AT&T’s 5GE network indicator that you sometimes see on your iPhone might soon go away. The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) in the US has asked AT&T to discontinue its marketing 5G E and 5G Evolution marketing claims, terming them as misleading.
AT&T was displaying the ‘5GE’ network label on smartphones instead of ‘LTE’ where advanced forms of 4G LTE networks with three-way carrier aggregation (3CA), 4×4 MIMO, and 256-QAM are available. However, that’s not real 5G, and it was misleading many consumers. People with 4G iPhones (running iOS 12.2 or later) or smartphones from other brands were thinking that they’re using 5G.
T-Mobile and Sprint challenged AT&T’s marketing claims with the National Advertising Review Board. Earlier today, NARB published a press release saying that it has asked AT&T to discontinue displaying 5G E and 5G Evolution marketing claims as they’re misleading. Although AT&T still says that it respectfully disagrees with NARB’s decision, but will comply as a “supporter of self-regulatory process.”
Apparently, AT&T’s 5G E is slower than Sprint’s, T-Mobile’s, and Verizon’s 4G LTE. Displaying misleading network labels is nothing new for AT&T, though. A few years ago, when 4G LTE was still getting started, AT&T mislead customers by displaying 3G networks as 4G on the Motorola Atrix 4G.
Apple is expected to launch four 5G iPhones later this year: iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Max, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max. The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Max are rumored to only support low-band sub-6GHz 5G, while the iPhone 12 Pro and the iPhone 12 Pro Max will reportedly feature both sub-6GHz 5G and faster, mmWave 5G connectivity.
AT&T claims that its 5G E label and marketing mean that its advanced 4G LTE network is a baby step towards real 5G networks, hence the term ‘Evolution.’ However, we think that displaying a 5G E logo on people’s smartphones would make most of them believe that they’re already using a 5G networks and that AT&T’s 4G LTE network has already evolved into 5G. It’s best to not mislead customers.