Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint rip AT&T for fake 5G

The new network speed, which all mobile carriers are racing to achieve, doesn’t yet exist, but AT&T has put the logo on its phones anyway. Now its competitors are calling its bluff.

We had thought the days of slamming a phone were over.

Instead of joining AT&T in mislabeling their network speeds, rival mobile carriers are calling out the company for potentially misleading consumers. AT&T recently added a 5G icon to its mobile phones, a symbol that would indicate a new 5G network.

Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint say 5G doesn’t yet exist—for anyone.

AT&T has admitted the new logo is simply aspirational. The “5G E” is actually a 4G network, and the competition isn’t pleased.

The Verge reported:

Verizon says it won’t lie to customers about whether their phone is connected to a 5G network, as AT&T has essentially started to do. “We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5,” writes Kyle Malady, Verizon’s chief technical officer, in a blog post that was also run as a full-page ad in The New York TimesThe Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.

The promise comes right as AT&T has started to roll out updates doing exactly that: changing the “LTE” icon in the corner of select phones into an icon reading “5G E.” One might assume that a “5G E” connection is the same thing as a “5G” connection, but it’s not. AT&T is just pretending that the faster portions of its LTE network are 5G and is trying to get a head start on the 5G marketing race by branding it “5G Evolution.”

Verizon penned an open letter denouncing AT&T’s move.

It read, in part:

The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist. If network providers, equipment manufacturers, handset makers, app developers and others in the wireless ecosystem engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is, we risk alienating the very people we want most to join in developing and harnessing this exciting new technology.

That’s why 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. Verizon is making this commitment today: 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.

T-Mobile took a more humorous tack:

T-Mobile’s CEO John Legere also spoke out:

Sprint unloaded, too.

Engadget reported:

Sprint has blasted AT&T after the latter made it seem Android phones on its network are connected to a version of 5G. It updated the LTE icon on the devices to read “5GE” (for “5G Evolution”), but the phones are still using 4G connections. “AT&T is blatantly misleading consumers — 5GE is not real 5G,” Sprint CTO Dr. John Saw said in a statement to Engadget.

“Sprint will launch and market real 5G that is standards-based in the first half of 2019,” Sprint said in its statement. “We’re designing our mobile 5G footprint at launch to cover the downtown metro areas of 9 top cities, with sights on providing our customers with contiguous coverage using the first 5G smartphone in the US.”

AT&T has actually fallen behind in the race for 5G, according to tech reporters.

The Verge wrote:

What makes it worse is that AT&T is branding speed-boosting LTE tech that it’s actually behind on rolling out. AT&T’s “5G Evolution” network is really just referring to LTE Advanced and Advanced Pro, a series of tech upgrades that other carriers have been rolling out for years. Verizon said over the summer that it had deployed the tech in 1,100 markets. T-Mobile said it was live in 920 markets in November of 2017. AT&T, by contrast, has “5G Evolution” in just under 400 markets. (The carriers, of course, may be measuring these things in different ways and have bickered about it in the past; but I haven’t seen a measurement where AT&T isn’t significantly behind.)

So effectively, yes, AT&T has just stuck a “5G” sticker over top of its phones’ LTE logo. It hasn’t improved anyone’s phone; and while AT&T has slightly improved its network, it isn’t offering anything the other big carriers haven’t already done.

This isn’t the first time a top player in the mobile phone industry has used questionable marketing techniques to win customers, especially during the transition to faster, more reliable networks.

The Verge continued:

Of course, the 5G marketing antics has just begun. T-Mobile itself was guilty of similar marketing nonsense back in 2010, when it claimed to have “America’s largest 4G network,” despite not having a 4G network. In fact, a large part of the reason we refer to 4G as LTE (the name of its technical standard) is because of all the bad marketing claims during the transition out of 3G. We’ll probably know soon whether 5G is headed in the same direction.

It will be interesting to see how this round plays out, as the marketing landscape is very different in 2019 from that of 2010. The biggest difference for mobile companies may be consumers’ demand for authenticity and truth.

In recent years, Edelman’s Trust Barometer has shown collapsing consumer trust for big brands, and mobile companies should be concerned that their marketing ploys leave them open to backlash. AT&T’s gaffe might blow up in its face if consumers see it as a blatant lie.

Many disapprove of AT&T’s move.

Gizmodo wrote:

Telecom giant AT&T has moved forward with its bullshit plan to rebrand an enhanced version of its existing 4G mobile network as its much faster and still-in-development successor 5G, TechCrunch reported on Monday. After a recent update to some AT&T, the devices now say they are connected to a “5G E” network.

To be very clear, “5G E” is not a true 5G network. It is a branding term referring to “5G Evolution,” which as Gizmodo has previously reported, is a form of 4G LTE enhanced with features like 4X4 MIMO (which increases the number of antennas sending and receiving data) and 256 QAM (which increases the effective bandwidth of a single channel or signal). These techniques do allow for faster data transfer, but they are not 5G—which will eventually offer massively increased speed and AT&T has already rolled out in some cities, but currently only works with mobile hotspots as 5G phones are not yet on the market.

However, some consumers seem ready to embrace the label:

What do you think of these moves, PR Daily readers?

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