AT&T Attempts A Head Fake With 'Fake 5G'

from the tomato,-tomahto dept

We’ve already gone over how fifth-generation “5G” wireless, while a notable improvement in network speed and performance, has been obnoxiously over-hyped by hardware vendors and cellular carriers. We’ve also noted that in reality, broad availability of 5G-capable handsets and networks are still quite a few years away, and when products do arrive, they won’t, contrary to some claims, magically fix the myriad of problems deeply woven into the U.S. broadband industry, most of which have to do with lobbyist political power and the monopoly domination of cellular tower backhaul.

AT&T’s been among the biggest hype generators for 5G, even though its early offerings on this front, while fast, tend to suffer from high prices and low usage caps (did you expect something else?). In addition to over-hyping 5G’s impact, AT&T has been busy both distorting what 5G actually is… and dramatically over-stating actual availability. For example, last year AT&T introduced what it called “5G Evolution” wireless connectivity, which wasn’t actually 5G, but a collection of tech (specifically 4×4 MIMO (multiple input, multiple output) antenna and 256 QAM technologies) that simply made existing LTE networks somewhat faster.

AT&T’s since taken this head fake to an entirely new level. Last week, for example, AT&T began replacing the “LTE” (4G) notifier on many users phones with a “5G E” symbol, despite its phones and networks not actually being upgraded to 5G yet:

In short, AT&T is taking some modest network improvements to existing 4G LTE networks, and confidently calling them 5G, knowing full well the Pai FCC isn’t likely to do much of anything about it. Confusing customers into thinking AT&T’s ahead in the 5G “race” (which isn’t a race) appears to be the whole point:

“AT&T last year introduced the ?5G Evolution? marketing label to cover markets where it offers advanced LTE network technologies like carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, LAA and 256 QAM. Such technologies can dramatically improve the speeds available through LTE, and AT&T has argued that such technologies pave the way for eventual 5G services, though critics have argued that AT&T?s ?5G Evolution? marketing moves only serve to sow confusion among consumers.”

If you’ve been around the wireless sector for a while, you might recall that earlier generation standards also played fast and loose with actual definitions. Carrier marketing departments, for example, eventually convinced the UN’s International Telecommunication Union that it was fine to pretty much call whatever they wanted “4G”, since confusing and misleading customers, or over-stating product availability (as any cellular carrier coverage map will tell you), has never really been considered a bad thing in telecom.

The one-two punch of over-promising what 5G actually delivers (like this story which proclaims it will bring 4 day workweeks to us all) while distorting the very definition of 5G, is likely to leave a sour taste in consumers’ mouths once they realize the canyon-esque gap between marketing hype and reality (especially on pricing, which is rarely discussed). And this is, of course, before you tack on the inevitable arbitrary restrictions and limitations AT&T hopes to erect in the wake of the death of real FCC oversight and net neutrality protections.

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Companies: at&t

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Comments on “AT&T Attempts A Head Fake With 'Fake 5G'”

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John85851 (profile) says:

Re: AT&T is always innovating

Why wait until actual 5G or 6G is here when the marketing department and programmers can slap any label on their phones. Why not call it “10G”- it’s not the government’s going to do anything about false advertising.

And even if someone complains, AT&T can simply say the 5G, 6G, and 10G labels are “puffery” and people should know they’re only getting the speeds they paid for in their contract.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

I’m personally waiting for either AT&T or Comcast to start pushing Ultra-HD wifi or Phone service (alternate name: 4K wifi).

It is no different than current wifi or 5G cell phone plans, but it will use fancy sounding words to make it sound expensive.

You have that fancy new 4K TV you just got for the holidays, don’t you want the best wifi to stream 4K content to it?

Anonymous Coward says:


5Ge sounds like an upgrade level for their phones. Finally get folks off of legacy plans that are not as profitable.

There are a lot of folks who have older unlimited plans. I get free roaming in North America, free hotspot, no stream saver (so full HD video), and so on.

I see this as another push to get folks like me to move. No 5Ge for me unless I “upgrade” to an inferior plan to what I have now in extras, and costs more per month.

I expect them to continue down that path, slowing LTE speeds, until it gets so frustrating that I just move to the new plan. Or working with folks like Apple and Google so new phones only accept 5G plans.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Nah. 5G will come far before Musk’s wifi service comes.

He will launch a “test satellite” that consists of a wifi router strapped to a tin can, call it “a revolutionary test of the capability of the launch system” and get fawning coverage from the techbro press. Then when nothing happens after that, he will complain how all of the international governing bodies won’t let him just broadcast into unused spectrums without their authority.

Then he will see another shiny object he can spend a ton of other people’s money on.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Nah. 5G will come far before Musk’s wifi service comes. “

“5G”, sure. Something that truly deserves the tase as a next gen system and not a marketing term use to justify overcharging for a barely incremental increase in service? Not so much.

“Then he will see another shiny object he can spend a ton of other people’s money on.”

You do realise that almost all businesses spend “other peoples’ money”, right, especially in the early R&D phases of products? Even corporations with cash positive cashflow tend to borrow money from banks or investors rather than use their own cash.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Even corporations with cash positive cashflow tend to borrow money from banks or investors rather than use their own cash.

Payroll is a great example. Most direct deposit systems rely on the processor (quickbooks, ADP, ect) paying the employees, and the company paying the processor, but the payment to employees happens before those funds clear.

Anonymous Coward says:

Four-day work week

When our commute time becomes part of the working day, the extra hours accumulated and work done on the road will also make a four-day work week more feasible.

When the cotton gin…
When the steam locomotive…
When gas-lighting street lamps…
When Portland concrete…
When the telegraph…
When the telephone
When electric lights…
When the automobile…
When heavier-than-air aircraft…
When the assembly line…
When the mainframe computer…
When the personal computer…
When the cellular telephone…
When the laptop computer…
When the personal digital assistant…
When the smartphone…

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Others have mentioned that there doesn’t appear to be an actual standard for 5G written yet. If that is true, then what would the FTC compare current claims to in order to determine if the marketing is actually hype, for legal reasons. Now the rest of us might have an understanding that it is in fact hype, but could we take that into a court of law and prove it?

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