A 5G logo.

AT&T drew the ire of consumers and rivals alike this week when it started changing 4G icons on select smartphones to a fake 5G icon. The so-called “5G E” icon stands for “5G evolution,” but the carrier’s network is still based on 4G.

Now, Igal Elbaz, AT&T’s senior vice president for wireless technology, has defended the move in an interview with Tom’s Guide. The executive insisted that they were “pretty public” about what 5G E actually was.

“What we’re trying to do is two things. One is to let the customer know that they are in an enhanced experience market or area. So we’re letting them know this on the device. And there are close to 20 devices that support this,” says Elbaz.

Enhanced over what, though? AT&T’s so-called “5G E” network uses advanced 4G technologies — much like T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon. And you don’t see these carriers using 5G branding.

The executive added that AT&T’s infrastructure is 5G-ready, and can be enabled via a software upgrade. This isn’t really news either, as many networks around the world are adopting this approach. And Tom’s Guide rightfully points out that people with 5G E devices will still need to buy 5G devices anyway if they want real 5G.

“What we’re trying to do is let them know that there is an enhanced experience in their market,” Elbaz reiterated when asked whether the 5G E term was misleading.

Again, it’s not 5G, and other networks have the same upgrades. But I guess the marketing team didn’t like 4G E…

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