The incident began after a recent update to some AT&T phones replaced the 4G LTE indicator with a new 5G E icon instead. Regardless of the aesthetic change, AT&T phones are not running on a 5G network. The new icon is merely a marketing tactic to push a slightly faster 4G connection.
Several rival mobile network providers didn’t hesitate to call out AT&T for the deceptive alteration.
In a tweet Monday, T-Mobile mockingly showed video of a phone being upgraded to a “9G” network with nothing more than a Post-It note.
didn’t realize it was this easy, brb updating pic.twitter.com/dCmnd6lspH
— T-Mobile (@TMobile) January 7, 2019
Verizon also chimed in on the matter, providing a much more serious response to AT&T in an open letter Monday.
“The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist,” Verizon said.
Verizon further called on the entire wireless industry to “commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology…”
“We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5,” Verizon added. “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 swift backlash, AT&T thus far does not appear to be willing to change course. The new 5G E icon is expected to reach more AT&T phones throughout the year.