As the 5G marketing wars continue to play out, Verizon CTO Kyle Malady penned an open letter pressing the wireless industry to commit to more precisely defined labeling of 5G to avoid confusion about the next-gen technology.
“We’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities,” Malady wrote (emphasis Verizon’s).
In the letter, titled “When we say ‘5G,’ we mean 5G,” he noted that the potential for 5G is great, but warns that if industry players “engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse” the public about what the technology truly is they run the risk of alienating consumers and the investment community.
While the letter calls on “the broad wireless industry,” it seems clear Verizon is reacting to recent actions from rival AT&T. In a marketing move, AT&T has begun updating connectivity icons on certain smartphones to display a “5GE” logo when users connect to certain parts of the carrier’s network that have been upgraded delivering faster speeds.
AT&T has received blowback against the label, with critics calling foul and dubbing it “fake 5G” since users are actually connected to the carrier’s LTE network.
“We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5,” Malady wrote. “We will not call our 4G network a 5G network if customers don’t experience a performance or capability upgrade that only 5G can deliver.”
Despite the naysaying, BTIG’s Walter Piecyk wrote in a recent blog post that if done correctly, AT&T’s deployment of 60 MHz of new wireless spectrum this year should mean subscribers experience significantly faster data speeds and better performance when the 5GE icon shows up.
Piecyk said this presents AT&T with an opportunity to best Verizon as the nation’s wireless network leader. More on that here.
Verizon itself has previously been the subject of criticism regarding 5G labels. In October, Verizon launched its fixed wireless 5G home broadband offering, which was touted as the “world’s first commercial 5G service.” Some took issue with the label since the service is fixed, rather than mobile 5G, and was built on Verizon’s own 5GTF standard instead of the 3GPP 5G NR standard.
Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg is slated to deliver a keynote speech today at CES in Las Vegas, where we will undoubtedly hear more about Verizon’s 5G roadmap.