AT&T first launched its 5G Evolution service in April 2017, and since then, it's expanded to hundreds of markets. Now AT&T will be making a change to select Android phones to highlight that 5G Evolution coverage.
AT&T will soon change the "LTE" indicator on select Android phones to "5G E" in markets where 5G Evolution service is available. "Initially we’ll roll this out on a handful of devices, with more devices showing the indicator in spring 2019," AT&T confirmed to FierceWireless.
5G Evolution service is not actually 5G, but is instead a collection of advanced 4G LTE network technologies like 4x4 MIMO, 256 QAM, and carrier aggregation. These technologies help to boost download speeds on compatible devices. AT&T says that 5G Evolution will be available in more than 400 markets by the end of 2018.
We saw something similar when a 3G network technology called HSPA+ began rolling out and some carriers changed the network indicator on phones to display HSPA+ as "4G". While 5G Evolution coverage should offer faster speeds than 4G LTE, it's not technically 5G, but some folks who see this "5G E" indicator may think that they've suddenly got 5G. AT&T's real 5G is called "5G+" and is currently available in parts of 12 markets, and the only device that can access it is the Netgear Nighthawk 5G Mobile Hotspot.