AT&T was so thrilled about 5G it sort of duped users into thinking the next-generation network was already available via a sneaky "5G E" logo on phones.
Bad news: 5G isn't available. Not yet, anyway. 5G E was actually just an advanced version of AT&T's 4G LTE network. More embarrassingly, research conducted thereafter found that this 5G E network was less reliable than other carriers' 4G LTE networks.
Good news: 5G is coming soon. In fact, AT&T is now boasting that it just managed to reach 2 Gbps speeds using its real-life 5G network. If true, then AT&T just became the first U.S. carrier to reach such speeds, although only in its commercial 5G network in Atlanta.
AT&T Reaches 2 Gbps 5G Speeds
AT&T revealed the milestone in a blog post, saying that it achieved those speeds using the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot. It comes a month after the carrier hit 1 Gbps 5G speeds in multiple cities.
"We're all about finding ways to unleash the full potential of 5G, including celebrating the exciting milestones along the journey," AT&T wrote in the post.
At 2 Gbps, if sustained, users will be able to download a two-hour HD movie in just 10 seconds. However, that's actually a tall order. As Engadget notes, sustaining 2 Gbps is not possible with any provider at the moment. Such a feat requires a millimeter-wave connection, which is rare, especially indoors.
Plus, AT&T's breakthrough 2 Gbps speeds were achieved using a hotspot device, and it's not clear if smartphones with built-in 5G will be able to perform just as well.
5G is slowly creeping up on the broader smartphone landscape. A few years ago, it was nothing than mere wishful thinking and speculation, but now all major carriers in the United States are each laying the groundwork for their respective 5G networks.
5G promises radically faster download and upload speeds and instant communication, among others things. AT&T said that it will release a standards-based nationwide 5G network as soon as 2020. It aims to deploy 5G in 21 states before the end of this year.
The race to 5G has been a tumultuous one. Shortly after AT&T's 5G E stint, rival carriers slammed the network, calling it nothing more than a fraudulent marketing scheme. They also lambasted AT&T for potentially confusing customers into thinking 5G is now available when it isn't yet. Sprint even took out a full-page ad in The New York Times to call out 5G E as fake 5G and filed a lawsuit over the misleading branding.
Sprint and AT&T have since "amicably resolved" the legal action, though. Their agreements were not disclosed, but it seems AT&T will still be allowed to use the 5G E branding moving forward.