That means that Android now recognizes the 5G E icon as a valid option. That also means that unlocked Android devices on AT&T’s network could now automatically show the icon. Up until now, AT&T needed to update smartphones to include the 5G E icon.
Referred to as AT&T’s first step towards 5G in commercials, 5G Evolution has been met with intense criticism as of late. The problem is that 5G Evolution isn’t 5G proper — 5G Evolution is AT&T’s re-branded 4G LTE-Advanced network that other carriers have had for some time.
This confusion has led to concerns that people will confuse 5G Evolution for AT&T’s 5G mobile network, which is live in 19 U.S. markets. This confusion also presumably spurred Verizon to take out a full-page ad, T-Mobile to deride AT&T, and Sprint to sue AT&T — the two carriers settled the lawsuit a few days ago.
Making matters worse, an OpenSignal report published in March found that AT&T’s 5G E was slower or as fast as the other carriers’ LTE networks. AT&T claims that 5G E features a theoretical speed of 400Mbps and an average of 40Mbps in real-world scenarios.