In one fell swoop, AT&T has all but undermined — and potentially ruined — the nascent brand that is 5G. The next-generation wireless standard, which hasn't even been finalized yet, is set to roll out in earnest starting in 2019 or 2020. And even then, what we'll see in the early days is a hybrid of what will eventually be the next way we connect to the internet on our phones and in our homes.
That hasn't stopped AT&T from beginning its campaign to sully the still-whole notion of 5G with its new campaign promoting its "5G Evolution" network rolling out in Austin, Texas and, soon, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.
5G Evolution, according to AT&T, is still entirely based on 4G LTE. There is nothing — nothing — in its current incarnation that has to do with what will eventually become 5G. Instead, it incorporates the same advanced 4G LTE features that T-Mobile, in its own admittedly bravuro way, has been touting for the past few months: 3x carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO and 256 QAM modulations.
We talked about these technologies back at MWC, which Qualcomm is using to promote its new X16 modem inside the Snapdragon 835 platform which, in perfect conditions, should allow speeds approaching 1Gbps. AT&T is merely capitalizing on the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+, the first devices in North America to support such speeds, to move the ball forward, just as it did prior to the release of LTE when it began telling customers its network supported 4G.
Fortunately, consumers aren't stupid, and will likely see through this publicity stunt. A name change alone can't — or shouldn't — convince people that AT&T's network is superior to T-Mobile's or Verizon's. Indeed, AT&T has far better coverage than T-Mobile in most of the country, and has fewer legacy problems with handsets than Verizon given its GSM roots. It's unfortunate that AT&T, likely concerned with customer churn to T-Mobile, has resorted to these naming gimmicks, which will likely confuse some people and irritate others.
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