AT&T is promoting its new network capabilities as 5G Evolution. What does it really mean? Is it the real 5G that everyone is hyping, or is it merely a marketing ploy for an upgraded 4G technology?
There are several clues that point to the fact that AT&T is merely using a marketing gimmick by calling it 5G Evolution.
What is the Real 5G Mobile Network Technology?
Without going into the technical details of 5G wireless technology, suffice it to say that it is 10x faster than the upgraded 4G LTE Gigabit technology that is being rolled out this year in the United States. Using techniques like carrier aggregation, 4×4 MIMO, 256 QAM and others, wireless carriers will be able to provide speeds that are much faster that of traditional 4G wireless connectivity.
But it’s not 5G. Current testing on 5G shows speeds like 3.6Gbps from Huawei, 7.5Gbps from Samsung and even 10Gbps from Nokia. But we don’t have that yet in the United States.; and, by extension, neither does AT&T.
Then why is AT&T using the term 5G when it’s not really 5G. Marketing? Possibly.
Real 5G networks aren’t expected to come this year or in 2018. Carriers, chipmakers and others involved in 5G development are only now testing the capabilities and limitations of 5G wireless technology. Granted, there is already hardware that supports 5G speeds, like Qualcomm’s X20 cellular modem, but we’re a long way away from a nationwide 5G rollout.
But AT&T is going ahead with its “5G Evolution” technology, which it says is based on carrier aggregation and the other methods we referred to earlier. Again, that’s not 5G.
According to David Christopher, Chief Marketing Officer with AT&T:
“Our 5G Evolution in Austin gives our customers a taste of the future. With 5G Evolution from AT&T you don’t have to wait to experience endless entertainment possibilities on the next generation network when you have the latest devices.”
There’s clearly a lot of ambiguity in that statement. First of all, a “taste of the future” is not necessarily the future itself. Nobody knows right now what real-life 5G speeds will be like. As we saw, it could be a wide range between what Huawei claims it has achieved and what Nokia says it can deliver.
But it should be somewhere in that range because even LTE Category 8 can deliver datarates of 2,998.6 Mbit/s downlink and 1,497.8 Mbit/s uplink. These are theoretical numbers, of course, but even if they are, 5G will have to be faster than that.
What AT&T is trying to pass off in the form of 5G Evolution is nothing more than 4G LTE repackaged and rechristened. It’s actually T-Mobile that’s going to deliver the fastest transitional networks before 5G comes, and that’s called LTE-U. 5G Evolution from AT&T is not even as fast as LTE-U, and it’s certainly not the same thing.
If you’re in one of those areas that AT&T says its rolling out 5G Evolution to, and you own a Galaxy S8 or Galaxy S8+ that supports Gigabit LTE, then Gigabit LTE is what you’ll actually be getting – not 5G. You’ll notice an increase in speed, naturally, because it’s an advanced form of 4G LTE, but it’s definitely not 5G, as the name purports.
As to why AT&T is doing this, the reason is fairly straightforward: they need more customers. The wireless carrier market in the United States has already reached cut-throat levels of competition, and companies are trying every play possible to steal people from other carriers. It’s as simple as that.
Read AT&T’s press release on 5G Evolution here.
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