AT&T's Jeff McElfresh reveals network strategy and 5G plans

Isaac Cain
January 11, 2019

AT&T's plan to "update" its network for 5G service by changing the logo it displays on your phone, as opposed to changing anything about its underlying network performance, reliability, capability, or features, hasn't won the company much support from its customers. Let's be clear here: you are not getting any sort of real 5G via a software update.

Verizon also took at shot at AT&T and called for the wireless industry at large to not misuse the 5G label.

It says it hopes to deliver nationwide coverage by 2020 and is deploying 5G-ready equipment as it upgrades its LTE network. And once again, AT&T is leading the charge following its decision to mislead subscribers by slapping a silly new "5G" icon on 4G smartphones.

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In the spirit of maintaining customer trust, Verizon called on the entire wireless industry to label something 5G "only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities" [Verizon's emphasis]. From the outside looking in, it appears AT&T is intentionally trying to deceive customers by playing loosey-goosey with the 5G nomenclature. Verizon called this the "first commercial 5G network" but it really wasn't.

But other carriers have all been working on upgrading their networks with the same technology, so nothing AT&T is doing is particularly unusual. Instead, you will still be using 4G LTE service, but with a mix of technologies (4×4 MIMO antennas, 256 QAM and carrier aggregation) that could potentially provide faster speeds. Besides the 5G hotspot, AT&T plans to offer two Samsung 5G phones this year.

In a brief video posted to the official T-Mobile account on Twitter, we can see someone sticking a little piece of paper that says "9G" to an iPhone screen. But those technologies are part of the years-old LTE-Advanced standard, and are already used by Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint on their 4G networks. Verizon said early last year that its LTE Advanced tech was available in 1,100 different markets, while T-Mobile announced more than a year ago back in November 2017 that its LTE Advanced network was live in almost 1,000 cities across the US.

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