sign up for a plan solely on the prospect of being able to take full advantage of 5G's promises — when AT&T's 5G isn't even authentic, at least at the moment.
T-Mobile isn't too happy about AT&T's move. In a blog post, CTO Neville Ray said the carrier was "duping customers into thinking they're getting something they're not."
The "E" beside the 5G icon is there to indicate that AT&T's 5G network isn't really 5G. However, most are likely going to miss that entirely unless they do look into it further. It's easy to ignore and not visually bothersome for a user to verify it.
AT&T 5G Evolution: Which Phones Will Be Affected?
In any case, AT&T says 5G Evolution is coming to "a handful of devices, with more devices showing the indicator in spring 2019." No clarification of which Android devices will be affected. AT&T simply says "the latest Android devices."
Hopefully, real 5G comes soon enough.