5G branding gets a chilly reception from some
AT&T activated a limited, standards-based mobile 5G service in parts of 12 markets last month; the launch device is a mobile hot spot that can connect to the carrier’s millimeter wave spectrum and AT&T has touted two 5G-compatible Samsung devices slated to hit the market this year.
AT&T’s 5G plan is pinned to its construction of FirstNet–as crews stand up the dedicated nationwide LTE network for first responders, they’re also deploying infrastructure that delivers LTE Advanced features (4X4 MIMO, 256 QAM and multi-channel carrier aggregation), which can be updated over the air to support the 5G New Radio specification. AT&T bills its LTE Advanced network as 5G Evolution. Since the launch, AT&T has added some clarity to how it will position its new services.
To backtrack a bit, at an event in Hong Kong last year, Qualcomm, to much fanfare, showed off a smartphone reference design that displayed on its screen the familiar 4G indicator as well as a 5G indicator, speaking to the non-standalone 5G NR spec which depends on an LTE RAN and core with the addition of a 5G carrier. At a subsequent event in Maui, Qualcomm showed off a phone with just the 5G icon in the corner of a prototype device screen.
Back to AT&T: the carrier told Fierce Wireless some of its Android devices served by the LTE Advanced network will display a “5G E” icon. The millimeter wave-based 5G service is being branded as “5G+.” And the industry reacted.
T-Mobile US CEO John Legere, who regularly calls BS on virtually all aspects of AT&T and Verizon’s businesses, called BS in a blog post: “AT&T is trying to pull some straight up BS–showing a ‘5G’-ish indicator on the phone when it’s on LTE. They’ll basically be lying to their customers, and I and the rest of our team will continue to call them on it.”
Analyst Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy had this to say on Twitter: “Saw an AT&T commercial for 5G E and a little bit of me died inside.”
Sherif Hanna, formerly of Qualcomm, called the branding “an absolute insult to the massive undertaking that it took to make 5G NR a reality. AT&T is diminishing the work of all involved, including their own employees. Terrible”
PCMag’s Lead Mobile Analyst Sascha Segan noted: “This is a horrible idea that will confuse 5G for everyone.”