So AT&T must have known it was going to get pounded when, just before Christmas, it began advertising a new “5GE” service that sounds like it was giving millions of its customers the first crack at the coming wonders of 5G.
But actually 5GE (for Evolution) is more like enhanced 4G LTE technology -- which is very good, but not the full boat that real 5G promises. AT&T says it’s two times faster than 4G LTE.
Let the pounding begin. On Tuesday, Kyle Malady, CTO at Verizon, took to the company’s blog to warn against companies in the “wireless ecosystem” that “engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is.”
To do so, he wrote, is to "risk alienating the very people we want most to join in developing and harnessing this exciting new technology.”
He never mentioned AT&T by name. But he made it clear enough he was talking about labeling, noting that Verizon was “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.”
And then the final stab: “Verizon is making this commitment today: We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5. 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.”
AT&T would not comment on the record about the Verizon blog.
The blog language was carefully crafted because Verizon itself introduced the first 5G wireless service last year in four markets -- but only for homes, not mobile phones, and using a version of 5G that was its own invention, not the world standard. It was criticized for over-hyping then, too.
After AT&T introduced 5GE in 385 markets, it followed up quickly with a new ad campaign, “Just OK is Not OK,” touting a new study that says its wireless service is best in several big categories.The ads end with a great big 5GE logo.
The company bought heavily into well-watched bowl game telecasts around New Year’s Day. Maybe those ads stoked Verizon’s ire, but AT&T has been talking about 5GE for months.
Tech writers, meanwhile, crucified AT&T. “The move was just an incredibly shady and misleading branding tactic,” wrote Fast Company.
“Calling these LTE technologies '5G' is ridiculous and seems designed only to mislead consumers into thinking AT&T's network is somehow better than the competition's. It's not,” opined the Ars Technica website.
The 5GE designation also bugged the Twitterverse, where the hastag #fake5G has caught on. And on Monday, T-Mobile posted a video on Twitter showing how it improved itself just by pasting a hand-drawn “9G” on its phones. “Didn’t know it was this easy,” the company wrote, tongue in cheek.