AT&T Unveils A Fake 5G Network In The Hopes You'll Ignore T-Mobile Is Kicking Its Ass

from the 5G-is-whatever-I-say-it-is dept

To be clear: fifth generation (5G) wireless should be really impressive when it actually arrives, providing significantly faster mobile broadband speeds at lower latencies. The catch: the 5G standard hasn’t even been created yet, and any real deployment of the ultra-fast technology isn’t expected to even seriously begin until 2020. That hasn’t stopped wireless carrier and hardware vendor marketing departments, which have been hyping the technology as the second coming for several years now. Sure, these salesmen don’t know what 5G really even is yet, but they’re pretty sure it’s going to fix everything.

As these carriers rush to begin tests on the hardware and software advancements that may someday make up the 5G standard, the real yeoman’s work is now being done in marketing. All of the big carriers are tripping over themselves, trying desperately to convince the public that they’re going to be the first to offer the amazing new benefits 5G can provide. Verizon has traditionally been at the forefront of this hype, telling anyone who’ll listen it hopes to offer gigabit speeds over wireless sometime this year (to a limited number of trial participants).

Not to be outdone, AT&T has upped the ante this week with a proclamation that the company is first to market with “5G Evolution.” What is 5G evolution? It’s a largely meaningless marketing term concocted by AT&T to describe 4×4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antennas and 256 QAM technologies that can be used to make existing LTE networks faster. It really has nothing whatsoever to do with “5G,” but you wouldn’t know that from reading AT&T’s marketing missives this week:

“AT&T* today announced 5G Evolution plans to pave the way to the next generation of faster speeds for its wireless customers with the latest devices in over 20 major metro areas by the end of this year. We continue to lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G while the 5G standards are being finalized.”

“Our 5G Evolution in Austin gives our customers a taste of the future,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Entertainment Group. “With 5G Evolution from AT&T you don’t have to wait to experience endless entertainment possibilities on the next generation network when you have the latest devices.”

Except you will wait. For some time. A closer look reveals that the trials are only currently available in a limited part of Austin, and only accessible from those that have one of two mobile devices: the Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+. And while 4×4 MIMO and 256 QAM advancements are a useful improvement for existing networks, they’re not really new, either. T-Mobile has been implementing the upgrades on its own network since last fall.

And again, this has absolutely nothing to do with “5G.” So why are carriers like AT&T and Verizon pushing so hard to hype a technology that doesn’t technically exist? For years both carriers justified their higher prices by claiming their networks offered users superior connectivity. But as T-Mobile has ramped up competition, gobbled up their frustrated customers and closed the network coverage and performance gap — these companies have been forced to find some other way to justify what are fairly consistently some of the highest LTE broadband prices among all developed nations. Their solution for this justification gap? Good, old-fashioned hype.

With “4G” networks, we watched as carrier marketing departments slowly but surely convinced the ITU to let them call pretty much everything short of carrier pigeons 4G. Not to be outdone, you can expect the marketing bastardization of the term “5G” to be dramatically more misleading and annoying.

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Companies: at&t, t-mobile

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Comments on “AT&T Unveils A Fake 5G Network In The Hopes You'll Ignore T-Mobile Is Kicking Its Ass”

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30 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Unless someone comes along and defines 5G with more authority than a company (Government regulatory or standards body, internationally recognized standards organization, whatever) then they aren’t actually lying or falsely advertising what they provide. Sure they’re making stuff up and blowing marketing smoke to play on ignorance but it’s pretty rare that anything actionable comes out of that.

techie1 (profile) says:

Why does the FTC allow this flagrantly misleading labeling by AT&T?
This isn’t "confusion" between major beverage categories (i.e. beer fanciful labels being confused with similarly sounding wine fanciful labels), it is a false and misleading label within one (cellular communications) category.
"Grape Nuts" is not from grapes, nor nuts. The FTC justified allowing "Grape Nuts" as a food description because it was considered "fanciful". There is nothing fanciful here about AT&T’s marketing campaign. "5G Evolution" is designed to mislead.

Anonymous Coward says:

Shannon's Law

Wireless is the land of broken promises. The reason is Shannon’s law, which specifies the maximum data rate which can be pushed through a data link, given restraints on bandwidth and signal-to-noise ratio. All communications engineers are supposed to know Shannon’s law, but most of them are too tired or scared of fighting the marketing department to raise the subject. No marketers know Shannon’s law or are ever going to go to the trouble of learning it.

Shannon’s law is not optional, it applies regardless of technology, regardless of what the marketing department says, for ever. There is no substitute for putting up more and more radio towers, all hooked up with good old optical fibers, in trenches, in the ground. Of course, you could just do FTTP (Fibre To The Premises) and render all this messing about with 4G-5G-etc moot. But that would be too much like hard work, wouldn’t it?

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Shannon's Law

That is exactly the thing with 5G: waaaayyyy more towers. But “smaller”. And everywhere. And they still need fiber for backhaul. But connecting nodes or premises? Pfffsshhh. We can’t do that, not since we have failed forever for no good reason but increasing profits. Just like stupid 5G will. Fore everyone who needs to, idk, render graphics over a wireless network for some reason, while walking down the street.

Anonymous Coward says:

This is what I have been screaming about for the last 10-15 years. These companies are thinking the consumer is stupid, and well they are right for the most part, As a 3G service, has nothing to do with speeds, It’s a NAME given to the compression software that is on the phone and on the sending end of the data stream.. A true 3G connection would be insanely fast. It would download a full netflix movie in under a second, and still have room and time to download 4 or 5 full length songs from itunes. The 4G would be enough to download two full length HighDef movies in under 1 second. The Cell companies know the average person will see the name and think WOW 4G service is so awesomely fast. Well technically it is not any faster then the 3g service, the only thing that has really changed is the compression software that is on the phones and on the “internet” end of the connection. See when you click a link, the information you request is being compressed or squeezed into tiny packets, and then those packets are sent over the network to your phone where it is decompressed. So your 3G and 4G are just a software version number..

That One Guy (profile) says:

"Sure you can take the supercharged race-car for a spin, just remember if you go faster than 40 mph you'll be fined."

No discussion about blazing fast theoretical speeds would be complete without bringing up the huge, massive, and industry caused flaw that makes it an entirely moot point:

Usage caps.

You could have a 100 gig per second connection and it wouldn’t do you any good as you’d almost immediately slam right into the usage caps so many of the companies in the industry love so much, such that you’d either be paying vast sums in ‘overage’ fees and/or quickly have your connection throttled down to the point where you might as well still be using dial-up.

Beyond the fact that they’re hyping something that doesn’t exist at this point, even if it did they’ve ensured that the extra speed is useless as anyone who actually put it to use to any real extent would be swiftly and harshly penalized for doing so.

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