AT&T unveils "fake" 5G network deployment

26 April 2017 | James Pearce

AT&T has unveiled plans to launch a “5G Evolution” in the US, but has come under fire from rivals for peddling “fake 5G” to consumers.

The US operator announced plans to bring faster speeds for its wireless customers in 20 major metro areas in the US by the end of the year, as it begins to lay the foundations for 5G services.

The first area to receive the faster speeds is Austin, Texas, where it launched its 5G Evolution on 25 April 2017 for customers using a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ handset. This is ahead of planned rollouts in locations including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Francisco and others.

“Our 5G Evolution in Austin gives our customers a taste of the future,” said David Christopher, chief marketing officer, AT&T Entertainment Group. 

“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.”

AT&T will use existing LTE technology, such as Mutliple Input, 4x4 Multiple Output (MIMO) and QAM 256 to offer speeds up to double those available on its existing mobile network.

Though standards for 5G are unlikely to be determined until 2020, they are expected to include MIMO and QAM technology. However, AT&T faced some criticism for labelling this rollout as “5G Evolution”.

Several mobile operators used Twitter to point out that they were already using 4x4 MIMO and QAM 256 on their 4G networks, but were not linking it to 5G deployments.

John Legere, the outspoken CEO of rival T-Mobile, used Twitter to criticise AT&T, calling the 5G Evolution announcement “Fake 5G”.

Legere said: “For once, I think I’m speechless, @att… except… HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA #nicetry #ATTFake5G”.

His deputy, CTO Neville Ray, pointed out that T-Mobile had launched the technology on its network more than two years ago.

Marcelo Claure, who heads up Sprint, said the announcement “actually beats fake news”, calling it a fake 5G network.

US operators are scrambling to position themselves as leaders in 5G deployment, with both Verizon and AT&T announcing major tests of the next generation of the technology.