AT&T's Donovan Defends the Carrier's 5G Fibs

LAS VEGAS -- CES 2019 -- AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan said Wednesday the operator decided to label 4G LTE-Advanced services as "5G EVO" to indicate that subscribers were getting higher speeds than "traditional" LTE networks.

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s decision to show compatible phones on the upgraded LTE networks as running on "5G EVO" (5G Evolution) has caused controversy among Ma Bell's three big US rivals. (See Verizon, AT&T Spar Over 5G Service Names, Marketing.)

Donovan, speaking here at CES, said he was happy about causing consternation among rivals. Both by launching the first standards-based mobile 5G (or, 5G New Radio-based) -- service in 12 markets in the US at the end of last year, as well as expanding to "400" of the so-called "5G EVO" markets. (See AT&T's 5G Switches On in 12 US Cities, but Only for 'Early Adopters'.).

He said the motivation for rebadging LTE-A as "5G EVO" on smartphones was customer-focused. "We felt we had to give them an indicator of when they getting twice traditional 4G speeds," he explained.

AT&T started branding upgraded 4G LTE-Advanced markets as "5G Evolution" cities at the end of April 2017. It only recently became obvious, however, that AT&T has started using "5G EVO" indicators on compatible LTE-A phones to show off the upgraded (but still 4G) connectivity. For instance, US News Editor, Phil Harvey, recently noticed connections of 50 Mbit/s down on his iPhone 6 in downtown Dallas, Texas, an AT&T 5G Evolution market, compared to 4.5 Mbit/s out in the sticks (well, suburban Fort Worth).

That all sounds great, but it's not 5G. (See AT&T's Nighthawk 5G: Potential Download Could Cover a Wide Range of Speeds.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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