Some Android users will soon see a “5GE” icon on their screens, even though their phones are still technically connected to 4G LTE networks. In this case, the “E” is a key distinction — it’s a reference to “5G Evolution,” AT&T’s moniker for its fast, but not actually 5G, network.
“5G Evolution technologies enables a peak theoretical wireless speed of 400Mbps for capable devices, or an average around 40Mbps based on real-world experiences,” AT&T wrote in a statement.
Importantly, though those “theoretical” network speeds are quite fast, it’s worth repeating: it’s not actually 5G. If that sounds more than a little misleading, that’s because it is. This kind of creative marketing may let AT&T start capitalizing on 5G hype early, but it’s pretty unlikely the average person would know the difference between actual 5G and “5GE.” The “E” is also significantly smaller than the “5G,” which only adds to the potential confusion.
As The Verge points out, this kind of corporate trickery is not new territory for AT&T. The carrier pulled a similar stunt in 2012 when it added 4G labels to its 3G iPhones, while using similar reasoning to justify the change.
It’s not clear exactly how many of AT&T’s subscribers will start to see the new labels. The company says it supports 17 different Android smartphones right now, and the 5GE-enabled towers are in 385 markets in the United States.