AT&T’s Misleading ‘5G’ Branding Is Still Showing Up for Customers

5G technology has barely been released, yet AT&T is already displaying its icon on some users' devices.
5G technology has barely been released, yet AT&T is already displaying its icon on some users’ devices. Joseph Lago/Getty Images

At this point, it seems like everywhere you turn someone is talking about 5G.

The latest cellular service technology has customers across the country excited for faster mobile web browsing, but its launch has been marred with glitches and uncertainty.

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As reports of Verizon’s bumpy 5G network launch swirl, competitor AT&T seems to be having a different issue with its version. As The Houston Chronicle reported, the mobile service provider came under fire for updating customers’ phones to display the “5G E” icon despite not turning it on for those devices. In fact, a study was done to show that 5G E, which stands for “5G Evolution”, is AT&T’s current bridge between 4G and 5G and is no faster than traditional 4G networks by the likes of Verizon and Sprint.

The update was also spotted by Observer on several customers’ iPhones this week, which AT&T previously clarified is just their “Evolution” edition of the existing LTE network. Paying customers’ frustration, which has been voiced on social media, is understandable given rumors that a true 5G iPhone by Apple is still years away.

The "5G E" icon is showing up on AT&T customers' devices across the country.
The “5G E” icon is showing up on AT&T customers’ devices across the country. Observer

AT&T could not be reached for comment on the ongoing 5G E display issue.

While the update began showing up back in January, the confusion among customers unsure of what service they’re getting is now in full force as AT&T’s “real” 5G network begins rolling out.

Despite the customer and press backlash against the misleading rebranding in recent months, AT&T senior vice president for wireless technology Igal Elbaz told Tom’s Guide back in January that the company is being transparent about the technology.

“What we’re trying to do is let [customers] know that there is an enhanced experience in their market,” Elbaz said. What the exec is referring to is the “enhanced” LTE technology infrastructure that AT&T has in place in hundreds of markets across the country—including New York and Houston—as it prepares to unleash its 5G network.

AT&T’s current 5G testing grounds are major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Raleigh, San Antonio and Waco. The company plans to add more major markets in 2019, as it races toward the 5G finish line against rival Verizon, which also has a similar release timeline. AT&T’s Misleading ‘5G’ Branding Is Still Showing Up for Customers