Verizon has gotten its fair share of criticism in the past for pushing 5G hype too soon, and AT&T got its own taste of that backlash this week following the announcement of its expanded “5G Evolution” plans.
Both before and during its earnings call, AT&T touted plans to bring its 5G Evolution service to more than 20 major metro areas by the end of 2017. The service is already available to Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus customers in Austin, and will be headed to Indianapolis in the summer, followed by Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, and San Francisco, among other locales.
According to the carrier, the service includes technologies like carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, and 256-QAM … which many readers will recognize as components of LTE-Advanced. Industry watchers – not the least of whom were T-Mobile’s CEO and CTO John Legere and Neville Ray and Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure – were quick to point out on social media that those technologies aren’t exactly new in the wireless space.
This isn’t the first time T-Mobile execs have spoken out against its rivals hyping 5G technology ahead of an expected release of the standards in 2018. Legere last summer also lambasted Verizon’s 5G hype as a “trick play” after Big Red talked up early fixed wireless 5G deployments in 2017.
But AT&T argued the branding is accurate, as it continues to “lay the foundation for our evolution to 5G while the 5G standards are being finalized.”
Still, consumers without in-depth knowledge of wireless technologies could easily be confused into believing 4×4 MIMO, carrier ag, 256-QAM, and the like are 5G instead of just LTE tools to ramp up to the next generation. And that could well lead to crossed wires down the line when AT&T tries to market actual 5G services and is met with a resounding shrug from customers who think they’ve had 5G services and speeds for years now.
It makes sense that AT&T is trying to find new ways to market its wireless services after a rough first quarter, but slapping a new name on technologies that have been offered by the likes of T-Mobile since 2014* is just disingenuous.
Poorly played, AT&T. You can do better than that.
*Carrier aggregation; 4×4 MIMO and 256-QAM followed in 2016 at the Un-carrier and Verizon and Sprint are both dabbling in carrier ag and MIMO.