AT&T recently made a decision to brand portions of its LTE network as "5G Evolution" and subsequently updated the LTE icon on three Android smartphones to make them read "5GE". Essentially, this means that once 5G software and devices are available, the carrier simply needs to roll out a software upgrade. Let's be clear here: you are not getting any sort of real 5G via a software update.
Instead, AT&T wants to ride the 5G hype train of 2019 harder than most and has resorted to basically lying to its customers in this manner.
AT&T added 4×4 MIMO, Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (256 QAM) and other enhancements to its 4G LTE network in approximately 400 markets. First, AT&T isn't really upgrading anyone with eligible devices to their 5G service.
It's also urging the industry to only say it's 5G when "new device hardware" makes a connection using "new radio technology" to provide "new capabilities".
Carriers including Verizon and AT&T caused similar confusion in the almost a decade ago.
Still, Verizon's 5G home Internet seems like a real upgrade over Verizon 4G; Verizon's early 5G uses 28GHz spectrum instead of the low-band spectrum used for 4G, and Verizon says its 5G home Internet can hit speeds of almost 1Gbps.
AT&T's revelation that it will use sub-6GHz spectrum for its nationwide 5G offering aligns the carrier much more closely to T-Mobile's 5G plans. Problem is, phones capable of connecting to 5G aren't coming for another few months, and a national 5G network won't be deployed until 2020 or 2021. The carrier is calling the combination "5G Evolution". Not only was it a fixed 5G network, but it also was not using the 5G standard that is being used around the world.
In that same blog post, Legere tried to get ahead of folks that would say T-Mobile did the same thing as AT&T when it branded its HSPA+ coverage as "4G" back in 2010. It took to Twitter to post a video showing someone putting a sticky note over an iPhone's LTE logo to relabel it "9G" with the caption "didn't realize it was this easy". When he first started in Bellevue, he would mock Sprint quite a bit, but now he has moved onto AT&T and Verizon.