Sprint and T-Mobile US also weighed-in on 5G marketing

With AT&T and Verizon both in-market with commercial 5G services and Sprint and T-Mobile US working toward network activations this year, the 5G marketing cycle has (somehow) been elevated this week with all four carriers weighing-in on what is and is not 5G.

A little background: Last year the 3GPP finalized the 5G New Radio specification, which provides the technical definition of the technology. Verizon’s 5G Home fixed wireless service, available in four markets, is based on the Verizon Technical Forum specification, developed by the carrier and ecosystem partners, so not based on 5G NR. Verizon plans to upgrade to 5G NR soon.

AT&T has launched a limited, standards-based mobile service in parts of 12 markets with more to come early this year. Sprint and T-Mobile US have both repeatedly said their launches will be based on 5G NR.

Now, to the marketing wars. Fierce Wireless  last month confirmed that some AT&T Android devices would show a “5GE” indicator to customers connected to its LTE-Advanced network, which the operator has branded as 5G Evolution. That didn’t go over very well with industry watchers.

Then, during the ongoing Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, the floodgates opened.

In an open letter, Verizon CTO Kyle Malady wrote: “The potential for 5G is awesome, but the potential to over-hype and under-deliver on the 5G promise is a temptation that the wireless industry must resist. If network providers, equipment manufacturers, handset makers, app developers and others in the wireless ecosystem engage in behavior designed to purposefully confuse consumers, public officials and the investment community about what 5G really is, we risk alienating the very people we want most to join in developing and harnessing this exciting new technology.

“That’s why we’re calling on the broad wireless industry to commit to labeling something 5G only if new device hardware is connecting to the network using new radio technology to deliver new capabilities. Verizon is making this commitment today: We won’t take an old phone and just change the software to turn the 4 in the status bar into a 5.”

Sprint CTO John Saw tweeted yesterday, “Just say no to#fake5G.” In a statement, the company said: “Sprint will launch and market real 5G that is standards-based in the first half of 2019. We’re designing our mobile 5G footprint at launch to cover the downtown metro areas of nine top cities, with sights on providing our customers with contiguous coverage using the first 5G smartphone in the U.S.”

T-Mobile US’ CEO John Legere called AT&T’s 5GE move “BS,” and company CTO Neville Ray commented in a blog, “There’s a lot of hype about 5G right now…and some real BS that’s being peddled to consumers and press. I get it. 5G will possibly be the most transformative technology of our time…But I think it’s important to ground ourselves in the facts and realities of 5G too.”

He continued with the carrier’s messaging around its plans to tap 600 MHz spectrum holdings to deliver nationwide 5G in the 2020 timeframe.

And there you have it.




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