Telecom giant AT&T Inc. (T) has been accused by its rivals for misleading consumers regarding its 5G network. Verizon and T-Mobile have lashed out against AT&T over its marketing term 5GE that implies devices are connected to a 5G network. They have criticized AT&T for marketing an upgrade to its existing 4G LTE network with a 5G moniker.
The accusations come as AT&T is reportedly updating phones with its 5G Evolution technology and replacing the LTE icon on devices with an icon that reads 5G E. Rivals are accusing AT&T of misleading consumers by not actually upgrading them to a 5G service, as it is really based on 4G LTE technology.
Verizon did not name AT&T, but noted in a blog post that while the potential for 5G is awesome, the wireless industry must resist the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise.
“We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5. We will not call our 4G network a 5G network if customers don’t experience a performance or capability upgrade that only 5G can deliver,” Kyle Malady, Chief Technology Officer of Verizon said in the blog post.
T-Mobile CEO John Legere also accused AT&T of not just bad marketing, but a “flat out lie.”
He said on Twitter that AT&T should be ashamed of themselves “for slapping 5G e on something that is actually LTE …”
“5G e is nothing more than LTE-A….and guess what, @TMobile has more LTE-A than they do!!,” Legere added.
5G or fifth-generation technology aims at higher capacity than current 4G networks, allowing a higher density of mobile broadband users, and supporting device-to-device, more reliable, and massive machine communications.
5G will also mean much lower latency, or the time taken for the network to recognize that a user has requested a chunk of data and to start sending that data.
In the 5G era you will you be able to download files, play online games and pay for things, in the blink-of-an-eye. Uploading something to the cloud will be as fast as storing files locally.
The new network will also be particularly vital when it comes to the success of the smart homes and self driving cars.
A 5G network is set to provide up to a million connections per square kilometer. This will be fundamental when it comes to creating “Smart Cities”, as it will connect up millions of small, low-power devices, from traffic lights to wearables.
Our homes will also become more connected. A 5G network will be able to transfer TV shows seamlessly from one device to the next.
The reduced latency in a 5G network will ensure that self-driving cars will respond instantaneously to commands, such as braking.
Virtual reality will also become more accessible. Currently, the throughput to run virtual reality is almost 100 times higher than playing an HD video.
After Verizon took out a full-page ad in newspapers to subtly blast AT&T for an arguably shady 5G strategy, an executive from AT&T — which rivals say has essentially been trying to pass off 4G service as 5G — has pushed back against the criticism in a new interview.
Remember, AT&T doesn’t sell any 5G-compatible phones at the moment. It’s planning to replace the LTE indicator with a new 5GE symbol in markets that support the fastest LTE technology, something T-Mobile poked fun at in a recent funny video where they pretended to “upgrade” a phone to 9G by simply putting a 9G sticker on the device. Claiming, in other words, that that’s all AT&T is doing here. So, AT&T — what gives?
Well, Tom’s Guide decided to put that question directly to AT&T senior vice president for wireless technology Igal Elbaz. Is 5GE a misleading term, they asked him, given that it’s not actually based on 5G technology? Elbaz’s answer: “Out customers will love [5GE]. What we’re trying to do is let them know that there is an enhanced experience in their market.”
“We’ve been talking about 5G Evolution for a while now. We were pretty public about what we were doing and what we were deploying. What we’re trying to do is two things. One is to let the customer know that they are in an enhanced experience market or area. So we’re letting them know this on the device. And there are close to 20 devices that support this.”
Carriers like Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon have all lined up to blast these moves from AT&T, with Verizon’s CTO slamming them as “designed to purposely confuse consumers.” In a blog post — which was also rerun in national newspapers as the full-page ad we mentioned, he noted that “People need a clear, consistent and simple understanding of 5G so they are able to compare services, plans and products, without having to maneuver through marketing double-speak or technical specifications.”
A new report from ABI Research thinks 5G technology could very soon provide a shot in the arm for otherwise stagnant smartphone sales. AT&T has promised a 5G Samsung phone coming in a few months, and the company is also planning to turn AT&T Stadium in Dallas into a hotbed for 5G experimentation. Real 5G, Elbaz promises, will be a game-changer for everyone. But it’s too bad, AT&T’s rivals keep clamoring, that the company has been pretty misleading in this area so far.