The reason for this is that at this year's International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), AT&T decided to upgrade some of the company's mobile phones, showing "5G E" instead of "LTE" icon, but in fact the phone is still connected to the faster 4G LTE network. The icon "5G E" refers to "5G Evolution", which is how AT&T promotes its 4G network devices - although no real 5G technology has ever been involved. Also, this icon has not appeared on 5G phones. Other operators such as Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint have criticized this, saying that AT&T's approach is simply to affix fake 5G tags to existing LTE phones.
Donovan’s response is that this is just a way of marketing. “Every company has made up a lie about how to change the world,” Donovan said. “What makes me happy is that we broke the industry lie two days ago, and now everyone is frustrated and intends to take action.”
Donovan also said that the "5G E" icon is to help consumers understand the speed that mobile phones can reach in the future. “We did customer research, they were not only happy to accept, but also very interested in when they could experience 5G technology,” he said.
But the speed that AT&T refers to is not special. AT&T previously said that the average speed of "5G E" that consumers can expect is about 40 Mbps, which is not much different from the speed of AT&T available in some cities. According to Tom's Guide's assessment last year, Verizon's LTE network is even faster than the average.
Of course, AT&T seems to be very clear about what it is doing. By changing the LTE icon to "5G E", many of the company's subscribers will see the "5G" icon earlier than other carriers' users. As the 5G marketing wars heat up, this is extremely advantageous in terms of consumer perception. Donovan even confessed that this little icon is very important, pointing out that “the real key has always been that we need to let consumers know what is happening in our network.”
AT&T also said that the company plans to launch more devices with the "5G E" icon this spring.