5G E Isn’t Real 5G

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How 5G E Is Different From 5G

5G E isn't 5G at all it's 4G LTE. Sure, it's 4G LTE with some extra features that make it faster, but many carriers have rolled those features out and still call their networks plain-old 4G LTE networks. “5G E” is meaningless.

5G is the actual fifth generation wireless standard the industry is working on right now. It requires new hardware radios that support 5G, and it won't work with existing phones. There's no chance of your current phone getting a software update to support 5G.

While AT&T says 5G E is up to twice as fast as its old 4G LTE technology, 5G promises theoretical speeds up to one hundred times as fast. It also promises a huge reduction in latency, cutting maximum latency from 20ms on 4G LTE today to 4ms on 5G. 5G uses a whole new band of radio spectrum, and companies are experimenting with rolling out home Internet service via 5G. 5G is exciting and looks like a huge leap.

None of this is true about 5G E. It's just a slightly improved 4G LTE, and only AT&T has the nerve to call that something different from “4G LTE.”

Carriers Muddied the 4G Waters, Too

This isn't the first time this problem has occurred. Back when 4G was the hot new thing, cellular carriers called all sorts of networks “4G” even though they were just 3G.

Back in 2012, before real 4G LTE came out, AT&T had a 3G network. AT&T rolled out a technology called HSPA+ that improved 3G speeds, and AT&T branded that faster 3G network “4G.” AT&T got everyone including Apple to call its 3G HSPA+ network “4G.”

If you used an iPhone back then and you were on AT&T's network, you saw the “3G” logo transform to “4G” overnight. But nothing changed except AT&T's marketing terms. That's happening again with the transformation from “4G” to “5G E.”

Other carriers weren't innocent back then either. T-Mobile called its 3G HSPA+ network “4G” back in 2010, and Sprint called its old WiMax network 4G before switching to 4G LTE.

Today, everyone uses the term “4G LTE” to refer to real 4G networks that aren't just those old rebranded 3G networks.

Why AT&T Is Making This So Confusing

Cellular carriers like AT&T want to make this confusing. There's a lot of justified hype about 5G, so AT&T wants to make its network look better by sticking a “5G E” logo on it even if it's not real 5G.

Everyone wants to be first to say they have a 5G network. The easiest way is by redefining exactly what 5G is.

As with 4G, the situation is quickly becoming a mess once again. Industry standards groups define specific technologies that are considered “5G” or “4G,” but cellular carriers use whatever terms they like to market their networks. AT&T gets to hide behind the excuse that it's saying “5G E,” not “5G.”

Of course, AT&T would say we're wrong. AT&T would say it has improved its 4G LTE network, and that it wants to highlight how much faster the network now is. AT&T would also say that rolling out these technologies is somehow part of its network's “evolution” to 5G, hence the name. But we don't buy it.

Thankfully, no other cellular carriers are copying AT&T's misleading marketing around 5G for now.

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