AT&T’s top wireless exec admits to “frustrating’ competitors by mis-labeling 4G LTE Advanced services as 5G Evolution

LAS VEGAS—As AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan explained it, “wireless is a fiercely competitive industry, but also one born of superlatives.”

Indeed, as the wireless industry continues to build the hysteria and wonderment about its upcoming 5G network standard, the infighting is intense. Case in point: AT&T rivals Verison, T-Mobile and Sprint recently took issue with AT&T's labeling of enhanced 4G LTE services in some markets as "5G Evolution."

In select locations, customers—who won’t have access to 5G smart phones until later this year—received notifications on their Android handsets that they were accessing A&T’s confusing conflation of 5G.

But these customers were actually only accessing 4G LTE Advanced network capabilities.

Speaking during an afternoon CES keynote, Donovan used the opportunity to troll AT&T’s rivals, noting that AT&T merely “got our competitors frustrated.”

AT&T’s customers need an “indicator,” he said, that the speeds they were accessing with 4G LTE Advanced were “twice as fast” as those they were getting with traditional 4G LTE.

Donovan, however, was just getting started. 

Related: AT&T Launches 5G Network—Capped at 15 GB and Topping Out at 140 Gbps

In mid-December, AT&T targeted “select businesses and consumers” in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Louisville, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Waco to receive a free Netgear Nighthawk mobile hotspot that will let them access AT&T’s seminal 5G network infrastructure.

This came nearly two months after Verizon launched fixed 5G services to “select” customers in Los Angeles, Houston, Indianapolis and Sacramento. Few consumers in those cities actually had access to Verizon’s proprietary-standards-based launch, however.

“We were proud in December that we had a real device in the store that you could buy in 12 cities,” Donovan said. “We were up first.”

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