AT&T’s use of 5G E to disguise what is really just 4G LTE has been bullshit since the beginning, and after other carriers complained and a lengthy review process by the National Advertising Review Board, AT&T will finally a stop using its misleading branding. Well, sort of.
In a press release issued today, following a previous ruling by the National Advertising Division that was appealed by AT&T, the NARB (which is the appellate unit of the NAD) is recommending that AT&T discontinue its use of “5G Evolution” and “5G Evolution, The First Step to 5G” in advertisements.
The NARB determined that AT&T’s use of 5G E as an alternate label for its 4G LTE network was misleading and caused confusion among consumers, and even the including the tagline of “The First Step to 5G” was not enough to properly convey that 5G Evolution was merely an attempt to signal to consumers that AT&T is working to upgrade its network.
The funniest part about this is that the NARB says that even during the appeal process, there was no dispute that AT&T 5G E was in fact not true a 5G network, which goes to show that 5G E was purely a marketing ploy all along. In response to the NARB’s decision, AT&T released an official statement saying:
“AT&T respectfully disagrees with the reasoning and result reached by the Panel majority. AT&T’s customers nationwide continue to benefit from dramatically superior speeds and performance that its current network provides. As a supporter of the self-regulatory process, however, AT&T will comply with the NARB’s decision.”
While normally this would mean an end to this tired saga, unfortunately, it seems that while AT&T will stop using its 5G E branding in ads and has already stopped producing new ads with that language, AT&T may not remove the 5G E from the corners of phones. Following the NARB’s decision, LightReading.com claims that AT&T says the 5G E icon in the corner of phones doesn’t count as an ad, and therefore it is not subject to the NARB’s recommendation.
When Gizmodo reached out to AT&T to confirm that claim, the company would not provide any additional details or comments about the use of the 5G E icon in phones. If LightReading.com’s claim is true, it’s a pretty disappointing outcome because that little icon in the corner of someone’s phone is potentially the most influential use of 5G E, especially in situations where customers are simply trying to figure out what kind of network they are really on.
Either way, a lot of the damage and confusion caused by AT&T’s 5G E branding has already been done, because as AT&T continues to build out its real 5G network—which is denoted as simply 5G or 5G+ in locations where AT&T has mmWave 5G service—customers may only be further confused between the differences why their 4G LTE or “5G E” isn’t quite as fast as actual 5G service.
So in short, 5G E was never and will never be true 5G, it was 4G LTE all along, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.