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AT&T Takes Heat over Its 5G Evolution Network
By Jef Cozza
Posted: April 26, 2017 10:10am PDT

So if you live in Austin, and you happen to be in whatever part of the city AT&T deems “5G” worthy, and you also own a Samsung Galaxy S8, and you don’t subscribe to a data plan the company doesn’t like, then congratulations. You will experience slightly faster data speeds starting today.

When is 5G not really 5G? When it comes from AT&T, apparently. The Internet is giving the carrier serious grief today over its claims that the latest improvements to its 4G network constitutes the launch of the nation's first 5G network.

The statement the company posted yesterday is both short and light on details, making it difficult to understand what AT&T is really offering customers. The announcement suggests that some customers using certain equipment in certain markets will be able to access download speeds up to twice as fast as what is currently available through its 4G LTE service.

Great News for Users?

While faster speeds are great news for consumers, a slight performance bump is not equivalent to the launch of a 5G network. In fact, the standards for 5G have yet to be finalized. One thing that is certain is that 5G will make use of a completely different frequency band than the current 4G technology, making any claims that AT&T's new service can be considered 5G compliant not exactly accurate.

That message, however, does not seem to have filtered down to AT&T's marketing department, which slapped the name 5G Evolution on the company’s new technology.

Even if 5G Evolution did constitute the launch of a 5G network, AT&T’s announcement could still be considered a bit underwhelming. The new service is available only "in select areas of Austin starting today." So, it seems that only certain parts of a certain city will even be able to access the speeds the company is advertising.

Offer Not Available Downtown

But the service won’t even be available to all AT&T customers lucky enough to live in those privileged zones. That's because customers must also own Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus devices to access those speeds.

So if you live in Austin, and you happen to be in whatever part of the city AT&T deems "5G" worthy, and you also own a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8 Plus, and you don't subscribe to a data plan the company doesn't like, then congratulations -- you will experience slightly faster data speeds starting today.

Of course, the company said that today’s announcement is only the tip of the iceberg. AT&T said it will be rolling out the service in more than "20 major metro areas by the end of this year." So subscribers in cities, including Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago, have something to look forward to.

However, few customers savvy enough to know what 5G means are likely to be impressed by AT&T's announcement. And those that do bite on the offer are likely to be disappointed once they experience only a relatively modest increase in performance speed when they were promised something far more revolutionary.

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