AT&T has caught a lot of flak this week for its 5G E icon, including from T-Mobile, Verizon, and Sprint. The criticisms don't seem to have bothered AT&T, though, as the carrier is standing by its decision.
When asked if the 5G E icon was misleading, AT&T senior vice president for wireless techology Igal Elbaz told Tom's Guide "our customers will love [5G E]." He added that with the icon, AT&T is trying to "let them know that there is an enhanced experience in their market."
"We've been talking about 5G Evolution for a while now," Elbaz said. "We were pretty public about what we were doing and what we were deploying."
AT&T began updating Android phones this week to add a 5G E icon to indicate when the user is connected to AT&T's 5G Evolution coverage. What many are upset over is that 5G Evolution isn't 5G, but is actually advanced 4G LTE using technologies like 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and 3-way carrier aggregation to boost download speeds. Some feel that the icon is meant to mislead customers into thinking that they're using 5G when they're actually not.
AT&T has launched real 5G coverage, deploying it in parts of 12 U.S. cities at the end of 2018. However, there's only one device that's currently able to access it — a mobile hotspot made by Netgear — and it doesn't seem to be widely available quite yet. AT&T has said that it'll begin selling the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot more widely in spring 2019.