At the end of December, AT&T announced it would provide a mobile 5G device over a commercial, standards-based mobile 5G network. Not only did the carrier make the announcement, it proudly noted that it would be the first company in the United States to accomplish such a feat.
“This is the first taste of the mobile 5G era,” Andre Fuetsch, president, AT&T Labs and chief technology officer said in a statement at the time. “Being first, you can expect us to evolve very quickly. It’s early on the 5G journey and we’re ready to learn fast and continually iterate in the month ahead.”
Despite the 5G anticipation AT&T has built, the carrier’s 5G branding has not received universal acclaim—especially within the wireless industry. Part of the issue is AT&T announced it plans to display a “5G e (Evolution)” icon on some of its Android devices on its LTE advanced network. That might be acceptatable if AT&T was providing an actual 5G network. However, some in the industry view the carrier as attempting to pass off its millimeter wave-based 4G service—essentially an advanced LTE network—as a true 5G network by branding it as “5G+”. The industry responded negatively.
For example, T-Mobile U.S. Chief Executive Officer John Legere listed 10 predictions for 2019 in a company blog post, including one about AT&T and its 5G aspirations.
“I predict media will use the words ‘AT&T’ and ‘5G’ and ‘BS’ at least a dozen times in the same sentence in 2019—maybe more,” Legere wrote. “AT&T is trying to pull some straight up BS—showing a ‘5G’-ish indicator on the phone when it’s on LTE. They’ll basically be lying to their customers, and I and the rest of our team will continue to call them on it—and any other BS they try to pull.”
Meanwhile, Moor Insights & Strategy analyst Patrick Moorhead said on Twitter, “Saw an AT&T commercial for 5G e, and a little bit of me died inside.” RCRWireless News Reports. Former Qualcomm employee Sherif Hanna stated AT&T’s 5G branding was “an insult” to the work it took to make 5G NR a reality and diminished everyone’s work who was involved—including AT&T’s own staffers. Sascha Segan, PCMag’s Lead Mobile Analyst believes the branding could make 5G confusing for everyone.
So what does this mean for the commercial real estate industry? Well, at some point 5G networks could be a factor in the industry, but that day is not today, regardless of how AT&T brands any of its products. At the moment, it appears AT&T’s launch at the end of 2018 was done with a faster 4G network, dressed up as 5G.
For now, commercial real estate owners would be best served to keep their attention on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS), Internet of Things (IoT) devices and property technology (Proptech) innovations as ways to provide their tenants with the strong connectivity they demand at an increasing rate.