Why AT&T's 5G Evolution isn't really 5G


Everything is eagerly anticipating 5G networks and all they promise -- namely, blazing fast speeds.

But we all know that 5G is still a ways away. That hasn't stopped AT&T from announcing 5G Evolution, a network that is not, in fact, 5G at all. But it is faster than 4G, if you have the right phones and you live in select areas. So what is the big deal?

In IT Blogwatch, no one is fooled. 

So what is going on? Alfred Ng has the background:

AT&T...announced the next step in its "5G Evolution"...offering faster internet speeds at twice the pace of its current 4G LTE network. Just as long as you live in one of the 20 major cities where it's offering the trial run...and if you...own a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus. Otherwise, you're out of luck.

Ok, it is only available to a limited number of people. But why isn't it really 5G? John Callaham explains:

In reality, they they won’t really be using a 5G network; they will just be getting faster speeds on AT&T’s current “improved” 4G network...AT&T will offer some customers in Austin top speeds of around 400 Mbps, which is still slower than the expected 1 Gbps speeds that true 5G technology is supposed to offer sometime in the future.

If it isn't 5G, then how is AT&T achieving these faster speeds? Abner Li has those details:

These speeds are achieved through carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and more. However, these technologies belong to the...LTE Advanced specification and [have] been used by T-Mobile since last year.
5G...is expected to use an entirely different type of technology to transmit waves. Millimeter wave bands would require new equipment and use different parts of the spectrum, with the first devices based on the technology not launching for several years.

Got it. Besides Austin, where else will 5G Evolution be available? Mark Real fills us in:

Following the launch of the service in Austin, Texas this month and...Indianapolis, Indiana this summer, some of the areas that will experience...AT&T’s improved network are...Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, and San Francisco.

What about other devices -- will this be available on anything other than the new Samsung phones? Chris Mills is in the know:

The network is available...only for people using 5G-capable phones. For the time being, that’s just the Galaxy S8 and S8+, but expect devices launched later this year like the new Google Pixel or iPhone 8 to have the same wireless chip.

And besides the caveats already mentioned (must have a Samsung S8/S8+ and live in one of the designated cities) is there anything else we should know about 5G Evoution? AT&T has one more disclaimer:

Cautionary Language Regarding Forward Looking Statements: Information set forth in this news release contains...forward-looking statements that are subject to risks and uncertainties, and actual results may differ materially.

So, ultimately, what is this really? Adam Clark Estes tells it like it is:

If you’re an AT&T customer with a Samsung Galaxy S8 who...[lives] in one of the same neighborhoods where AT&T will be offering 5G Evolution, congratulations. Your phone is probably going to get a little bit faster...If you’re literally anyone else...don’t worry. You’re not missing out on a new lightning fast 5G network. You are enjoying some very confusing marketing, though. Thanks AT&T.

Anything else important? Just T-Mobile's CTO, Neville Ray, chiming in:

When advanced LTE technology equals 5G, standards have no meaning & we can say anything we want. So I have to say @ATT has inspired me...I’m very, very proud to announce @TMobile "7G Eventual" – very exciting, already existing technology.

Ok, one last thing. David Ruddock gives AT&T a pat on the back:

So, congratulations, I guess, to AT&T for having the world's first fake 5G network.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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