Starting with the iOS 12.2 beta, AT&T started to display a 5GE icon, or rather, 5G Evolution on iPhones. Understandably, this misled AT&T users into thinking they were receiving 5G transfer speeds. The truth, however, is that 5G for iPhones is not yet supported, nor do AT&T have a 5G network.
The third most popular carrier in the US, uses the 5GE labelling to describe its 4G LTE networks that offer features such as 256 QAM, 4×4 MIMO and three-way carrier aggregation. Though, it should be noted that such options are not limited to AT&T and are provided by other carriers.
Following this, a recent test from Opensignal – the company responsible for providing global insights into mobile network performance, speed and coverage – concludes that AT&T’s 5GE network is no faster than 4G networks from Verizon and AT&T. In fact, both carriers share the same speed upgrades.
AT&T users with a 5GE capable smartphone – including modern iPhones and several Android devices – do receive a “better experience” than fellow AT&T users with a less capable smartphone, however, those users of modern iPhones and Android devices will receive similar speeds on other carriers. AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile all offer the same LTE advancements on iPhones with the newest LTE branding. However, AT&T remain the only carrier to spark confusion among users with 5G branding.
The lowdown on 5G
The data from Opensignal shows the extent to which 4G and LTE technology have improved since the dawn of LTE. Technologies which as carrier aggregation, where at least two brands are to connect a user’s smartphone, offer a much faster experience than the initial version of 4G. 4G first debuted in 2009.
The “fake branding” from AT&T has riled other carriers, with Sprint filing a lawsuit against their rival. The lawsuit relates to misleading branding and the taking out of ads in The New York Times. Sprint claim that AT&T are confusing customers and hindering the understanding of 5G, concerned that this may impact their own 5G launch.
5G smartphones are slowly being released and Apple are expected to launch their own as soon as next year. No current iPhone will be able to connect to a 5G network because new hardware is required. 5G networks from the four major carriers in the United States will be made available sometime this year. However, it’s important to remember such technology is fresh and there are likely to be many problems to solve.