iPhone owners with the latest iOS 12.2 beta have started noticing that in certain areas, the AT&T "LTE" logo has been replaced with "5G E". While this was previously launched by AT&T on non-Apple devices, it wasn't clear whether Apple devices would follow suit. The move has not been without its detractors, who claim that AT&T's 5G Evolution amounts to nothing but a marketing gimmick.
Despite the criticism, AT&T has pushed forward with its plan to offer 5G E service, which amounts to a rebranded LTE Advanced (LTE-A) upgrade in hundreds of markets across the US. AT&T made similar changes after modifying its 3G network with HSPA+ upgrades. iPhone owners saw a 4G logo when their devices were connected, even though "true" 4G LTE was not deployed.
9to5mac received an official statement from AT&T after the 5G E logo started appearing on iPhone status bars with iOS 12.2 installed:
Today, some iPhone and iPad users could start seeing our 5G Evolution indicator on their devices. The indicator simply helps customers know when they are in an area where the 5G Evolution experience may be available.
AT&T markets with 5G Evolution can expect to see the rollout of "true" 5G-NR technology in the near future. The company has already deployed 5G in 12 cities, and other carriers have been frantically working to rollout their own 5G networks. There are a number of technical challenges, however if these can be overcome, 5G-NR offers extremely low latency (1 ms) and blazing speeds (20 Gbps).Carriers such as T-Mobile are also investing in LTE-A, albeit without rebranding LTE under another name. In the meantime, iPhone and iPad owners will be limited to using 5G E (or LTE-A) until Apple launches next generation devices sporting the latest 5G radios inside.