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 4x4 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, 4x4 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.

Filed Under: 4g, 5g, 5g e, false advertising, fcc, lte, wireless
Companies: at&t


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  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:11am

    AT&T is always innovating

    The marketing department is working very hard on 6G. I'm going to hold off and wait for 6G which will be along soon, and will be Sooooo much better than puny 5G.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 10:20am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 11:56am

      Re: AT&T is always innovating

      I'll wait for the More advanced format After that...
      It will require a Whole new antenna system have a Much shorter range, Cost about 3 times the amount of energy to power, and Cost about 10 times the price..
      Its called signal flags.. then Semaphore...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:23am

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I don't know what you're all complaining about...It can't be too early to push 5G, especially with 6G coming up...now if only AT&T could speed up its 8G implementation...7G is really starting to show its limitations

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:35am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      William Fence-Openings, 2 Jan 2019 @ 3:03pm

      Re: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      I have 7G and they keep nagging me to upgrade it to 10G, but then eventually I'll only be able to download data via their "approved apps" store. Obviously the Marketing department will never call it "XG Gatekeeper version".

      Maybe we'd all be happier with "5G Insurrection"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:32am

    5Ge?

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    wshuff (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:44am

    I’m thinking I’ll be able to use wifi calling on Elon Musk’s space satellite wifi service before 5G gets here for realz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 7:08am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 8:14am

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          James Burkhardt (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 8:30am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 6:59am

    Not the only one

    Verizon has been advertising for 5G wireless broadband for several weeks now. I wonder how many 'ooh, shiny' purchases got made?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 7:29am

    Both AT&T and Verizon have been pumping out commercial ads stating that they are developing the first 5G networks. Last night, i think during the Rose Bowl, AT&T ran an ad pretty much stating they have 5G now.

    They are all so full of shit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Corey, 2 Jan 2019 @ 7:34am

    I'm good

    at@t is by far the most expensive service out there. I visited them last fall to price them. They are proud of their network. With spring and t-mobile merging and thus catching up, they need a marketing advantage why not lie?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 7:45am

    I'm not sure exactly what 5G is supposed to address other than the bottom line for telcom. What "problems" will be fixed?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 8:36am

    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.

    1794: When the cotton gin... 1804: When the steam locomotive... 1812: When gas-lighting street lamps... 1824: When Portland concrete... 1838: When the telegraph... 1876: When the telephone... 1879: When electric lights... 1886: When the automobile... 1903: When heavier-than-air aircraft... 1913: When the assembly line... 1952: When the mainframe computer... 1974: When the personal computer... 1983: When the cellular telephone... 1985: When the laptop computer... 1996: When the personal digital assistant... 2007: When the smartphone...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      stderric (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 1:24pm

      Re: Four-day work week

      Those promises have come true: over the years, I've known plenty of people who've managed to score four-day work week jobs. Sure, they usually needed to work at least two at a time, but, you know, details... ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 8:56am

    ...Couldn't the FTC hit them for deceptive, unfair, or misleading marketing practices at this point?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 9:01am

      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?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 11:01am

        Re: Re:

        I'm still looking for the Standard. So far, there isn't one - just marketing hype.

        They could claim it has Smellivision or cures cancer without an actual Standard.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 2 Jan 2019 @ 11:31am

          Re: Re: Re:

          smellivision - lol

          Will answering machines in the future be able to block this feature?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Bamboo Harvester (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 11:56am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Eh, I'm probably going to get sued for copyright violation over that - "Smellivision replaces television!" was a newspaper headline in a WWII-circa Bugs Bunny cartoon.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Slow Joe Crow, 2 Jan 2019 @ 10:52am

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 2nd, 2019 @ 8:56am

      The FTC has all the will and force of a jellyfish, don't expect them to save you.
      I used to have an AT&T cell plan, but now I get my AT&T service from Straight Talk for half the price, thus using one evil empire to shaft another.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        James Burkhardt (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 11:25am

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Jan 2nd, 2019 @ 8:56am

        To be fair, they have been hemmed in for years by the courts into very narrow, subjective standards that make successfully prosecuting such a case difficult, and further hemmed in by budget cuts from congress.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 2 Jan 2019 @ 9:23am

    Shouldn't that be

    from the [not] to-may-to, [nor] to-mah-to dept

    ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    got_runs? (profile), 2 Jan 2019 @ 10:33am

    "Once a cheater, alway a cheater."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Goddey Oraejesi, 3 Jan 2019 @ 3:51am

    Ideals

    What can we do

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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